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Building on Rivalry

UVA, Virginia Tech alumni join forces in Habitat for Humanity challenge in Richmond

Traditional rivals are joining hands—and hammers—in a unique housing project in Richmond.

The UVA Club of Richmond and its equivalent Virginia Tech alumni group are raising funds and will be sinking nails for a Habitat for Humanity house that is expected to be completed this winter. Officials with Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity say this is the first cooperative collegiate project of its kind in the history of the organization.

The Hokies vs. ’Hoos Habitat Challenge, as the effort is called, evolved from a common desire to help low-income people with housing. “There are so many different ways we could have gone about it. We just went with what we thought was the best route,” says Matt Shaver (Col ’02), the UVA club’s philanthropy chair.

The groups kicked off the fundraising campaign Aug. 25 with a friendly competition at a Richmond restaurant. They raced to complete a “mini” Habitat house, traded trivia questions and vied for prizes for best school logo and tallest tower built with blocks. More than $3,000 was raised at that event, and the effort garnered newspaper and television coverage.

“Now we’ve got a lot of traction in the media,” Shaver says.

The first hurdle has been raising half the cost of the house, which is required by Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity, says Van Garber, the organization’s development director. The total cost of the house is expected to be about $65,000.

“It’s a great project,” Garber says. “It’s great that the alumni are coming together for this.”

It’s not the first time the two alumni groups have combined to help the community. A Hokie vs. ’Hoos “food fight” provided thousands of donated canned goods and funds for the Central Virginia Food Bank.

The Habitat site is off Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond and will house a family with four children, all under the age of 15.

Shaver says the groups hope to build the house in eight weeks, but admitted that’s an ambitious goal. “My personal goal is to have them in by Christmas,” he says.

For details about the challenge or for information about donating, go to