The FMCA Chapter: Habitat For Humanity® funded and built a home near FMCA headquarters this past September.
By Peggy Jordan
It’s nearly twilight on a warm, humid Sunday in late September at East Fork State Park in southwest Ohio. In the campground, about 40 men and women, mostly between the ages of 50 and 75, are gathered outside in a circle formed by picnic tables and chairs.
Their potluck meal is over, and the leftover desserts are a tempting sight. No one seems to notice them, though, because a discussion is under way. Any stranger listening in definitely would wonder what they are talking about.
“Tomorrow is taping and mudding,” a tall man announces.
“We need a traffic cop in the middle of the living room!” another man responds, in a tone of mock complaint that starts several people laughing.
Another man, eager to add to the joke, quips: “We can get eight people in that bathroom.”
“And that many in the closet,” says another. With that, everyone is laughing.
It’s inside information, jargon that only construction workers “” or members of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity® “” can understand. These motorhome owners are planning another week of home building as part of their volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity International, a nondenominational Christian housing ministry that invites people from all faiths to help build homes with those in need. Since the chapter was chartered in 1998, it has assisted in the building of more than 30 homes throughout the United States.
As the next day dawns, these chapter members dress in their work attire and head to the construction site. The house is in Bethel, a small town approximately six miles from the campground and 20 miles east of FMCA’s national headquarters in Cincinnati.
After a prayer and some breakfast, they get going. The women and men labor side by side as they climb ladders and wield hammers, putty knives, sanding blocks, tabletop circular saws, and other tools. Their hands and clothing become covered with drywall mud, a sticky substance that goes atop drywall tape (hence “taping and mudding”). Those who sand down the dried mud eventually appear as though they just had a close encounter with a barrel of flour.
All of this activity is carried out in a very businesslike fashion. Everyone is out to build a house, to get a job done, and to get it done right “” and on time. Sometimes the living room really does look like it needs a traffic light as these volunteers maneuver about to pick up more mud or tape or shift work positions. They take brief breaks in mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and eat a lunch provided for them by a contributor. By 4:00 p.m. or so, most of them pack up and head back to the campground. One day around that time, Dave Fridline, F172901, joked, “I’m going to go start looking for a job, so I can get some rest!”
A Chapter That Builds
The Habitat volunteers do all of the home building except for those parts that require a specialist, such as plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling equipment installation. Paul Marion, the local site manager for this particular build, is a licensed electrician, so there was no delay in that part of the job. Paul and a crew of local Habitat volunteers made sure that when the FMCA volunteers arrived, the home’s infrastructure work was completed; the subfloor was laid; and building supplies were on hand.
Members of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity reside in locations across the United States and Canada. Approximately half of them are full-time RVers. Chapter president Linda Walden, F245876, said that approximately 260 FMCA families belong to the group. The chapter has a problem that many volunteer organizations would envy: they don’t build enough houses to accommodate everyone who wishes to get involved, even though they schedule 10 to 12 building projects each year.
Because FMCA was funding this project, plans were made to accommodate more chapter members than usual. Nearly 30 member families were signed up to work at the Bethel house over a span of three weeks. Since not everyone participated on the same days, and because ample motorhome accommodations were available at the state park, the arrangement worked well. In addition, everyone’s breakfast and lunch needs were provided for by generous area churches, businesses, and individuals.
Most chapter projects offer a more limited amount of space for motorhomes, and each is different. Linda said the chapter has to limit most “builds” (the Habitat word for home-building projects) to about 10 coaches. This assures that the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate can provide sufficient space and food for the volunteers.
Most of the chapter’s builds are set up in locations near FMCA convention sites or area rallies. Chapter members have an equal opportunity to take part in a build by following instructions in the chapter newsletter. “It’s first come, first served,” Linda said. “Certain builds, like Florida, fill up the first day.”
