139th News

139th volunteers Bosst Habitat Project

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Randy Parlett
  • 139 AW/PA
Twenty volunteer members of the 139th Airlift Wing, their friends and spouses grabbed the Douglas fir dimension lumber, a handful of nails, and framing hammers and completed the first stage of a Habitat for Humanity house in St. Joseph on July 18. 

The normally quiet Saturday morning in the neighborhood echoed with staccato slaps of the hammers and the whine of a sliding compound miter saw. "All we do is done by volunteers," said construction manager Ed Young of Habitat. "We really appreciate your help and without it these people would be living in some pretty bad conditions." There were no air compressors, air hoses, or electric nailers for what would become a two-bedroom home. This was a community project built by volunteers for someone they'd never met. 

The poured concrete 28- by 32-foot foundation was already lined with blue styrofoam insulation board when the 139th volunteers arrived. The task for the next few hours would be to complete the flooring and start framing the walls. "We have our DNA in all these houses," said site supervisor Jim Walker. "We're on a clock in terms of getting this done, but again we're not on a clock." 

Metal bands on bundles of lumber were cut. A total of 14 two-by-ten inch boards were laid across the foundation and nailed into place. After that, the 139th volunteers nailed two by six inch spacers between the floor joists. The work went quickly. "One of the hardest things I learned when I got started was to stay out of the way," joked Walker. "I have to remind this group to make sure the crown of the board is up before it's nailed. That's just a reminder. These guys and gals are good." 

In an hour the floor framing was completed, well ahead of schedule. "This is going way faster than I thought," added Walker. "These folks know how to drive a nail." Several of the 139th volunteers brought their own tools, tool belts, and gloves. "I enjoy doing things for people," explained Mert Hughes of the 139th. "I can learn some things too." Most of the volunteers said they donated time and talent because of what the city of St. Joseph has done for them. "St. Joe has always been good for the wing," said Sydney Haywood. "This is a chance for us to give back. I helped my Dad work on houses so I can bring something myself." 

Scott Duncan volunteered to help those less fortunate. "We can give back to the city here," he said while smacking a ring shank nail. "We're fortunate to have jobs and I wanted to help." 

New owner Kecia King was anxious to move in as soon as her project house was enclosed. The certified nursing assistant at Saxton Care Chateau in St. Joseph met the income guidelines, the credit check, and is working on her 400 hours of sweat equity needed to qualify. "Every time I turn around to take a look at the project, it changes," she said. "I'm just so excited to be able to be here and see it go up. I can't believe how fast these guys are."