Time to build a house
Construction starts soon on First Free’s annual Habitat for Humanity home—and you can help.
Jim Killam
April 6, 2022

First Free’s Habitat for Humanity team is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s house build. A free, informational breakfast will be held at 9 a.m. this Saturday in Fellowship Hall, and there’s still time to register.

Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian organization that builds affordable homes. That’s the short definition. Here’s the longer version: “Habitat works toward our vision by building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.”

First Free’s house is one of seven being built this year for Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, and one of two built by church-based volunteer teams (the other is organized by First Covenant Church). Three of the other projects represent volunteer partnerships with schools, said Office Manager Laura Kenyon.

For the First Free team, each year’s house frame goes up in one day with a “blitz build” on the first Saturday in May, and then work continues for about five months, says team leader Lynn Heinemann. Although the number was smaller in the past two years because of COVID, 20 to 30 people usually volunteer for the blitz. Then, about a dozen keep coming on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with smaller crews on Saturdays.

This year’s site is on Carol Place in a subdivision off Sandy Hollow Road, bordering the 15th hole at Sandy Hollow Golf Course. All seven Habitat houses are being built in that same subdivision. The foundation footings are being poured this week, Lynn says. Then, below-ground plumbing will go in, followed by a poured concrete slab.

When build-blitz volunteers arrive at the site on Saturday, May 7, the slab will serve as their blank canvas.

“We start from scratch on that day,” Lynn says. No experience or skill level is required, and there’s opportunity to do framing, drywall, electrical, finishing, framing, painting, plumbing, roofing or general labor.

“We try to put the less skilled people with someone who is more skilled, so they learn,” Lynn says. “We don’t want the new people just to be bringing 2x4s from one spot to another. We want them to actually be doing the nailing and building and sharing in construction.”

After the blitz build day, no further volunteer commitment is required — but it’s encouraged.

“I think once someone comes and works with the other people there, they will want to come back,” Lynn says. “That not only helps us, but it also helps the homeowner get into their house quicker.”

Because Habitat houses are built with all-volunteer labor, they cost about half of what a similar-sized home would cost. Recipients take a 10-year mortgage, and also participate throughout the construction process. The home must pass a rigid inspection before the family can move in.

Register here for Saturday’s informational breakfast. Volunteers need to be at least 18 years old.

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.


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