Construction Builds Character

Teens Help Habitat Help Needy Familieswith New Houses

July 21, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

From the confines of her comfortable Severna Park life, Jenni Woodard doesn't see much poverty.

So the chance to build a home from scratch for the less fortunate and to sleep on the floor while doing thework sounded exciting to the high school senior.

But after traveling 16 hours to reach Baldwin, Mich., where her church group would help Habitat for Humanity build several houses, the17-year-old was confronted with two tiny bathrooms that had to serve83 people. Her stomach churned.

"I looked at (this bathroom) and thought, 'Gross,' " says the 17-year-old. "There's this tiny little room with one toilet and a changing area the size of somebody's bathroom at home. I thought it was going to be really awful with all those people sharing.

"But you just accept it, and move on."

Jenni and the rest of the Woodswork team, a mission project of Woods MemorialPresbyterian Church, returned Monday from an 11-day trip during which they built two houses through the Habitat program.

They laid floors; built walls, rafters and roofs; put on shingles and siding; dug 8-foot holes for septic boxes and 4-foot holes for septic fields and completed the electrical and plumbing work for both homes.

Then, exhausted, more than 60 teen-agers and about 20 adults camped out in sleeping bags on the floor of a cramped middle school gym.

"It didn't matter where you slept, you were so tired," says Jenni. "But it's worth it. I feel like my life is very sheltered in Severna Park. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like not to have a home or not know where your next meal is coming from.

"These mission projects give us a great way as teen-agers to help," she added. "This way, you can actually see the work you're doing. You start and there's just cement blocks. By the time you leave, it's a house."

To go on the trip, she and others from her youth group held a carwash earlier in the summer, earning $15,000 to pay for transportation and food, as well as a $6,000 donation to Habitat's building fund.

The Woodswork mission project started in 1985 with about 11 teen-agers and grew each year as the youth group traveled from New York to Kentucky for Habitat projects.

The Habitat program builds houses, charging buyers only the cost of the materials.

People who buy a Habitat home must worka certain number of hours on their home or another Habitat project.

The long work days were tough, Jenni says, and even more difficultwere the slack times when only experienced workers could handle a certain job and she had to wait around.

"But one family buying a house worked with us. They had two young children, and they came and atewith us the last night we were there," Jenni says. "It was really great."

For Steve Spence, another Severna Park High senior who went on the trip, the best part was handing out awards that last night.

The young people made joke certificates from construction paper, honoring "Most likely to be drooled on" and "Raging Hormones," the youngman says. But they also gave out "Best Woodsworker Award" and other serious nominations.

"It was neat, because everyone was in one room, like one big family," says Steve. "Spending a week with everyone and talking about your faith is so much fun. And you're helping some families have a better life."

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