Habitat for Humanity building blitz comes to Wake Forest

sbarr@newsobserver.comMay 24, 2014 

— More than 150 Habitat for Humanity volunteers from all over the country converged on a neighborhood just north of downtown last week for a building blitz that will give five families the chance to move into brand new homes.

By the end of the day Friday, the volunteers had built three houses from the ground up, finished two in-progress houses and completed exterior repair projects on eight houses.

The week-long effort is part of Habitat for Humanity International’s annual AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon. Active AmeriCorps volunteers as well as alumni of the group gather in cities across the country for the intensive builds.

Habitat for Humanity of Wake County is one of three branches of the affordable housing nonprofit chosen for this year’s event. Volunteers also were at work on houses in Des Moines, Iowa, and St. Croix, Wis., last week.

As quitting time drew near on the first day in Wake Forest, organizers asked who would be willing to stay until dark to ensure the group had a solid foundation for the week’s work. Seventy hands went up without hesitation.

Kevin Campbell, the president of Wake Habitat wasn’t surprised.

The group has worked with AmeriCorps members for more than a decade, and the partnership has been instrumental in expanding Habitat’s capacity locally, he said. The nonprofit group builds affordable houses for qualified homebuyers.

When Habitat began in Wake County in 1985, the first place volunteers built in was Wake Forest, making this year’s work a homecoming to celebrate, he said.

Sarah Bridger, a 2013 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, is one of eight AmeriCorps members working with Habitat Wake this year.

“It’s a lot of experience I didn’t expect coming out of my undergraduate years,” she said.

One of the biggest lessons Bridger said she will take away from her time with Habitat is the valuing of engaging residents who live in the neighborhoods where the group builds. The organization works to make sure the entire community flourishes, not just that a house or two pops up, she said.

By Tuesday afternoon, volunteers already were installing siding and nailing shingles onto the roofs of the three new houses on Spring Street. A town building inspector stayed close by to ensure they didn’t lose a minute when they were ready to move onto the next phase of building.

Katie Manzullo-Thomas, a volunteer from Harrisburg, Pa., said the build was a great chance to meet other volunteers and learn the strategies that are unique to the communities they work in -- all while contributing to Wake Forest.

“It’s cool to see it all come together,” she said.


Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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