Habitat For Humanity continues to build houses during the pandemic

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:06 PM CDT
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HERRIN, Ill. (KFVS) -One national non-profit organization continues to deal with challenges related to the pandemic, Habitat for Humanity.

It helps build and rehab thousands of houses a year.

The spread of COVID-19 forced some affiliates to shut down for months. Now, chapters struggle with the cost of building supplies and the return of needed volunteers.

Here in the Heartland, a unique partnership helped one Habitat branch continue serving people in need.

“If we didn’t have John A. Logan college, these houses wouldn’t happen,” said Habitat for Humanity’s Williamson County President Tammy Gwaltney.

Houses like one that was recently built in Herrin for a local family in need.

The work slowed down when the pandemic hit.

Gwaltney described the impact, “when your heart is hurting, it’s hurting for them. Not how it’s affecting you, as an organization. But how it affects the people who are going to live in that home.”

For more than two decades, the Williamson County Chapter has relied on community college students to help build houses as they learn. Students from the colleges HVAC program and also the construction management program.

Logan’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Stephanie Chaney Hartford, said fears about the coronavirus slowed her students down.

“So we followed the Restore Illinois Plan, we worked in smaller groups. It did delay the actual completion of the project by almost six months, but students, faculty, they wore their mask, they social distanced the entire time and still made it happen,” said Hartford Chaney.

Gwaltney said they managed to finish their most recent house before housing material prices went through the roof.

“The good news is, most of our building products for this particular new build had already been purchased pre-COVID, so we were very thankful for that,” said Gwaltney.

In the long run though, Gwaltney admitted the high prices may slow down future builds, “how do we move forward into the next build? Because we don’t have all of the supplies for that project. So, the cost of lumber is something that we’re waiting to see what happens with that, and how quickly we can move to the next build.”

As COVID-19 guidelines begin to fade away, she’s hoping folks are ready to roll up their sleeves once again and volunteer.

“To anybody out there, please. if you’re interested in volunteering for habitat in anyway, contact us. You don’t have to be a skilled construction person to come out to the site,” said Gwaltney.

According to the College, its partnership with Habitat resulted in 40 houses built by the school’s construction management group, and 42 houses built by students specializing in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

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