Habitat groundbreaking

PHS helping with Habitat house

Posted October 3, 2016

Thanks to a new partnership between the Plymouth School District and Habitat for Humanity Lakeside, students will get real-life building experience and a district family will get a specially designed house.

"This will be a great opportunity for our students to serve the community, which is something we believe in," Plymouth High School Principal Jennifer Rauscher told those gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony held Sept. 26. "Thanks for inspiring us."

PHS students in the Service Learning and Construction classes will serve as work crews on the site, located at 510 McColm St. They will work with their teachers, the Habitat construction manager, and retired tradesmen who volunteer.

They will gain experience well beyond "this is what a wall would look like if you were going to build a house. They're actually going to build a house," Anne Gamoke, director of student services for the district, told the Board of Education recently.

Many of the students were at the groundbreaking, wearing Panther-orange hardhats and digging into the ground with ceremonial shovels. They will be under the supervision of Service Learning teacher Jim Meinen and technology education teachers Greg Gritt and Beau Biller.

The partnership came about after Mr. Meinen, who takes a student crew to a Habitat site in northern Wisconsin each summer, asked the PHS administration "what if?" Meanwhile, Habitat was looking for an opportunity to bring services back to Plymouth after the consolidation of its Re-Stores, said its executive director, Jon Hoffman.

The two groups spent the summer working through logistics. The classes have been scheduled to allow students several hours at a time on the job site.

"They're going to be swinging a lot of hammers and learning a lot about the building trades," Mr. Hoffman said.

The house is for the Russell family of Plymouth. Heather Russell works as an educational assistant for Horizon Elementary School and for the Community Education & Recreation child-care programs. Her son Michael is a second-grader at Horizon, and Noah is a fifth-grader at Riverview Middle School.

Michael has retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has left him largely without peripheral vision and spots in what field of vision remains. His vision is expected to continue to deteriorate, though no one is sure how quickly.

The new house will be built with his current and future needs in mind and will feature innovative lighting technology, Mrs. Gamoke said.

Mrs. Russell, fighting back tears, told those at the groundbreaking that this community is always helping others - those with cancer, flood victims, etc. "I am proud to raise my boys in this community," she said.

She will put in many hours helping build her new house (and others), in exchange for a zero-interest mortgage.

Sargento is the main sponsor for the build. A few years ago, Sargento began supporting a revitalized Habitat for Humanity in Sheboygan County, building several homes in Sheboygan. 

Redeemer Lutheran Church, the Russell family's church, supplied of refreshments for the groundbreaking and will volunteer on the site, as will the Plymouth Board of Education. The city of Plymouth donated the site for the project. Sponsors of the PHS program include Drexel, Marshall Sign, Van Horn, and Habitat for Humanity.

More than 100 people attended the groundbreaking, more than Habitat Board president Jesse Osborn had seen before at such an event.

He thanked all involved, then turned attention to the Russell family. "They're a great example of why we do what we do," he said.

Plymouth Mayor Don Pohlman also spoke. "I love Plymouth," he said. "You don't have to ask others to participate. They just naturally step forward asking to help, to get involved."

Anyone interested in helping can visit the volunteer page on Habitat's website at www.habitatlakeside.com or call volunteer services at: 920-458-3399.