Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2001

The house volunteers built

Saturday’s open house to showcase volunteers’ work since July kickoff

November 29, 2001

Building a house solely with volunteers might be a cause of concern for some, but not Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Whitten.

"In Eudora I don't think we had a doubt," Whitten said. "That took the fear out of wondering."

He was part of a team of volunteers who built a Eudora home from the ground up without pay or much recognition. But standing around the newly-wallpapered kitchen with plastic mats still on the floor, volunteers recall the gifts of chili, Sonic drinks and homemade ice cream, which came in 100-degree weather, that the community brought as they plugged away on the home Thursdays and Saturdays.

The community can see the progress volunteers made since the July nail driving ceremony at a dedication and open house from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the home, 625 Locust St.

Although some volunteers had expertise in certain areas, they said everyone pitched in on every aspect of the construction, learning a few things along the way.

Volunteer Loretta Gantenbein, who has built a log cabin, learned how to caulk.

"I had caulk all around," she said. "We had a lot of fun. They days went so fast."

Having experienced volunteers was a plus as far as Whitten was concerned.

"You didn't have to look over their shoulders," he said.

Although all the Habitat homes pass inspection, sometimes homeowners have to put up with minor inconveniences, like wallpaper that might not be hung straight.

"We've always had to have a tolerance with volunteers," said Andre Bollaert, Douglas County Habitat director.

Not all projects are so lucky to have such experienced volunteers, he said.

"That's pretty unusual," Bollaert said. "It is very well-built. The quality is excellent."

Julie Byrne and Whitten were construction supervisors, which meant they had to arrange for subcontractors to come in and do some of the jobs that required more expertise, like electrical work. Although the subs generally donated materials or labor to the project, getting them to the site was a worry because they were needed during the time of the year that's busiest for them.

Co-coordinator Marilyn Laws Porter said a group of regulars could be counted on to show up every work day possible.

"If you couldn't be there, you felt bad," Gantenbein said.

Volunteers from outside community pitched in, too. When Eudorans were busy with the CPA Picnic, Methodist church members from Baldwin picked up the slack that Saturday.

Porter said volunteers extended beyond the construction process and included those who raised money for the project beginning February, five months before any nails were pounded.

Bollaert said he knew starting the first Habitat House outside Lawrence was going to be a challenge, but Lawrence doesn't necessarily have a larger pool of volunteers from which to draw.

"We hope it's the first to start building out in the county," Bollaert said.

Although Habitat has a family picked out for a future house, Porter said the biggest obstacle to starting another in Eudora was acquiring a lot, which might take a while.

For now, volunteer and future homeowner Karen Williams is more concerned with her home, which is nearing completion.

"I think all the people who came every Saturday and every Thursday had a very special spirit about them," Williams said.

For Williams, who volunteered 130 hours more than the required amount, putting on finishing touches, like painting the walls, was the fun part.

"I know where every picture, every chair is going to go," she said. "I have dreams about this."

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