December 20, 2013 // 2:25 PM

Villagers Build Homes Together

Written by Scott Miller

Residents, Staff, Community and Mennonite Disaster Service Collaborate on Construction Project

The folks at Garden Spot Village know how to raise the roof—for shelter, that is. Last year Villagers and staff collaborated with local churches and other community volunteers to build a four-bedroom house through the Partnership Home Program (PHP) of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). As a result of this massive teamwork, a family in need in Cordova, Alabama, has a safe place to call “home.”

Working in Two States

The family, with four children, lost their home in April 2011.

“Two tornadoes hit the same day. One tornado hit early in the morning and did some damage. The second one hit later that afternoon, and the homeowner said everything was gone in 30 seconds,” said Tim High, a member of Weaverland Mennonite Church and project manager for the home-raising.

Between August and November, seven teams spent week-long shifts on site in Alabama. Volunteers came from Weaverland and Groffdale Conference Mennonite churches, Garden Spot Village and throughout the New Holland area. They did everything from excavation to cabinetry. The homeowner worked alongside the volunteers.

On a September morning in New Holland, about 100 volunteers from Garden Spot Village, the churches and the community built the wall partitions in the parking lot at Garden Spot Village. The walls traveled by truck to Cordova.

Managing All the Details

Larry Knepper, a Villager with experience in carpentry and remodeling, served as project coordinator, making sure that everything fell into place at the appropriate time. That included arranging for the Woodshop to make sawhorses for Build Day and making two-by-fours available so members of the skilled care households could write scripture messages on them.

“All those pieces of material then went into building the house, and the family had a chance to see the messages as the house was being constructed,” Knepper says.

Knepper went to Cordova with Tim High, who is also the local MDS coordinator, then kept abreast of the progress High made in lining up contractors to help with the build. He was also in touch with Bill McCoy, the Alabama MDS coordinator who lives in Lititz.

“In Alabama, he took us to meet the family and contacted the people who were going to supply the trusses, the concrete work, etc.,” Knepper says.

Knepper also helped prepare the budget. MDS pays for the building materials. For this project, Garden Spot Village raised the funds to send the volunteers to the construction site. Fundraising involved the pastoral services and development departments.

Keeping the Community in the Loop

Knepper also kept everyone at Garden Spot Village informed of the project, providing updates at the monthly Town Hall meetings. When the project launched, he showed a video of the destruction that had taken place in Cordova. He worked with Colleen Musselman, director of life enrichment, to gather photos of the project, which he and High used to produce another video with support from the IT department. Residents saw the video in January.

Putting a Cover On It

Not all of the coordination and teamwork involved construction. The Garden Spot Village Quilters and members of the quilting group from Weaverland Mennonite Church collaborated on a colorful queen-size quilt, which was presented to the family when the house was dedicated in November. Members of the two groups picked out fabrics for the multi-colored “disappearing nine-patch” pattern. Each group pieces about half the blocks together, then regrouped to combine the blocks into matching rows. Volunteers took the rows home and sewed them together, and then put the backing, batting and quilt top on a frame at Garden Spot Village before beginning the long task of hand-quilting. Each group had a chance to display the quilt before sending it with love to Alabama.

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