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Having all hands on deck makes light work

By Becky Murray 

AmeriCorps members laid 16,000 feet of sod Thursday as part of a project to build an open-air market for the city of Eustis, Florida.AmeriCorps members laid 16,000 feet of sod Thursday as part of a project to build an open-air market for the city of Eustis, Florida.   Photo by Soyia Ellison

On Thursday morning, approximately 100 AmeriCorps members descended on a semi-empty lot in Eustis, Florida. Pallets stacked with sod, piles of mulch, and large planks of wood awaited our attention. 

First we listened to Steve Thomas, an Emmy award winner from “This Old House,” speak about community. This area once served as the town’s center. After the city constructed a highway through it, people ceased to frequent the neighborhood. 

Habitat not only builds homes; we build communities. After the work is completed, this lot will serve as a farmer’s market. Several community gardens already exist nearby and are run by local residents. Eventually, Lake-Sumter Habitat hopes to construct a playground to create an interactive community space for families. 

One of the organizers asked if we had our running shoes on, “because we will be moving fast!” But everyone had already begun splitting into teams, grabbing tools and laying sod. It got slightly chaotic at times, but we finished the task well ahead of schedule. 

The remainder of the morning included apple crushing, mock pitchfork fights and chatting with other team members. Mark Andrews from Habitat for Humanity International obliged me as I picked his brain about various global work projects. He reiterated the importance of community effort. Some of the Global Village trips now offer the option to visit settlements or slums to see the need for decent housing and how building a community will encourage growth. As in Haiti, Habitat often helps in these efforts. 

Over the past few days, all the visiting AmeriCorps members, past and present, have formed our own community — happily lounging around the pool together, eating three meals together and sleeping in gender-divided rooms packed with bunk beds. Today’s service enabled us all to work together on one site and extend our community to Lake-Sumter. 

Ideally, the work completed today will move the intended date of project completion ahead by an entire year. 

Becky Murray is an AmeriCorps alumna who completed her service with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida.