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Meet Jakob Deszcz: Leading DePaul's Habitat for Humanity efforts

The Lincoln Par​k Campus Quad will soon don a bench made entirely out of recycled plastic bags thanks to Jakob Deszcz, a junior and president of DePaul's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Jakob Deszcz, president of DePaul’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, created a park bench made entirely out of recycled plastic bags. Next month, the university will install the bench on the Lincoln Park Campus Quad. (DePaul University/Randall Spriggs)

A Vincentian value held dear at DePaul is a commitment to building community. As president of the university's Habitat for Humanity chapter , Jakob Deszcz, a junior double majoring in environmental studies and economics, works to uphold that value.

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries. The organization's vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

“DePaul has a great community, and Habitat for Humanity at DePaul exemplifies that fact," Deszcz says. “We try our best to be involved as much as we can and to grow our volunteer base. DePaul is great in that there are so many service organizations; you can always find somewhere to volunteer."

Deszcz always knew he wanted to be involved in service and recalls how ready he was to lend a hand when he arrived on campus. Habitat for Humanity was present at an Involvement Fair during his freshman year, and he quickly learned the organization was a perfect fit.

When the pandemic halted progress on numerous projects for the organization, Deszcz felt there was something the organization could do and developed an idea for a side project. He would build a bench made from recycled plastic and donate it to DePaul.

"Jakob took the initiative collecting plastic bags and did all the work associated – including bringing those bags to his apartment for storage," explains Christie Klimas, an associate professor of environmental science and studies.

The goal was to collect 500 pounds of material, which works out to approximately 40,000 plastic bags.

“I wanted to bring my environmental background into this build," Deszcz adds. “Through a partnership with Trex Recycling, we were able to recycle the plastic film and turn it into decking material for the bench. It's as good as wood."

The bench is slated for installation in the Lincoln Park Campus Quad in May.

Deszcz says most of his other duties as president of the chapter revolve around assistance with scheduling builds, planning fundraisers and conducting outreach.

“I collaborate with my fellow members and take the steps to keep our community together," he notes.

Deszcz started his college life with plenty of commitment to his community. Over the past three years at DePaul, Deszcz has demonstrated he was built for this.

“I like helping people," he explains. “Being in Habitat gives me the opportunity to help even more people. Being at DePaul strengthens my leadership skills and teamwork. I know even after I graduate, I'll still try to volunteer as much as I can."

Christian Saulog is a student marketing communications assistant in the Division of Student Affairs.