What a difference a month makes. I was back at the RV Care-A-Vanner desk full time a week after my surgery and continue to be ahead of schedule in my recovery. It was a good thing, too, as March was a very busy month.
First was the Affiliate Conference in Atlanta, where more than 2,000 affiliate representatives turned out to find out what Habitat for Humanity International has to offer. Frank and Diana Peccia attended the conference with me, and between the three of us, we made many good contacts. We also attended an awards luncheon where our very own RV Care-A-Vanners, Bill and France Moriarty, received the Volunteer of the Year Award for their work rebuilding Henryville, Ind., after the March 2012 tornado. Congratulations to Bill and France!
The following week, 29 RV Care-A-Vanners descended on Americus to attend the first RV Care-A-Vanner Disaster Rebuild training. It was a four-day course put on in partnership with Habitat's Disaster Response department. I want to thank Kristin Wright, Disaster Corps specialist, for putting the program together. The training was very well received. We also spent the better part of a day getting our safety training, allowing all of us to become Habitat safety certified.
Another first: The RV Care-A-Vanner program awarded its first grant to Tuscaloosa Habitat for Humanity. The grant was for a total of $5,250 and will be used to upgrade their eight RV sites to 30 amps electrical that will complete their full hookups. Dave and I will be stopping through Tuscaloosa on our way north to be part of a media event announcing the grant. We hope to use more of our grant money to help other affiliates put in permanent RV sites, especially in disaster areas.
We have added a new member to our growing all-volunteer RV Care-A-Vanner desk staff. Diana Peccia has agreed to take over the evaluation process from Lu Tillotson and me. With 170-plus builds scheduled so far in 2013, Lu and I were getting overwhelmed creating the surveys. Diana has a background in human resources and is already familiar with Survey Monkey, our online evaluation program. When I asked Diana if she would be willing to do our evaluations, she responded, "I was wondering when you were going to ask me to do something at the desk." Welcome, Diana, and a big thank you from Lu and me! You can see a list of all the RV Care-A-Vanner desk staff here.
Speaking of 170-plus builds this year, have you looked at the build list lately? I need you all working a little bit more to meet the needs of our host affiliates and most importantly, our partner families. We need to get them in homes!
I want to remind everyone to put April 21 - May 4, 2014, on your calendar. That is the date of our 25th Anniversary build and rally. Registration will be opening soon, so stay tuned. I want to see everyone at this special event.
And finally, this RV Care-A-Vanner coordinator is coming into the 21st century with the launch of a Facebook page. It will be a source of ongoing information about the RV Care-A-Vanner program. You can find me here. However, don't expect me to give up my flip phone anytime soon!
Safe travels and happy hammering,
RV Care-A-Vanner coordinator
Why We Build
By Clint Norell
The fairgrounds in Alice, Texas, are 50 miles west of Corpus Christi. The sandy gray soil is oil-patch flat. It's sticky when wet and dusty when dry. Somehow, it manages to support short rough grass, thorny scrub, mesquite and Javelinas. A few corrugated metal buildings, an oil-drum barbecue and a cell phone tower are all there is to block the wind.
Ten rigs gathered there in January to build a decent house for an impressive single mom. Maggie was raising two kids in one room at her parents' house. Nine retired couples and one solo volunteer set up a spectrum of RVs on gravel pads with full hook-ups. Six-figure diesel pushers, gas-powered class-As, several five-ers, and one closet-size bumper-pull housed volunteers from across the country. Each day for three weeks, the 1 Q-Tips and one youngster car-pooled through dense fog, drizzle and a biting wind to a small lot in a modest South Texas neighborhood. It was there I was given another installment in an ongoing, much-needed life-skills lesson.
As a general contractor I was accustomed to being the honcho, the king of my sand lot. I designed, financed and built "my way." I got the phone calls, the deliveries and the "how-to" questions. I hired and fired, sweated payroll, construction loans and a fickle housing market. I appeased inspectors, negotiated with subs, and served as principal, priest and parole officer to employees. As a Care-A-Vanner in Alice, however, I was a rookie. There was an abundance of talent on-site with much more Habitat experience than I, so I accepted chop saw duty.
