They arrived as though it was a barn raising and the calendar pages reflected a past era.
Volunteers arrived by the dozens to assist with a blitz build project with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity. Part of a "building on faith" week, the plan was to frame, roof, side and complete internal walls for a home in Brainerd in one week's time.
Organizers started the project Sept. 11 with the house framing and fully expected the project to continue through the following Sunday. But that old saying about many hands making light work proved that volunteers can make quick work when primed and organized for the task. The project was completed by 2 p.m. Thursday.
A new one-story house is now standing on Pine Street in southeast Brainerd.
Workers started with a slab foundation on Sept. 11 and completed the basic structure, including vinyl siding, in four days. The entire project, with a completed home with flooring and appliances, is expected to take five weeks.
"It exceeded my wildest expectations," said Kevin Pelkey, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity executive director. Pelkey said he thought it would be difficult to meet that timeline. "It was enormous community response."
There were no less than 15 people working at the site at any given time. Pelkey said volunteers reached a peak on Wednesday night when 50 people were on hand. Some came every day. Others donated blocks of time and expertise. Skills varied from those willing to clean up to professional carpenters. Many were young and took turns learning, as well as building. More often than not they came without technical skills but with the desire to help pound nails or do whatever they could. Pelkey could not get over the response.
The volunteers faced a cement slab and a lot of materials. It could have been the ultimate erector set project. But the project progressed smoothly.
"What was really cool was the people that had skills were so patient with those of us, like me, who for some a hammer is a dangerous tool. It couldn't have gone better. ... It was fun. I'll do it again," Pelkey said.
Organizers said no less than 15 people were on hand at any given time for the "blitz build" project with as many as 50 volunteers at other times.
The house was completed with windows, doors and vinyl siding. Saturday more work will continue to insulate and Sheetrock the home. In the end, it will have taken five weeks to build the house to a status where the new occupants can just move in. The house even will have appliances and completed flooring.
A partner family with Habitat has been selected to move into the Pine Street home. While supplies are still being purchased, the three-bedroom home is expected to cost less than $40,000 for the completed project. The average Habitat home sells for $48,000.
Help came from a variety of sources, including volunteers from the Brainerd-Baxter-Nisswa habitat chapters and the Brainerd and Baxter Lions clubs. Some businesses, such as Lakeland Mold Co., sent crews to help. Manion Lumber and Truss in Pillager sent 18 employees who signed up for shifts and then were paid their regular hourly wages during their volunteer time at the Habitat site. Crow Wing Power sent volunteers two evenings in a row to work on the roof and trusses. And there were efforts to recruit from churches and area individuals.
Pressure for land has been pushing affordable purchase prices out of habitat's reach. So the organization made an appeal for support through lot donations, noting such gifts are tax deductible for an amount equal to the properties' appraised value.
Volunteers perched on scaffolding to assist with the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity project to build a house for a partner family on a quiet section of Pine Street in Brainerd.
"I really just want to thank the whole community in general for the outstanding show of support on this project," Pelkey said.
The blitz build project was inspired by an international program called "Building on Faith Week."
"We are supposed to leap out and do something literally on faith that it will get done," Pelkey said of the program and his own concerns about its successful prospects. "Even three days before the blitz began I wasn't sure it was going to happen. There were so many things to be done but it just fell in place.
"It's really designed to inspire the community, to engage the community, to draw them into something that is unique and fun and sustain them into the year.
Starting with a cement slab, volunteers with a variety of skills and a desire to help put up walls and rooms in the three-bedroom home.
"There are a lot of good people out there and many of them are just looking for good work to do."
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