Saturday, August 8, 2009
Operators Help Set Table for Habitat Party
Talisha Franklin holds the keys to her new home.
There were speeches, tears, prayers, face painting, the Harris Stowe University band, and all the other earmarks of a celebration on Sunday Aug. 1, when Habitat for Humanity St. Louis handed over the keys of 10 new homes to the homes' owners. And some Operating Engineers Local 513 apprentices, their instructor, a local masonry contractor, and an equipment vendor played a role in helping the party to happen.
The dedication ceremony was held at the heart of the project near the intersection of Thomas and Garrison in the Jeff-Vander-Lou area. It marked the completion of Phase I of this year's build, which will total 24 homes by Christmas. Last year, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis completed 27 LEED Platinum-certified homes - one of the largest assemblages of LEED-certified residential property in the country. This green community will total more than 90 homes in a long-overlooked section of urban St. Louis, just North of St. Louis University and the Fox Theatre, East of Grand Avenue.
Faced with a daunting schedule and just a week to go before the dedication ceremony, William McHugh, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, put out a call for help with the finish grading for the first ten home sites. Normally that task is performed by Habitat staff, but McHugh realized that if they could get some assistance in the form of Bobcat operators they'd be able to keep volunteers and staff focused on moving the remaining 14 homes forward.
Ready, willing and able, Operating Engineers Local 513 responded to the call, sending seven apprentices and an instructor out to the jobsite. Dan Head of Kirkwood Masonry also stepped up to help. Randy White of Bobcat of St. Louis even hauled in extra equipment to make sure the lots were good to go when the sod trucks rolled in.
Hundreds of volunteers have committed months of time working on the construction that led up to the Aug. 2 event. Mohammed Jier, a native of Kenya, who received the keys to his new home along with his wife Shams Dad, thanked "God, and everyone who helped, and everyone who donated, and everyone who prayed or kept us in their thoughts" for the home into which the couple and their children Ali and Aisha are moving.
Through the combined efforts of generous sponsors, dedicated volunteers and the agency's remarkable staff, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis is literally transforming the neighborhood into which Talisha Franklin will move with her children Ta'Anyea and Terrel at the end of this month. Every Saturday since construction began, Franklin, who is completing her Masters' degree in early childhood education, has worked shoulder to shoulder with volunteers to put a roof over her family's head.
Area of this year's Habitat build
Even after a grueling eight hour workday, construction leaders say it wasn't unusual to see her dash home to tackle an important paper or to ferry her kids to Cub Scout camping trips, birthday parties and family outings. Franklin will close on her new home in just a few weeks.
The St. Louis Police Department is so appreciative of the difference this renewal project is making in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood that it staged helicopter landings on a nearby grade school ball field for the benefit of the families attending the dedication.
Habitat is already well under way with Phase II of this year's build, which is set to wrap up in September. Phase III should be finished in time for Christmas. To find out more about Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, visit http://www.habitatstl.org or call 314-371-0400,