Day after day I tried to stay ahead of requests for headers and cripples and blocking. Wood scraps with scrawled dimensions collected under the field-made cutting table that spanned two saw horses, while others swung hammers, raised walls, and aligned rafters that I'd cut.
"I need three two-by-fours, 4 ft, 6 3/8," someone would say. Or, "2-by-6, 14, 9 7/16, long point to long point." Sometimes I'd be handed a scrap of two-by-four with a list of measurements; at other times, a rafter would be handed back down with an accompanying, "Take off a saw blade, will ya?"
I felt a bit out of the loop as I watched Maggie's house going up beside me. The familiar sequence of culling studs, erecting walls, plumb and line, and sheathing was being orchestrated by a salt-of-the-earth, old-school Arkansas carpenter. There were a number of competent crew members ready to step up to lead roles if needed. I stood in place on the ground, making sawdust and yearning to be important.
As the days passed and the work progressed, I began to notice and then identify with a pleasant Midwestern woman from, I think, one of those states with lakes and dairies. Colleen was to become the instrument of instruction for my life lesson in Alice.
The second Saturday on the build, there was a constant drumming of hammers as our Care-A-Vanner group — joined by Maggie and her dad, her boss from the bank and several friends — nailed off exterior sheathing. Our team was crawling among the rafters like Spiderman, hanging barge and fascia and boxing in soffits. In addition, board members and representatives of several service clubs were on-site. We were over-supported. The cacophony of hammer blows drowned the buzz of my saw.
Through it all, Colleen circulated with a magnet, picking up nails. She'd stop frequently to help hold up the end of a board, hand someone on scaffolding a tool or offer a fresh water bottle with a smile and a friendly word. I often saw her wield a paintbrush, brace a ladder and set up the lunch table, but always, she'd return to picking up nails. She was simultaneously ever-present and invisible.
Each time she passed my cutting station, she'd pause and offer an upbeat phrase or two, then move on. As Colleen's passings became more familiar, I found myself looking forward to her greetings. She always made me smile. Often she'd leave me laughing. I began to think of her as an old circuit preacher spreading cheer. Our exchanges became conversations. I confessed to feeling insignificant. She just smiled as I fumbled through an attempt to repay her welcomed kindness with a metaphor I hoped would serve as a consolation for her subordinate role, sort of a pick-me-up.
I reminded her of how, long before Lee Iacocca saved Chrysler, he rocketed Ford to the top with the Mustang. Accolades went to engineers and designers, but until some lowly worker tightened the last lug nut, it wasn't a complete car.
I was disappointed with Colleen's response to my witticism. Instead of saying, "Wow," she just smiled, as if, instead of a wise old sage, I was a mere grade-schooler who had finally grasped the obvious.
Colleen moved on, picking up bent nails with her magnet and putting them in a dented paint can. As I watched her depart, I played my words back in my head. I wondered why she hadn't appreciated their full value. I listened to my internal recordings, over and over, until the bulb lit. Flash! I got it. I was the worker, but so were the concept men and the assemblers. It was the car that was important, not the individuals on the build team. It was the house, the simple decent house that was important. No! It was Maggie that mattered - Maggie and her kids. I and every other volunteer that came and went on that South Texas build were just instruments.
Team leader corner
Happy spring everyone! We're sitting in Tennessee, waiting for it to stop snowing and blowing so we can continue our trek home to Maine!!
A big thank you to our marvelous March team leaders. They are: George and Diane Gravlee; Earl Cunningham and his granddaughter, Kylie Randolph; Larry and Memorie Halstead; Robin and Janet Masek; Andy and Kim Hansen; Harold and Marsha Squires; Alan and April Lenning; Rick and Paula Huls; and Roger and Linda Harvey. Thank you so much for responding to my request to serve as team leaders.
A word about safety, as Habitat gets more into rehab and disaster rebuilding, Care-A-Vanners are likely to encounter hazardous materials such as mold or asbestos. The affiliate should provide appropriate eyewear and masks. However, as team leaders, your team's safety and well-being are your number one priority. If you are ever uncomfortable or uncertain about a situation, bring it to the construction supervisor's attention. If this does not result in a satisfactory response, you may contact any of us at the Care-A-Vanner desk, and we will research it and respond promptly. In the meantime, stay safe and know you are doing much to assure that everyone has a safe, decent place to call home.
