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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Habitat helper who works in sales tries nails in Monroe

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tressa Duffin of Monroe measures a door frame in a house on Almyra Avenue in Monroe under construction in a Habitat for Humanity 'Blitz Build' on the city's east side. Tressa Duffin of Monroe measures a door frame in a house on Almyra Avenue in Monroe under construction in a Habitat for Humanity 'Blitz Build' on the city's east side.
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MONROE - Monroe real estate agent Carol John, 58, normally spends her Fridays trying to sell houses.

Last Friday, she was helping to build a house, driving nails and hanging plywood alongside 25 other women as part of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County's third annual "Blitz Build."

A construction site on Almyra Avenue was informally designated the "women's house," as more than 100 Habitat volunteers set to work building four homes on the city's east side.

All four are expected to be move-in ready Monday after 10 days of intensive volunteer labor, Debora Clay Wykes, Habitat executive director said.

Volunteers traveled from as far south as Toledo and as far north as Canton, Mich., for the "Blitz," locally Habitat's largest of the year, Christina McNally, director of volunteer relations, said. The majority of the work force, however, hails from Monroe.

"It's a vast amount of people with totally different skill levels," she said.

The workers are a mix of construction professionals and unskilled laborers as young as 16, Ms. McNally said. Each site is overseen by a "house manager."

Local businesses and churches provided supplies and volunteers. The cost of constructing two homes was covered entirely by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a nonprofit financial services provider.

"It's an undertaking of multiple, multiple people," Ms. McNally said. "It takes a community to do it, essentially."

When the "Blitz Build" is complete, Monroe County's Habitat for Humanity will have constructed 42 homes for needy families who are screened before being selected for a home, Ms. McNally said.

Carleton resident Marlene Davis, 56, was working with the women constructing her home on Almyra Avenue last week. The 56-year-old grandmother of five and medical office manager has been living in a 1967 mobile home. Her new lodging will be a 900-square-foot, three-bedroom welcome change, she said.

"It's a gift from God," she said. "I've been a mess all week long; I haven't even been able to keep my mind on anything [else]."

By evening on the first night, house manager Mary Kapp, 47, of Maybee, said she expected the walls of the Davis home to be in place, despite rain storms that turned the construction site into a mud pit.

For five years, Ms. Kapp has been taking time off work in the summer to help Habitat.

"It's really fantastic to work with the women on the house," she said. "They love it because they get to learn to use new things - power tools."

Mrs. John, who enjoys home improvement shows, said she's long wanted to participate in a Habitat event. She enjoyed her recent experience so much that she said she's planning to return soon.

"I want to be able to learn all I can so I can do it around my house," she said. "Then I don't have to rely on my husband."

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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