Other builds scheduled for 2004 will take place in New Mexico, after FMCA’s convention in Albuquerque; in Oklahoma City, after the International Area Rally; in Michigan, after the G.L.A.S.S. Rally; in Minnesota, after the Midwest Area Rally; and in Oregon, after the FMCA convention in Redmond.
Chapter members are not required to know how to build a house. “The whole purpose of the chapter is to further Habitat for Humanity in any way we can,” Linda said. Furthering the cause does not necessarily mean wielding a hammer. Some spouses who are unable or don’t want to build still participate in other ways.
That said, it’s true that some chapter members have had previous experience at home building, and it became evident to those who observed them. O’Neal Johnston, the president of Tristate Habitat for Humanity, the local affiliate that oversaw the Bethel build, said, “I think the motor coach group has brought with them a large percentage of skilled people, and I was very impressed with the roles the men and women played, working together.” Paul Marion was impressed, too, and this was his 10th time as a Habitat house site manager. Paul’s wife, Shirley, is the volunteer coordinator for the local affiliate. “We think these people are the cream of the crop,” she said of the FMCAers. “They’re skilled and they know what they’re doing.”
The Plan And The Family
Larry Clarke, F66480, helped to found the chapter by soliciting members during the FMCA summer convention in Ogden, Utah, in 1998. He said the chapter planned to fund and complete a build all by itself and had been collecting donations for this purpose for three years. All $50,000 needed for the Bethel house came from FMCA members. “Other chapters made donations to go toward our chapter build,” he said, “and we raffled quilts, and just plain made donations. We are getting Round-Up money; that is what put us over.” FMCA’s Executive Board decided last year to make Habitat for Humanity International one of the groups benefiting from the association’s Round-Up program “” charitable organizations to which FMCAers can contribute by rounding up their membership dues or simply making donations. Ganis Credit Corporation, C4076, also makes significant contributions to the program as part of its partnership with FMCA.
Once the Habitat chapter had accumulated the money, the idea to build the house near FMCA headquarters was suggested. It seemed to make sense. “We knew that it would be good publicity for FMCA as a whole,” Larry said. He was right. Articles about the build appeared in a local newspaper, and a Cincinnati television station produced a local news segment about it. The chapter also helped to publicize FMCA’s name with the signs it used to promote the build in the area.
Ray and Jewel Hebert, F128509, team leaders, met with Paul and Shirley Marion to work out details of the build. The Heberts, along with other chapter members, arrived a week early to set things up and become familiar with the area.
Deciding who would receive the house was the job of the local Habitat affiliate. It wasn’t difficult, for a “partner family” in the area was more than ready to move from a crowded apartment. Their house would be the sixth Habitat home built on this particular street.
The family consists of Shawnna and Butch Campbell, ages 37 and 52, respectively; Shawnna’s children, Jeff and Chasity Hodge, ages 14 and 16; and Chasity’s newborn daughter, Katie Janson. Other “family members” include a Norwegian elkhound named Comet and a cat named Punk.
“This is the greatest show on earth, right here,” said Shawnna enthusiastically as she walked through the house full of FMCA members mudding and taping. “This is just a super bunch of people. I’m just tickled!”
As part of the required hours of “sweat equity” (work that is required of Habitat home buyers), Shawnna assisted the home builders in any way she could. Although she is disabled by fibromyalgia, she made coffee for them each morning, went on “go-fer” runs, and helped rent and pick up items such as scaffolding. Butch, a retired military man whose health has not permitted him to work much since his days of service, spent most of the construction days back at the apartment, taking care of Katie while Chasity was in school. This left Shawnna free to work at the house.
Like a kid waiting for Christmas, she envisioned how the home would look with gray-blue carpet in the living areas, mauve and green carpet in various bedrooms, woodlike flooring in the kitchen, and vinyl tile in the main bathroom.
The local Habitat affiliate works with standardized floor plans, for the sake of simplicity. However, some changes are allowed. With this family, part of a wall between two bedrooms was taken out to form an adjoining space so that Chasity could easily care for baby Katie.
