Written by Emily Mullins
Through the help of volunteers and donors from 10 Ohio-based United Church of Christ congregations, two low-income families will settle into brand new homes by Christmas. The Apostles Build, a project of Habitat for Humanity, is bringing the congregations together to provide the labor and raise the funds for construction of the homes in Massillon and Canton, Ohio. With the foundations set, volunteers will be ready for their first day of work Aug. 24.
"It's just a group of people coming together in God's name and doing His work here on earth," said Chuck Evans, member of Trinity UCC in Canton and a Habitat for Humanity site supervisor who helped coordinate the project.
Each congregation is responsible for raising $5,500 of the $55,000 needed to cover the cost of one home, and Habitat for Humanity will provide a matching grant to pay for the cost of the other. Every Thursday and Saturday from late August through the end of the year, 10-15 volunteers from one of the participating congregations will join the Habitat for Humanity crews to work on the physical construction of the three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot, energy-efficient homes. Each church has held individual fundraisers, like the Apostles Build Fundraiser Dinner that will take place at Trinity UCC on Aug. 17, and all 10 churches will host a joint fundraiser later this year.
Evans says one of the best parts about Habitat for Humanity projects is that the future homeowners play an active part in building their home and the volunteers have the opportunity to get to know them. Most members of the family are required to put in a certain amount of what Evans called "sweat equity" – for example, a single mother would need to put in 250 hours of work, a married couple would need to put in 500 hours, and teens are required to put in 50 hours. But through this process, the family is able to pick out details like the layout of the home, the colors of the vinyl siding, carpet and roof shingles, and the types of counter tops and kitchen linoleum.
"It's a hand-up, not a hand-out organization," Evans said. "We call them partner families because they are partnering with Habitat to build their house and putting in the sweat equity."
Evans, who has been a Habitat for Humanity site supervisor for 21 years, says all volunteers are welcome, regardless of skill level or experience. There are some strict guidelines groups have to follow – Habitat for Humanity crews must supervise anyone handling a power tool, volunteers must be at least 18 years old to help with roof work, and volunteers younger than 16 are reserved for jobs such as painting the interior walls. And while it is a hard day's work, prayer, devotion, and community are intermixed throughout the day, which Evans says helps make it a meaningful and worthwhile experience for all.
"At the end of the day you're really tired, but people see the walls go up and they are always amazed that they help build this house," said Evans. "It is a good time."