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Talk about a work ethic

Building alongside Habitat homeowners on the 2012 AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon build site in Pensacola, Florida
By Julie Gurnon

AmeriCorps members in Pensacola, Fla., were already constructing the exterior framing for six homes within 10 minutes of their arrival for the first day of the 2012 Build-a-Thon.

About six hours later, they were cleaning up for the day and ready to begin hanging trusses the next morning.

The weather on Monday was in the 80s and humid. I was sweating just standing around talking to people, so I can’t imagine how much the construction volunteers were perspiring; however, it didn’t seem to impede their progress in any way.

Future homeowner Shelica Grice was also working — and perspiring — alongside AmeriCorps members on the home she will share with her 13-year-old daughter, Diamond. As we were leaving the build site to chat for a while, she joked that she had no idea that “sweat equity” involved actual sweating.

When I first approached her, Grice was trying to attach the wall covering to the exterior framing with a hammer and a nail. As any person without construction experience knows when they first try this seemingly straightforward task, the nail does not always want to go in; sometimes it pops off and lands on the ground and sometimes it requires an abnormally large amount of force to get it in. Sometimes it bends on its way in, forcing you to pull it out and start over. Both scenarios happened with Grice, but she was a trooper and got the nail in on the third try. Bravo, Shelica!

Later that day, I talked to future neighbor Juvannua Bell, the widowed mother of four children. Ever since her husband died in 2003 after losing his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Bell and her children have moved at least nine times in those nine years, trying to find a decent, affordable place to live.

When I asked her what having this home will mean to her and her family, she said, “Now I’ll be able to live in a nice place and feed the kids.” She won’t need to choose one or the other, but will be able to do both.

My heart ached for all she had been through, and then it rejoiced in knowing that she and her children would soon be in Habitat home, one of six being built with the help of a focused, determined group of AmeriCorps members who had raised most of the trusses and started installing the roof sheeting by the end of day two.

Julie Gurnon is the NSP2 writer/editor for editorial services, based in Americus, Georgia.