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The West Virginia Build-A-Thon begins

By Joy Suh


AmeriCorps members gather for the opening ceremony.


Patricia Rowley from Habitat for Humanity Virginia seals around electrical outlets.


Digging holes for a handicap ramp.


Andrew Smith and Emily Stock cut blue board.


It was a beautiful, sunny and cool West Virginia spring morning as 48 AmeriCorps Volunteers descended onto the Painter’s Point neighborhood of Franklin, in Pendleton County.

Pendleton County is rural and sparsely populated, 700 square miles of mostly-forested and mountainous land inhabited by less than 8,000 people.

Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity has built 100 houses in the county since it began 20 years ago.

Today, we began a week-long Neighborhood Revitalization project that will have an impact on families for years to come. We opened the day with a prayer and little history about the neighborhood that sits on a hill.

Originally an area once used by Confederate soldiers as respite from the Union occupied area, the Painter’s Point neighborhood became a refuge for county residents after a devastating flood in 1985 and again in 1996.

Many residents lost everything and had to start over. Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity began its work in the neighborhood helping to build a Head Start building.

Soon after, Habitat houses began populating the area. Almost Heaven HFH is currently building 15 single-family attached homes in the neighborhood.

After the ceremony, AmeriCorps volunteers were introduced to a blower door test, which measures the energy efficiency of a home. One of the key components of our work this week is helping homeowners make their homes more energy efficient, thus more affordable.

Then the work began. AmeriCorps members broke into teams to tackle their assignments around the neighborhood.

Teams were assigned to weatherization projects; critical home repairs such building handicap ramps for homebound homeowners; and new home construction at our River Bend Gardens development of 15 single-family attached homes.

It was so cool to see the gray shirts of the AmeriCorps volunteers fanned out all over the neighborhood. I think there was a volunteer presence on every street of the neighborhood.

The day also brought in Partner Families, volunteers from the nearby Navy base and volunteers from other areas of the county and neighboring counties giving AmeriCorps members a great opportunity to really get to know the community not just at Painter’s Point but all over the Pendleton County area.

It is awe inspiring to see people giving of their free time to come out and help build it.

Joy Suh is the development officer for Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity. She has worked for Habitat since 2009 and currently handles much of the communications of the 2011 Build-a-Thon. This is her first Build-a-Thon.