RIVERTON -- Nearly 70 volunteers swarmed Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity work sites Friday, the most volunteers the organization has ever had at once, said Laurie Ziebell, Habitat volunteer coordinator and public relations manager.
The volunteers framed, sided, shingled and put up Sheetrock on a house and installed the windows and doors. The lot went from a concrete slab to the shell of a home in five days. Homeowner Gary Thompson said he was shocked at the progress made in only a week.
"If we've got 35 people, we can build a house in one week," said Larry Johannessohn, Habitat construction supervisor.
Pat Lenahan, a 15-year-old Providence Catholic High School student from New Lenox, Ill., said the best part of the week was putting up the first wall of the house and seeing the look of excitement on Thompson's face.
"Between (the students') faces and Gary's face, I wish I had a camera in my eye," said Eileen Sullivan, Providence faculty member.
Leah Jarvi (left), Pastor Becky Thomas, Laurel Oberg, Nikki Umhoefer and Bruce Jarvi nailed shingles on the Gary Thompson Habitat for Humanity house in Irondale Township on Friday. (Dispatch Photos by Steve Kohls)
Thompson said he would be unable to own a home without Habitat's help. He previously lived in a trailer on the property. The trailer was pulled from its location and was waiting to be hauled away. Thompson is living in a smaller trailer next to his new home until it is ready.
Thompson overcame the biggest obstacle to building the home -- he owned the land and already had a well, septic system and electricity hooked up, making the job much easier.
Thompson has multiple sclerosis and is no longer able to work. The home Habitat volunteers are helping him build will be handicap accessible in case Thompson has to trade in his cane for a wheelchair in the future.
"I've been here every day doing what I can do," he said. He spent part of Friday cutting siding.
The process slows after the initial first-week flurry. Then the projects are typically turned over to area Habitat chapters that work two days per week to finish the interior projects. Johannessohn stops by the houses periodically to monitor the progress. The next step in Thompson's home is wiring it for electricity.
The record number of volunteers came from across the Midwest. Four people came from English Lutheran Church in Ellsworth, Wis., and worked on-site Thursday and Friday. Twenty-seven members of First Lutheran Church traveled from Sauk Centre to work Thursday and Friday. Thirty-seven students and staff from Providence Catholic High School worked June 17-21.
Members from all three groups said they want to participate in another Habitat project.
Habitat for Humanity workers spread out over the Gary Thompson house in Irondale Township on Friday.
Because the number of volunteers available was twice the number needed at the work site, half the volunteers worked on projects in other parts of the Brainerd lakes area.
Some volunteers landscaped at a Habitat house in Crosby, some built sheds in Crosby to sell for a Habitat fund-raiser and some volunteers stayed at the Habitat office landscaping and taking inventory of the warehouse.
Habitat usually has three houses in progress at once. In case of rain, groups can work indoors at a house that has been enclosed.
"We arrange our builds when we know we've got a group coming," Johannessohn said. They will begin another home in late July because they have a group of 74 volunteers coming.
To qualify as a Habitat client, an individual or family must earn less than half of the median income for a family their size in Crow Wing or Cass county and they must not spend more than 30 percent of their income on their mortgage. A typical two-bedroom home in Brainerd has a $700 per month mortgage. A two-bedroom Habitat home's mortgage is about $250 per month.
Homeowners must put 300 hours of sweat equity into their home, pay a small down payment and monthly mortgage payments.
Area Habitat volunteers finished six homes in 2001 and Ziebell said they hope to complete eight to 10 in 2002.
It typically takes four to five months to complete a home. Thompson said he hopes to move into his new home before winter.
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