Giving time, materials to save lives

Nonprofit group recruits builders for vital projects

December 27, 2003|By Sharon Stangenes | Sharon Stangenes,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO - Rita Canning had an idea for a house, a big one.

As president of Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), a nonprofit group that supplies resources and emergency housing for families facing homelessness, Canning dreamed of a shelter where those fleeing domestic violence could find immediate refuge.

"We looked for property for four years," she said. "You have to have the right spot."

Once the property was found, it took another two years to win municipal building approval. Today the "safe house" is taking shape, thanks in large part to HomeAid Chicago, a charity sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago, which is donating time, service and materials to the $1.6 million project.

As the trusses for the roof of the two-story building were hoisted into place by a big crane on a recent, drizzly morning, Canning was on hand to see the "roof raising," as were representatives of HomeAid and its builder captain for this project, Kimball Hill Homes Inc.

Shelter for abused

It was a ceremonial moment, but one with the potential to help, maybe even save, lives as exemplified by Yvonne Wiebe, who stood watching the cranes in the construction site parking lot.

She remembers the day - Nov. 3, 1998 - she took her children, a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old, and fled her Wauconda, Ill., home after a vicious fight with her husband.

Wiebe had few resources and no place to go. The family lived in the domestic violence shelter in Elgin - the nearest at the time - for several weeks until they moved into transitional housing provided by WINGS.

"I was in the WINGS program for two years. They provided food, shelter and clothing for my family" until she could provide for them on her own, she said.

The new 15,000-square-foot facility in Rolling Meadows will provide a haven for women when completed next summer.

It will have room for up to 45 people, mainly women and children, each night and will be outfitted to provide warm beds, hot meals, crisis counseling, medical and other services to those housed there for a few days to a few weeks.

Some of those families may move into one of the 19 scattered apartments and three homes WINGS operates as longer-term transitional housing until they can get back on their feet financially.

In-kind donations

The WINGS shelter is the inaugural project of HomeAid Chicago, organized to leverage the time, talent and materials of area builders and trade partners to build shelter for the temporarily homeless.

The Chicago group works to bring together in-kind donations of labor and material from members of the Home Builders Association with nonprofit shelters.

The group belongs to California-based HomeAid America, whose 22 chapters in 11 states have built 80 projects, including group homes for the mentally impaired and for young people leaving foster care but have no place to live.

The Chicago WINGS project is the largest in terms of square footage and cost of any HomeAid project.

The project leaders say there has been an outpouring of time and materials from local tradesmen and suppliers.

"We connect the nonprofit with the subs [subcontractors]," said David K. Hill Jr., chairman of Kimball Hill.

Hill said he was introduced to HomeAid by a builder friend in Atlanta.

"We jumped at the opportunity" to serve as builder captain, he said, because he was familiar with the work of WINGS and because his firm is based in Rolling Meadows, where the shelter is being built.

"It has been an inspiration to watch so many people come together, giving their time and their talent," said John Wozniak, board president of HomeAid Chicago and region president for Summit Homes. "We have literally more than 75 trade partners and suppliers donating labor and/or product for this project."

Donations range from every type of trade that goes into building - roofing, insulation, carpentry, paint, framing, electrical work, plumbing - to concrete, windows, cabinets and plumbing fixtures.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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