Around 50 Farmington students became familiar with the ins and outs of home construction while learning the joy of volunteering to make a positive difference in the lives of others as they helped Habitat for Humanity with the beginning steps of building a house in the city of Desloge.
Arriving at the construction scene on North Grant Street, it was an unusual sight to see teenagers working alongside adults hammering nails, moving equipment and ultimately raising the walls on the home. There didn’t appear to be a lazy one in the bunch as they all worked together on a warm Missouri September day to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
For those who are unfamiliar with Habitat for Humanity of St. Francois County, Inc. (HFHSFC), it is a non-profit, ecumenical, Christian-based house building organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing within St. Francois County that is part of Habitat for Humanity International.
“Our St. Francois County affiliate officially started in April 1998 and since then, HFHSFC has built homes in Bonne Terre, Park Hills and Farmington,” said Executive Director Linda Dickerson-Bell. “Our local Habitat affiliate, along with many others around the world, coordinate house building and select partner families. Habitat houses are purchased by the homeowner families.”
According to Dickerson, three factors make the houses affordable to low-income people worldwide.
“Houses are sold at no profit with no interest charged on the mortgage,” she said. “Homeowners and volunteers build the houses under trained supervision with individuals, corporations, faith groups and others provide financial support. Homeowner families are chosen according to their need; their ability to repay the no-profit, no-interest mortgage; and their willingness to work in partnership with Habitat.”
Most people already know that Habitat for Humanity is a worthy organization that builds homes for families needing a hand to own their first home, but why were Farmington High School students doing construction on a school day? Dr. Brian Reeves, a history and philosophy teacher at the school was able to provide the answer.
“One of things we were trying to do was build some community in our school and one of the that we thought about was, ‘What’s better for building community than building a house for the community?’ So that’s one of the things that we did,” he said. “Every Monday we’re sending different groups of students and so, like today we have cross country team members, we’ve got some Scholar Bowl kids, we’ve got a couple of football players, we’ve got Theater Guild, National Honor Society, the whole FFA coming here and working together on this.
“And so, every week there is going to be a different group of clubs and sports teams and organizations that are going to come and participate in this. It’s kind of building something and mixing kids in our school that don’t necessarily associate with each other and so they’re getting to work. It’s also doing service which is always really important.”
Asked if the students seemed to be enjoying the project, Reeves said, “They really have. Some students obviously know their way around a hammer pretty well. I was talking to one student who told me that this was the first day she’d ever held a hammer in her hand ever. So, that’s kind of good too. It seems like it’s gone real well. The weather’s been great. It’s a perfect day. It’s just been marvelous to work with Linda and Habitat. It’s a wonderful organization and we’re just super happy for Farmington High School to be a part of it.”
Standing by the side of the construction crew was the future homeowner, Monica Courson, with a big smile on her face. This will be her first home.
“Me and my two kids are going to be living here,” she said. “I actually saw about Habitat for Humanity on Facebook and so we just went in and applied for it and got approved. It’s going to mean a lot to own a house because I’ve never owned my own home. We’ve usually just rented and so it will be nice to actually own something of my own. We put in our volunteer hours mostly by working in their store until today when we actually started doing this. We’ve been running the cash register at the store and helping with customers there.”
Courson was quite impressed with the high school students who had come out to help build her new home.
“I love it,” she said. “It was fast. It went up really fast. They’re doing a great job!”
Dickerson-Bell said HFHSFC is excited about having the Farmington High School students coming on board to help out on the building project.
“This has been something I’ve worked on since I started working with Habitat which is 10 years now,” she said. “We’re just trying to get the younger youth involved. I mean, we get the ‘older youth’ after they’ve retired who are trying to find something to do, but getting these younger kids involved and hoping to keep them once we get them here.
“It’s been very difficult to work around their schedules at school, so we couldn’t be more thankful for Farmington High School for bringing these kids out here and letting them get some time off from school and getting this experience. We’re super excited.”
For those interested in seeing if they qualify for assistance by Habitat or volunteering to help on a building crew, call the HFHSFC at 760-1702. It’s an application process, so it’s necessary for those wanting to see if they qualify to stop by the office and fill out an application form.
“It’s kind of building something and mixing kids in our school that don’t necessarily associate with each other and so they’re getting to work.” — Dr. Brian Reeves, FHS history, philosophy teacher
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org