Team leaders are needed for the following builds:
||Tuscaloosa Disaster Response
|April 28- May 19
|April 28- May 12
|May 5- May 19
|May 5- May 19
||Idaho Falls, ID
|May 12- May 26
|May 12- May 26
|June 9-June 23
|June 9- June 23
If you are available, please contact me ASAP. Thank you!
Remember, if you've been thinking about becoming team leaders but are not sure what's involved, contact me and I will send you the guidelines. Also, don't forget to check the "team leader interest" box on your registration if you are willing to lead the build.
Team leader coordinator
- West Liberty, Kentucky: (formally known as Morehead, Kentucky): We are in need of house leaders from Aug. 11, 2013, through Nov. 2, 2013. Can you read a blueprint, solve construction issues and lead a group of capable RV Care-A-Vanners? Then you can be a house leader. Once I have house leaders in place, I will list builds in support of those house leaders. Remember, West Liberty lost 500 housing units, many low-income, in the March 2, 2012, tornado. They really need our help there! If you would like to sign up as a house leader, please contact me at email@example.com. I have builds listed in support of our house leaders starting April 7, 2013, so sign up and make a difference.
- Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Tuscaloosa is rebuilding following the massive tornado in 2011. They now have room for eight RVs at their volunteer facility. I have listed the Tuscaloosa summer and fall builds on our website, starting in August and running through December. No experience is required to work at Tuscaloosa, and I have heard from the builders that have been there this winter that it is a great place to work. The electrical at the RV sites is in need of an upgrade, but as you read in the newsletter, we are taking care of that very soon with a grant to Tuscaloosa.
- Joplin, Missouri: I still have a need for a house leader October 7-12, 2013. Our responsibility is to lead a Thrivent team of 10 to 12 members and enhance their volunteer experience. There will be local construction supervision available. If you might be interested, please contact me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SuperStorm Sandy Relief: I listed our first Sandy recovery build in Toms River, New Jersey, and it filled in four hours. Thank you for that great support! I am getting ready to list several more Sandy recovery build opportunities. If you would like to be on my email list for Sandy recovery, please send a note to email@example.com. I will notify folks on my list first about build opportunities.
We add new builds whenever an affiliate schedules one. We try to update the list on Fridays so that you can check over the weekend to see if any new ones have been added. Builds are now sorted by date when the list comes up. You can sort by state by clicking the link at the top of the list. Just click on the build list.
- Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley, located in Bozeman, MT., needs a miracle. The affiliate is building a passive solar house with a grant, but the house has to be completed by the end of June to receive the grant. The build is listed in Belgrade, MT., located off of I-90 just northwest of Bozeman. This is a new affiliate for us, so let's show them what the RV Care-A-Vanners can do! Register for these builds here. They are listed as two back-to-back builds starting on May 12 and are located in Belgrade, MT.
- Aberdeen, N.C., was just listed a first-time build for June 2, 2013. I know June is a very busy month for us, but consider doing this build if you are in the area.
- Mankato, Minn., is in need of Care-A-Vanners for their two builds this year. They are listed as Mankato, Minn., April 28, 2013 and Mankato, Minn., Aug. 11, 2013. Check out the build list to sign up.
Since the last newsletter, we had one more couple step up to help in Albany, Ga. Thanks go to Robin and Sharon Grant for helping out the week of March 18.
I am still compiling an email list for those who enjoy working or think they might enjoy working with students. There is no commitment on your part, but the emails will let you know where and when help supervising these students is needed and give you another option for your travel schedule. These will be one-week builds, but you can sign up for as many as you like, and in different places if you like. Let me know if you would like your email address added so you can receive this information starting next fall. Affiliates who want help with supervision will provide a place to park your RV.
If you are already helping unofficially in this regard, I would still like your email address so that it can become official for hours and evaluations. This helps with grants and other things at the RV desk. Mary Vandeveld is doing a wonderful job, but you can support her further by giving me your information so that I can summarize it and pass it on to her.
Collegiate Challenge coordinator
RV Care-A-Vanners 25th Anniversary Celebration, April 21 - May 4, 2014, Springfield, Mo., Ozark Empire Fairgrounds
Some months ago, Jane and I started to plan a special event to recognize the 25th anniversary of RV Care-A-Vanners.
