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By Randy Patrick
Landmark News Service
Daniel Greenwell was covered in dust and sweat Saturday afternoon when he put down his hammer, picked up a cold drink and surveyed the progress he and other Habitat for Humanity volunteers had made on the two houses they’re building side by side on McGowan Avenue.
The frames for both had been put up in less than 48 hours.
“I don’t work this hard for a living,” he said.
Curtis Greenwell laughed when he heard what his younger brother had said.
The Greenwells have worked on Habitat builds before, but this is the first time the contractors ever taken the lead in managing one. It’s also the first time in the 25-year-history of My New Kentucky Home Habitat for Humanity that the group has taken on the challenge of a multi-house project.
The brothers had plenty of help Saturday — perhaps 40 or so volunteers who came out to raise the walls of the second house, which will be sold to Kimberly Phillips.
Phillips, 30, was doing construction work for the first time in her life and had a smile on her face as she helped carry the walls that had been pre-built for her house by volunteers of Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington.
“I don’t mind it. I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done,” she said.
She was thrilled to see it finally happening, and amazed that so many people were there to help her build her house.
“I’m so grateful,” she said, “to have this many volunteers.”
The walls for the other house, had been built by Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown for one of its members, Sharon Boling, 49, and were put up the day before.
Boling didn’t know her house was so far along Friday until she got a text message from a friend. On Thursday, her 21-year-old son, Ben, had been there, helping to build the subfloor. As soon as she got off work Friday, Boling had to see for herself.
“So I drove out here at four o’clock, when I got off, and my walls were up and I was in tears,” she said. “I was so excited!
“We love Sharon, and we have a lot of guys who are extremely gifted,” said the Rev. James Carroll, senior pastor of Parkway. “They do this sort of thing for a living, and they see it as their ministry to help her out and to be able to help others.”
“Sharon’s a member of our family, so we’ll be here all the way, until it’s finished.”
The Rev. George Phillips, Kimberly’s father, who is the pastor of St. James A.M.E. Zion Church in Central City, Ky., was also there Saturday, along with other family members and members of her “church family” from St. John A.M.E. in Bardstown.
“It’s just a blessing from heaven to have the opportunity to give — an opportunity to start from the foundation up for her and these three boys,” he said.
Pastor Phillips, who had previously worked on another Habitat house in Bardstown a few years ago, said he was happy to help his daughter and grandsons, as well as the other future homeowner, her next-door neighbor.
Although some of the volunteers started work before the opening ceremony and hammering could be heard in the background, most volunteers formed a huge circle and joined hands in prayer and scripture reading, led by the two pastors.
Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based organization, the local president, Lucretia Young, reminded the volunteers, so they would be remiss if they didn’t begin the project with an invocation.
Phillips gave the scripture reading, from Psalm 127.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the work of the builders is useless. Unless the Lord protects the city, guarding it with sentries will do no good,” he read.
In his prayer, Carroll gave thanks for the beautiful weather, Habitat for Humanity and the volunteers, and asked God to bless the work to be done that day and in the months ahead, and the families who would be living in the new houses.
“Most importantly, we pray that these homes will be a place where you are honored and where Christ is exalted,” he said. “We pray that these families will indeed build their lives on the foundation of you and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The word “blitz” comes from the German word, blitzkrieg — literally “lightning war” — which described sudden destruction during World War II. But in the Habitat lexicon, it describes sudden construction. Led by skilled builders, large teams of volunteers erect the walls, joists and trusses in no time at all.
With many unskilled laborers, as well as skilled craftsmen, on site, it’s a challenge to synch the work so that it’s done right and there are no issues.
“If you haven’t signed a waiver and you plan on swinging a hammer, you need to come and see me,” Muncie McNamara, a Bardstown lawyer and board member of the three-county Habitat affiliate, told the volunteers Saturday as work was commencing.
Bruce Higdon, a board member from Lebanon and a builder by trade, gave a brief safety lecture.
“We’ve got a lot of people here and there’s a lot of things going on. Wood’s going in different directions and going up in the air. Watch out for the person next to you and the person behind.”
Susan Elmore, owner of Buzick Lumber, was there early when one of her employees delivered a load of lumber onto the site, and throughout the day, she was “a runner,” who kept going back to her store on John Rowan Boulevard to get things the builders needed, which she sold to the affiliate at “a huge discount” — the equivalent of probably $5,000 in donations.
Later, she was joined by her operations manager, Eddie Masterson.
Buzick has a long history of helping Habitat locally. They’ve been involved in “pretty much all of them in Nelson County,” Elmore said.
“We try to help everybody we can, and these people are very deserving,” she said.
My New Kentucky Home Habitat for Humanity, which also builds in Washington and Marion counties, just finished the house it started last year in Springfield and at a board meeting last week, discussed plans for its 2015 house in Lebanon.
Higdon, who was helping with the Bardstown build Saturday, is eager to start on the one in Lebanon and thinks that with his knowledge of construction and local connections, he can make a contribution.
He’s been involved for the past two years, since the recession resulted in a slump in the housing market.
“This sort of brings back the fever, and it’s a great way to give back to the community,” he said.