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franklin county times
Photos by Alison James University of Alabama students work on the Habitat for Humanity rehab in Phil Campbell.

Habitat house rehab progresses

When spring break rolls around, most college students probably dream of white sandy beaches, or vibrant cityscapes with nightlife that never sleeps. At the very least, it’s a week that’s often reserved for kicking back, relaxing and enjoying fewer responsibilities and expectations.

For a group of students for the University of Alabama, it was a week of back-breaking, sweat-inducing hard work.

Construction was continuing in earnest on the Habitat for Humanity house rehab in March, and student labor, through alternative spring break programs, was helping to keep the ball rolling. UA students sent a group through the Beyond Bama: Alternative Breaks program. Assistant team leader and site leader Beau Schaeffer and several of his classmates rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand.

“There was a lot of work to be done on that house,” said Schaeffer – which meant plenty of tasks to go around and lot of opportunity for bonding and teamwork. “College is such a me-focused time, and I think it’s important to balance that with community work, focus on other people and giving back.”

Since October, when Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Alabama first began looking for a family to renovate the home for, Habitat board members and volunteers have worked to practically gut the interior of the home, located on Highway 59 in Phil Campbell. Leading much of the work has been Jeff Armbrester, Hamilton Methodist church pastor and chairman of the building team for Habitat. Workers have knocked down and rebuilt walls; torn out and replaced flooring and sheetrock; and made plans for the updated, modernized home. The house’s fireplace was also removed.

“When we started taking the chimney down, we got into the attic and you could literally just reach out and pick the bricks up, the mortar was so dry,” Armbrester said.

The new house will feature two large bedrooms, instead of the three small bedrooms, and each bedroom will feature a walk-in closet. It will also boast an eat-in kitchen and walk-in pantry.

Habitat for Humanity is still seeking a family for the home. Habitat director Teressa Clark said interested candidates can apply during the upcoming new home orientation – as can anyone who hopes to apply for a new home through Habitat for Humanity. The rehab home, of course, is already location-bound to Phil Campbell; a new home could be built in any of the counties serviced by Habitat for Humanity of NW AL (Franklin, Fayette, Lamar, Marion and Winston). Orientation sessions are set for April 15, April 20 and April 23.

Rehab on the Phil Campbell house began in earnest in January, and Clark said they hope it will be complete by this summer – if Habitat can recruit enough manpower.

Students have been a critical part of the process, including the group from UA. Phil Campbell High School has shown interest in partnering with Habitat, and other local high schools have also been involved, including Winfield and Marion County. Hamilton High School created the blueprint for the remodel. “We’ve made a couple modifications, but for the most part, we’re using the floor plan they designed for the house,” Armbrester said. Half a dozen or so other universities have also been involved. “It’s been fun working with these college students. They want to do the work, and they want to learn,” he said.

Schaeffer said he and the other UA students similarly enjoyed working with Armbrester.

“He really made sure we all knew what we were doing,” Schaeffer said. “It was great. We finished up the sheetrocking and pulled up a lot of the floor. We made quite a bit of progress.”

Nine students and one chaperone visited: Beau Schaeffer, Logan Fenhouse, Cat Cary, Ali DiBartolomeo, Michael Bruno, Megan Rondinelli, Ben Leonard, Harrison Dunlap, Joshua Rasberry and (chaperone) Gretchen Moore, assistant director for the Center for Service and Leadership at UA. Together with UA, other SEC schools active with Habitat for Humanity make up the SEC Compact, which promises a continuing to effort to help Habitat help homeowners.

“It’s a great mission for them to have,” said Schaeffer – and it provides a great opportunity for students to reach out. “It’s important to get out in the community. It allows these students to see another side of Alabama.”

Prospective partner families who are interested in this remodeled home or applying for a new home must attend one of the upcoming orientation meetings, April 15 at 10 a.m., April 20 at 6 p.m. or April 23 at 2 p.m. Prospective partners must RSVP by emailing contactus@nwalhabitat.org or calling 205-468-2900.

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