'Deah Day' volunteers honor memory of slain UNC students

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The spirit of community outreach fostered by a Chapel Hill couple lives on despite their tragic deaths. (WTVD)

The spirit of community outreach fostered by a Chapel Hill couple lives on despite their tragic deaths.

Deah Barakat was a UNC dental student and his wife was about to join him at the school when they - along with his wife's sister - were murdered.

Barakat, 23; his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh were gunned down at their Chapel Hill condominium in Feb. 2015. Read more here.

A neighbor is accused of killing the three in what investigators say may have been a dispute over parking at the complex.

Thursday, students at the UNC Dental School volunteered to help with projects in the Triangle to honor the three victims. It's the second year in a row the students gave back to community in the victims' memory.

Students from the dental school helped renovate a home east of downtown Raleigh that Barakat was planning to rent to help pay for tuition.

Now, his family is turning the building into an incubator designed for community outreach.

Barakat and his wife had made community outreach an important part of their lives in an effort to carry out Muslim tenants of helping their fellow man.

Thursday, dental student Garrett Werkman spent part of his day sanding paint on the front the home now dubbed "The Light House".

He didn't know Barakat, but is reminded of the tragic loss everyday.

"I actually pass by the apartment where Deah lived," Werkman said. "So, I mean every day I think about him. So it's sad."

Werkman said he enjoys working on the house, and it helps him understand Barakat's motivation.

"I actually love housing construction. I think it's awesome that Deah owned this property," Werkman told ABC11. "I just kind of want to understand what he was thinking and, again, it's I guess my way to kind of understand him and to be a little bit closer to what he was doing in his life."

Also working at the house today was Barakat's brother, Farris. Just being at the property was emotional for him.

"There was several times where I was working on the house that I started crying," Farris shared. "I was like, 'I don't think I can do this house good enough.' It's been a long, long journey. I tried my best and that's all that kind of matters. I really just hope to see it starting to help people very soon."

The volunteer effort is dubbed "Deah Day". It's an acronym that stands for Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor.

Dental students also helped build an urban garden in Durham Thursday that will provide food for the Interfaith Food Shuttle.

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