Work on latest Habitat home begins

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

That was the word that came to mind when Debra Smith, a computer paraprofessional at Rachel Patterson Elementary School, thought about the new house being built behind the South Road trailer where she and her 14-year-old son, Dillon live.
“It feels like such a blessing that my family will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” she said. “It’s such a blessing. I don’t think there’s any words to describe it.”
It’s fitting then that a group of students from Central Michigan University’s St. Mary’s University Parish and the Saginaw Valley State University’s Catholics on Campus are the first to get their hands dirty to help build Escambia County Habitat for Humanity’s latest home in Atmore.
The 21 students, who traveled by vehicle to Atmore for an alternative spring break, spent Monday leveling the foundation, digging a 10-to-16-inch footer and a return waste drain for the septic tank, said 20-year-old Central Michigan construction management major Nathan Foote.
“We’ve been digging a lot today,” he said.
He said seeing the construction being started on a house is a new experience.
“I’ve never seen a house from the ground up,” he said. “It’s interesting.”
Senior CMU student Gina Mouch said the parish has been helping Habitat for years in various areas of the country. She said a few years ago she was part of a group that went to Phenix City to help out.
“I love it,” she said. “I love the service and I love the community. I love combining faith and putting it into action.”
It’s the sixth year the local Habitat organization has hosted students as part of Collegiate Challenge, said Executive Director Alecia Glaize.
She said the students, who will be working on the house until noon on Thursday, will help prepare it for the pouring of the foundation as well as help build wall panels.
After their work is finished Thursday the group will take a historical tour of Atmore and will spend Friday at Pensacola Beach, Fla. before heading back to Michigan.
Habitat will sell the house to the Smiths at what it costs to build it and will set them up with a 20-year interest free loan, Glaize said.
Smith said she and her son would help volunteer at the construction site as much as possible as well as help out on future Habitat projects.
“As soon as I get off work and I pick (Dillon) up from school we change clothes and head over to help,” she said.
On Monday, Smith brought the student workers a cake and the Atmore Rotary Club brought hot dogs and chili for lunch.
Rosalie Stackpole, a 20-year-old Saginaw State student, said she didn’t quite understand what she was getting into, but added that the work is worth it.
“I thought we might be painting or doing some interior work,” she said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. We dug a lot and got some blisters on our hands, but it’s well worth it.”