GOSHEN -- Vernard Malone grew up with loving parents, a good church and a house to call his own.
Until now, he's only been able to give his own kids the first two things.
Habitat for Humanity, Goshen College and College Mennonite Church are helping him get the third.
"I just want to have a place to raise my kids," said Malone, a custodian for the college. "I was raised in a stable place. I want the same for my kids, if not better."
Students, faculty and staff from the college and members of the church plan to raise $45,000 and volunteer their labor to build the house in one week in October.
It was a coincidence the house they'll build was matched up with a college employee. But that turn of events has given even more energy to the project.
"(It's a) constant reminder of how we can help out the community and it's really exciting we can help out someone who's connected to Goshen College," said Adam Roth, a senior who's helping organize the fundraising drive.
A chapel service at the college Wednesday kicked off the drive, with College Mennonite Church giving $3,500 and college students presenting their first $50 contribution. Both church and college people will have various fund-raising events in the coming month.
Malone and his wife, Alicia, live in Elkhart in her mother's house after the lease expired on their apartment. They have two kids and have grown tired of living in a series of places. So they applied to -- and were accepted by -- Habitat to get their own home in Harrison Ridge in Goshen.
"You don't have anybody telling you what to do -- 'You can't put up that curtain,'" Alicia said. "(In my own house) I can put up the curtain I want."
Vernard has worked for the college for three years and Alicia works in the mailroom of The Truth.
The 1,064-square-foot house will have three bedrooms, one for the parents and each of their kids.
Families who qualify for Habitat homes must put in hours volunteering on other people's homes, then take classes on homeownership and financial management. The couple will also work on their own building.
Construction will start Oct. 9, will include the college's fall break and will end with an Oct. 16 dedication. An estimated 30 to 40 people a day are needed to get the house finished.
During Wednesday's service, Habitat officials encouraged college students to get involved in this project and other ones. Roth is helping organize a Habitat club on campus to drum up volunteer efforts.
"I want to thank you now for your success," said Richard Miller, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County. "Your youth, your energy and your vision is needed by your adopted community to eliminate substandard housing."
The church, which meets on the college campus, is also excited by the partnership.
"Houses are more than houses. They become homes, and homes become a really spiritual issue when you get down to it," said Tim Stair, director of outreach.
Alicia Malone agrees, and said their church in Elkhart has reminded them of that.
"We took our application to church, got prayer, put blessed oil on it ... and it happened," she said. "They've been constantly praying for every member to have their own home."
Vernard said he's always appreciated the people at the college but was taken aback by how much they've stepped up to help his family.
"Thank God for giving us this opportunity," he said.
Contact Thomas V. Bona at email@example.com.