First we had to think about a time and a place. We proposed spring 2014 because spring represents new growth. It was also the end of winter, and most RVers would be on the move and looking for things to do.
We solved our place problem by choosing Springfield, Mo., because of its central location and active local affiliate, which can support the activities of a very large group of RV Care-A-Vanners.
We have had many conversations with people who are long-time RV Care-A-Vanners, which excited and energized us both for the building program and for the upcoming celebration.
Now it's time for us to turn the spotlight around and shine it on the people who make up the membership of RV Care-A-Vanners, and share around the excitement and energy of the upcoming anniversary celebration.
An event of this magnitude depends on continued planning by individuals who understand what would make a meaningful experience for RV Care-A-Vanners, fleshing out the plan with people who will dependably execute their task, and the enthusiasm of the RV Care-A-Vanner membership.
The anniversary celebration will consist of building several new homes and include a rally event in the weekend in between. The building activities are the ones with which we have the most experience, and also are those in which the local affiliate will have a large share of involvement.
It is the rally that requires us to turn to our own members for involvement of many people — people to put together a program of meaningful seminars, people to put together enjoyable entertainment and people to pull together delicious banquet meals.
Our lines of communication are always open. If you have some ideas to share, or some background or experience in any of these areas, or if you would just like to put your oar in the water, please contact us.
Jane and Joe Gano
Remember, and put on your calendars, 25th Anniversary Build & Rally, April 21 – May 4, 2014, Springfield, Mo.
Note: A 25th anniversary information page, which includes an online donation button, is now live. We will update this page as new information becomes available.
What we need is a volunteer to head up each of these categories: seminars, food, entertainment and decorations. We will also need a photographer and MC for the evening events at the rally. Please contact the above coordinators for the position you would like to volunteer for.
From the Registration Desk
Here it is April already. Larry and I are starting our migration north after enjoying another paradise-like stay in Florida. It is time to roll up our sleeves and start swinging those hammers. April is also tax time. A frequent request we get from you, our builders, is to provide proof of hours worked at a scheduled build. We on the Care-A-Vanner desk are the liaisons between you and the affiliate — helping to arrange builds, recruiting team leaders, processing the registrations. We also collect total hours worked on a build, but when it comes to getting proof of individual hours worked so you can claim them on your tax return, we can't help you. Please contact the affiliate directly. When you are on a build, you are actually working for the affiliate, and only the affiliate can legally provide and verify this information.
Until next time, stay safe during your travels and on those builds. And remember, keep those registrations coming. Visit the registration page to see our many builds throughout the U.S. and Canada. There is something for everyone.
RV registration desk
Welcome new Care-A-Vanners
Barry Anderson, Russel Bradley and Celia Sherman, William and Linda Chancellor, Sam Daggett, Fred DiManno, Ronald Dunevant, Mike and Patricia Ebersole, Marian Goodman, Robin and Susan Grant, Walter and Mona Hagen, Keith Jones, William and Joelyn Kemp, Ray, Ella and Dylan Kim, Garland and Dorothy Land, Jack Little, Dave McRae and Roberta Wong, Karen Magruder, Jerry, Tricia and Saejin Mahlau-Heinert, Kylie Randolph, Kent and Carol Roberts, John and Ellen Souva, Leota Spalla, Alan and JoAnne Stroklund, John and Linda Taylor, Gary and Maggie Weikel, Charlie Wilkinson, David Zonker.
Our apologies if we have included a seasoned Care-A-Vanner, or if this is duplication. Habitat for Humanity is grateful for the work that you do!
If you look at the links on the left side of the RV Care-A-Vanner site you will see a new addition, Safety Corner. This link will take you directly to the articles that have been written for the newsletter Safety Corner, which have been extracted from the archives and put in topical order for easy access and use. Did you see an article that you wanted to check out but can't remember which newsletter it was in? Just go to the safety corner link, and you will find it there. This will make it easier for leaders, affiliates and team members to access information about safety. If you are a new Care-A-Vanner volunteer, these will be great sources of information. If you are an ongoing volunteer, they will be great refreshers.
If you see something that you think would merit coverage, please send that idea along so that we can make sure it is covered. If you are knowledgeable in the area, write a short piece or make a bullet list and send it to us. If you just want to send in an idea, send it in along with your areas of concern, and we will research and write the piece.
