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Posted June 19, 2017
Plymouth High School students helped build a new home for a district family, thanks to a partnership between the Plymouth School District, Habitat for Humanity Lakeside, and Sargento.
At least 100 people – enough to encircle the new Russell family home at 510 McColm St. – gathered June 7 for a dedication ceremony.
“It’s amazing what one small community can do for three people,” a tearful Heather Russell told those present. “I appreciate everything everyone has done. Thank you so much.”
Mrs. Russell works as an educational assistant for Horizon Elementary School and for the Community Education & Recreation child-care programs. Her son Michael will be a third-grader at Horizon, and Noah will be a sixth-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 was built with his current and future needs in mind and features innovative lighting technology. It also has an attached garage, not normally included with Habitat-built homes.
Mrs. Russell has put in countless hours helping build her new house (and others), in exchange for a zero-interest mortgage.
Also benefitting greatly from the home were the PHS students who helped build it. The Service Learning class taught by Jim Meinen and the Construction classes taught by Greg Gritt and Beau Biller spent several hours on the job site several days a week.
The project came about after Mr. Meinen, who takes a student crew to a Habitat site up north each summer, asked the PHS administration "What if?" Meanwhile, Habitat was looking for an opportunity to bring services back to Plymouth and said “Why not?,” said Habitat Lakeside executive director Jon Hoffman.
The PHS students were under the supervision of their teachers, but also learned from the Habitat construction manager and the retired tradesmen who volunteered at the site.
They were involved in most aspects of the construction, including setting floor joists, applying decking, building interior and exterior walls, applying roofing and siding, backfilling the foundation, and installing ceiling fans and trim.
The opportunity to work on the house created a special connection for the students, said Louie Gentine, CEO of Sargento, major sponsor for the build. “That idea of service to your community is so very important,” he told those at the dedication.
The school partnership has been so successful that Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls have approached Habitat about creating similar opportunities for their students, Mr. Hoffman said.
Also working on the Plymouth site were the friends and extended family of the Russells, Plymouth School District officials, IBEW Local 494 electricians, area CEOs, religious leaders, Redeemer Lutheran Church members, and employees from Prevea, Sartori Van Horn Auto Group and Kohler Power. The city of Plymouth donated the site for the project.
Work progressed steadily after a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 26. Basement footings were in by the end of that week. On Oct. 10, volunteers joined PHS students at the school to assemble walls, which then were trucked to the site. Sargento held a five-day blitz build that week to get the floor and walls in place. By the end of October, windows were installed and the roof was on. By the end of November, doors and siding were in place. The rough framing, plumbing and electrical work took place over winter, with drywalling, painting and landscaping in the spring.