Families, co-workers bond on Ivy City build site -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Families, co-workers bond on Ivy City build site


Caitlin Kilborn, who works in the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, hammers a truss into place on Day Four of the Carter Work Project in Washington, D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker


Dan Martin, a longtime Carter Project volunteer, brought his wife, Linda, and their children, Sarah and Chris, to this year's event. Dan, Sarah and Chris Martin are working on one of the deconstruction projects while Linda helps with hospitality. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker


Elizabeth Singleton, a volunteer from Dow, talks with other volunteers at House No. 6 in Ivy City. She said the build was a good chance to interact with her co-workers. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker


By Lara Moore and Teresa K. Weaver

Bright blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s cleared the way for a strong finish to this year’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Washington, D.C. House leaders on all 12 homes in progress—six new builds and six rehabs—said work is right on schedule.

Almost all the dangerous lead-paint drywall has been removed from the rehabs, with cleanup to begin Friday. The goal is to leave structurally sound empty shells, ready to be rebuilt into new homes.

Meanwhile, trusses were up on all the new-construction duplexes, and roofs soon will be in place. At week’s end, most of the 250 volunteers on the D.C. site will go back to their regular lives, while a team of professionals including electricians and plumbers takes over the next steps in turning these construction sites into homes.

Father knows best

Dan Martin, an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles, California, marks his 20th Carter Work Project this year, joined for the first time by his whole family: Linda, his wife; son Chris, 22; and daughter Sarah, 17.

Martin first volunteered for the Carter project in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1990. Shortly after that trip, he got involved with the fledgling Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Los Angeles, helping to build the first Habitat house there, with a family of four who were living in a garage. He also served several years on the affiliate’s board.

“My family started saying, ‘You spend so much time with Habitat,’ ” Martin said. “So I decided I needed to back off just a bit and help raise my kids.”

He continued his yearly commitment to the Carter project, though, and as soon as Sarah was old enough to volunteer, the entire family signed up for this year’s trip to D.C.

On Thursday, father, son and daughter were suited up in white protective gear, tearing down walls at a full-gut rehab on Corcoran Street. It may be the least glamorous of all jobs on the build site, but all three were attacking it with gusto.

Sarah showed a somewhat frightening penchant for destruction, her brother noticed.

“She seems to find a lot of enjoyment in taking down the walls,” he mused.

Chris Martin recently graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in liberal arts. An aspiring author, he’s working on a novel but also looking for “something that will pay the bills,” he said.

In the meantime, he has found his first Carter Work Project “extremely tiring” but is ready to sign up for next year.

“I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with my time,” he said.

Sarah agreed. “I’ve had a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve learned more here than I could learn in school anytime. I mean, I didn’t know how to demo a house before.”

Another plus has been getting to work alongside a diverse group of people who share a lot of the same values, she said.

“I think Habitat attracts a lot of really good people,” she said. “I think it attracts people who are good-natured and want to give to other people.”

Sarah said she will “definitely” volunteer on more builds.

“I could see her end up being a house leader on one of these builds,” her proud dad said.

Mom Linda Martin, a former social worker who teaches parenting courses in Los Angeles public schools, smashed her finger on the second day of this year’s build. And so, on Wednesday she was moved to the slightly less dangerous hospitality tent for the rest of the week, to hand out snacks and use her people skills.

She was equally impressed with her kids’ accomplishments on this first Carter project.

“I’m proud of how hard they’re working,” she said, laughing. “A lot of times my son is on the computer most of the day. But he’s really sweating now!

“I think a lot of us Americans have such soft lives, and we don’t realize what we have. Something like this reminds you how some other people have to live their lives. It feels good to do something to help that.”

Building a house, building a team

Corporate partners play a crucial role in Habitat’s annual Carter Work Project, providing not only funding but people power. In the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington, D.C., this week, brightly colored T-shirts have made it easy to spot volunteer crews from Freddie Mac, Promontory Financial Group, Whirlpool and others.

On House No. 6, the future home of Shawanna Davis and her three children, Elizabeth Singleton was part of a rotating team from Dow. As a specialist in business development, Singleton usually spends her workdays in Dow’s D.C. office. But on this brilliant fall Thursday, she was hammering on the first floor of a duplex while her three teammates helped install a roof.

“It’s so satisfying to make something,” Singleton said. “And it’s fun to interact with your colleagues in a different way. You see them in a different light and talk about different things. It solidifies all the work relationships.

“It’s also fun to work on a common cause, figuring things out as you go,” she added. “Nobody’s an expert at this, so everybody’s sort of on the same page.”

Building with green bricks

Among the beams, concrete and plywood, a new material enters the arena at Washington, D.C.’s, Ivy City work sites: the brick, reinvented.

For this year’s Carter Work Project, Habitat for Humanity Washington, D.C., received a donation of “green bricks” and pavers for six builds from CalStar Products Inc., a manufacturer of sustainable building supplies.

The bricks and pavers are made from recycled materials, including fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal. While traditional clay bricks require days of heating at 2,000 degrees, these recycled bricks harden much faster at significantly lower temperatures.

“They have the same strength and weather resistance as regular bricks,” said David Gano, the D.C. affiliate’s director of construction and land development. “This is really cutting-edge.”

Building energy-efficient houses is a priority of Habitat D.C., Gano said. To help spread the word, he is scheduled to speak at the fifth North American Passive House Conference, Nov. 4-7, in Portland, Oregon.

Lara Moore and Teresa K. Weaver are writer/editors at Habitat for Humanity International.