Jeff, who is on the local high school football team and likes to stay fit, got his own change, too. He asked for a special spot on the ceiling of his bedroom to accommodate the weight of a punching bag.
Shawnna said she was glad to be leaving her family’s current neighborhood. Butch also said he was “tickled to death” with the Habitat house, because he didn’t even like to walk the dog at night at the old neighborhood. Chasity said she was relieved to be able to raise her daughter in a safer place. Both she and her brother are glad they don’t have to switch high schools with this move.
Shawnna said the entire process of applying for the home and receiving it went quickly, once she learned that her family might qualify for one. They applied for a home in March. However, if the FMCA group had not come to town, the Campbells might still be waiting.
The House We All Built
FMCA members began work on the home on September 8 and had nearly completed it when it was dedicated on Saturday, September 27. But they weren’t the only ones to wield a hammer and a trowel full of drywall mud. Employees from the FMCA national office were invited to join in the build, and nearly 30 of them lent a hand for a day.
The staff enjoyed themselves, and also learned more about how Habitat for Humanity works. And as FMCA executive director Don Eversmann, F240000, pointed out, “It was a wonderful opportunity for the staff to interact with members of the chapter.”
In all, several area churches, volunteer associations, separate individuals, and 14 local businesses donated food or other services for the volunteers and for the building of the house.
During the dedication ceremony on that sunny Saturday, the front yard of the house was still muddy, and the final hookups for plumbing and electricity had not yet been completed. Yet, most appliances were in place, the flooring and ceiling work was done, and the house looked ready for a family to move in, although it wasn’t quite. About a dozen chapter members had already decided to stay on a few more days after the dedication to help finish things off.
The Campbell family eventually moved into the home on October 22, after waiting for certain inspections and paperwork to be completed.
Many gifts were exchanged during the dedication ceremony. The chapter presented Butch, Shawnna, and family a large album full of photographs taken during the build, depicting the event from beginning to end. Next came a chorus of “ahhs” from the crowd, as ladies from the chapter brought out colorful quilts and coverlets they had made for each member of the Campbell family.
In appreciation of the work done by the members of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity, O’Neal Johnston presented the chapter with a birdhouse emblazoned with the Habitat for Humanity logo. Because they’re travelers, he said, the idea of such a home fit in with their lifestyle. Jewel Hebert accepted the gift on behalf of the chapter. It was given a permanent home at the FMCA national office and now can be seen in the rose garden near the campground at FMCA’s Round Bottom Road facility.
It’s a nice reminder to all that, no matter how big or small, permanent or mobile, everyone needs a home.
To contribute to the efforts of the FMCA Chapter: Habitat for Humanity, see the “Round-Up” Contributors form that appears in each issue of FMC.
For more information about the chapter, contact chapter secretary David Fridline via e-mail at email@example.com, or visit the chapter’s Web site: www.fmca-hfh.com.
Habitat For Humanity International Facts
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world. Habitat for Humanity invites people of all backgrounds, races, and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need.
Habitat has built more than 150,000 houses around the world since its inception in 1976, giving more than 750,000 people decent, affordable shelter. The organization was founded by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda.
Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and are financed with no-interest loans. Homeowners must make a down payment and monthly mortgage payments. The cost of a Habitat house varies from $800 in developing countries to an average of $53,300 in the United States.
Habitat is not a giveaway program. Families are selected based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program, and their ability to repay a no-interest loan. Homeowners invest hours of their own labor, called sweat equity, into building their house and the houses of others.
The work of Habitat for Humanity is carried out at the community level by affiliates “” independent, locally run organizations. Each nonprofit affiliate coordinates all aspects of the Habitat home building in its area, from selecting the partner family to raising funds and selecting a building site. There are more than 2,300 active affiliates in 89 countries.
Habitat for Humanity International maintains its headquarters in Americus, Georgia. Donations, whether to a local Habitat affiliate or to Habitat For Humanity International, are used as designated by the donor to a specific affiliate or building project. Undesignated gifts are used where most needed and for administrative expenses.