We are now working in more areas that ever, including new builds, renovations, A Brush with Kindness and disaster recovery, and all of those have their own safety issues. We want all Care-A-Vanner job sites to be safe, and safety begins with you!
An extension on extensions
In his ladder safety pieces, Frank gave us a good background in ladder safety, including both step and extension ladders. In this "extension" on the subject, we will deal with a few additional pieces of information to make our use of extension ladders even safer.
Extension ladders are most often used to access the roof for sheathing, shingling and other similar work. When we are getting on and off the roof, it is important to take care to avoid damaging the roof edge (regardless of type) and to make sure both the ladder and the roof are stable. These hints might help.
Stability is an issue at both the top and bottom of the ladder. At the bottom, having a stable base is important. We don't want to block one side of the ladder, but, instead, find a way to level the playing field under the feet. One thing that can help is a ladder that has spur plates on the feet. These are cleats at one end of the moveable rubber feet on the ladder, and if they are present, the feet should be rotated so that the cleats dig down into the surrounding soil or surface — as long as it's not pavement. While moveable feet are good, spur plates are even better, and we would encourage affiliates to consider ladders with spur plates when making ladder purchases.
|Picture of spur plate on new ladder
||Feet rotated, spur plate goes into ground
When spur plates are used, on surfaces other than pavement, the base of the ladder will be much more solid.
Now let's talk about the top of the ladder. We need to affix the ladder to the roof edge/soffit so that it cannot move. We also to make sure that we don't damage the roof edge, which could be metal edge drip trim and/or the overhang of a metal roof or shingles. The simplest way to do this is to construct a ladder block that is affixed to the house itself. This is done by using a two-by-four that is several inches wider than the ladder itself, to which we affix another piece of two-by-four that is the same width as the interior measurement of the ladder. Once this is constructed, it can be affixed to the house, either with nails or with clamps. The wider piece keeps the ladder away from the edge to prevent damage, and the narrower piece holds the ladder so it cannot move.
||Ladder block installed
Once the ladder block is in place, the ladder can be put in place, and it will not move side to side. I have seen some attempts to do this by placing nails on either side of the ladder, but those often can bend and are not nearly as secure.
|Ladder in place – note that the ladder is clear of the roof edge.
What else needs to be done with this ladder placement?
The depth of the backer board can be increased, if the roof lip or some other obstruction requires it, by adding additional backer board(s).
The ladder pictured is not tied off. If the ladder will be used to repeatedly access the roof (as in shingling operations), OSHA requires that it be tied off so that it cannot come off the block. One way to do this is to place a screw eye in the wider block on either side of the ladder rails and then use those to tie off the ladder to prevent it from falling back or raising above the interior ladder block and swinging to the side. Other means suitable to a particular structure may also be used. The tie-off is not shown in these pictures.
Movement from ladder to roof to ladder
OSHA requires that a ladder extend at least 3 feet above the roof. While a shorter ladder was used for the photographs so that the block could be clearly seen, the ladder should extend at least 3 feet above the roofline so that people can move from the ladder to the roof and the roof to the ladder from a standing position without having to bend. More distance above the roof is fine, and taller folks may like 4-5 feet for ease of access. The goal: Walk on, walk off!
Block your ladder, use the feet and make sure it's long enough.
Setting an extension ladder on sloping ground
Reminder: If the ground slopes away from the house, the spur plates are not as effective as on flat ground. The base of the ladder should be braced against a two-by-four, or better yet, a two-by-six held in place with long metal foundation stakes so that it is firmly implanted.
Be careful to watch your angle. Remember the 4-to-1 foot rule. For every 4 feet up, the ladder needs to go out an additional foot. Count this from the base of the ladder — not up at the house level if the ladder base is below the house.
Questions, cancellations or concerns?
1-800-HABITAT, ext. 7534
RV Care-A-Vanner staff contact info
Register for a build online
Please email updated roster information to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call 1-229-410-7534.
Report Care-A-Vanner hours
Help us keep track of total volunteer hours contributed, and partner families served. Please email these stats from your drop-in or ongoing builds to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donate to RV Care-A-Vanners
How to donate money or vehicles