By NATHAN GREGORY
Since breaking ground on two houses earlier this month, Starkville Habitat for Humanity is working with several volunteer groups from out of town to help with construction, but there are also several local volunteers overseeing each phase of the process.
Executive Director Freddie Rasberry said the projects are going efficiently thanks to local volunteers and community support.
“I don’t know another non-profit that can say ‘Donate us money and we’ll put it all in the mission.’ That’s what we’re doing here at Starkville Habitat. We want to be sure the community gets the pat on the pack. It’s entirely because of them that we’re doing two (houses a year) right now,” Rasberry said. “This is the second time straight that we’ve done two at a time because we have these students come and they can come do all this. Our local volunteers can’t come and work eight hours a day and five days a week, so if we can get this done then the local volunteers can come back and paint for two hours and do this and that. It’s entirely because the community has supported it. We are supplying two families homes. We are engaging around 500 volunteers on each of these houses. It takes about 2,000 hours to build each of these houses.”
He said the two Murdock Lane projects have made visible progress in the past few weeks.
“We’ve already got all the shingles on (the house on 56 Murdock Lane). They’re putting up the trusses (on the 63 Murdock Lane house),” he said.
SHFH on-site supervisor John Breazeale has worked with the organization since 2000 and said his first experience building was so enjoyable that he has been involved ever since.
“(My favorite part of the construction process) is looking across the street and seeing what you did this morning. You might call it instant gratification (because) you can step back every hour and see progress,” he said. “(I enjoy) seeing student volunteers step out of their comfort zone. A lot of times we have sororities in particular that have never been around power tools ... and after about 30 minutes to an hour, you’ve got them with goggles on running power tools. Just to see a group that has never done something like this get up on the roof and see their confidence build, I think that’s the best part.”
Volunteer groups who come from out of town spend nights at Camp Seminole. Ryan Kiel, who runs the local boy scout camp, also assists with building the Habitat houses.
“I enjoy doing it all. Somehow I end up doing roofing all the time, so I usually lead a group of volunteers doing that ... pretty much just being here and getting involved with the volunteers is a good time,” Kiel said. “(I enjoy) getting to see people grow throughout the week and learn different abilities ... It’s a lot of fun getting to know the people who these houses are coming to.”
One of those future homeowners is Shonda Randle, who has been an automotive department manager for the Starkville Walmart for 10 years. She and her three children will move into the house on 56 Murdock Lane once construction is complete.
“We’re very thankful. Me and my kids have come down a couple of times because we want to see the process. We’re grateful for all the people coming. They’ve made a lot of progress,” Randle said. “We’re thankful for all the church families and other communities that are a big backbone. Anybody that comes out and gives us a little lift, we’re very thankful for them, and they’re moving pretty fast.”
Another local volunteer is Mississippi State University student and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church member Andi Hannigan.
“I like doing it because I like knowing that it helps people. After seeing all the tornadoes that come through the area and tear out everybody’s houses and people who don’t have a home, it’s nice to be able to come in and say ‘Here, let me help you get you back on your feet and get you started in your new home,’” she said. “I enjoy being able to learn new things and meet new people and getting to know the people who are going to live in these houses is pretty awesome.”
Local carpenter John Beeson is another volunteer who said his favorite part of working with SHFH is getting to meet volunteers from out of town.
“You get to work with people from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s amazing all the different walks of life you get to encounter.”