BERRIEN SPRINGS — Dozens of area residents opened up their wallets Sunday in an ongoing effort to build tiny homes for those in need.

At the first ever Compelling Dwellings Auction, several playhouses, doghouses, birdhouses and artwork were put up for auction.

All funds from the auction went toward supporting “Tiny Houses For Big Change,” an initiative by Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church Youth Group.

The auction was created after the Graduate School of Architecture at Andrews University agreed to design and build a house for the church group’s effort. As an added incentive, Renaissance Kids Summer Architecture Camp participants built a mock-up of a tiny house last summer.

The auction was held at the Andrews University Architecture Building.

Mark Moreno, an associate professor and founder/director of Renaissance Kids, was approached by the Cara Gillespie, the church’s youth group leader, who told him about an idea to help the less fortunate.

“We’re as excited as can be,” Moreno said. “The kids have designed and built just about everything you see.”

Students in the Andrews University architecture program designed 10 tiny house schemes, and the 2020 design/build class is ready to construct the house when funds are available.

“They do a design build every spring semester and they’ve been doing tiny houses and tiny structures like reusing shipping containers,” Moreno said.

The graduate group’s most recent project included converting an airstream trailer into a non-allergen house for a woman who has sever allergies, Moreno said.

Moreno said the youth group has already met its goal, having raised $37,000. However, Sunday’s auction was held in an effort to raise another $10,000 that could go toward the next home.

This summer marked the 13th year of the Renaissance Kids camp.

The “Compelling Dwellings” theme gave children and teens, ages 5-16, the opportunity to engage in educational and hands-on projects associated with architecture.

A few local artists donated works and Whirlpool Corp. provided appliances as well.

Harbor Habitat for Humanity committed land for the build and agreed to assist in vetting and training the home’s recipient.

The theme that architecture can connect people “with nature, with each other, and with choices” could be seen through several of the houses on display Sunday.

“Out of those discussions with the kids, we get a dog crate that also has a cat cubby and a fish bowl on top,” Moreno said. “We have a dog house that has a chimney, which has a bird house on it. It gives new meaning to the word chimney flue.

“It’s been exciting to see it come together.”

Contact:, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski