PILOT MOUNTAIN — Traditionally, images of spring break for college students bring to mind tropical locales such as Cancun.
Not so for a group of 20 students from Connecticut and Ohio, who will be wrapping up their break in Pilot Mountain this week on a Habitat for Humanity home there.
According to Habitat Executive Director Lynn Wilkes the 20, consisting of ten each from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and Wittenberg University in Ohio answered a call to participate in the Habitat for Humanity International Collegate Challenge program. Traditionally, students lend their efforts on their spring breaks to help build habitat homes.
“We are definitely excited to have them here. They have come all this way to help a family that is not even from their area,” said Wilkes. “They are certainly paying it forward by giving up spring break and helping us with this project.” She stressed that Habitat families are required to pay off a 25-30 year zero interest mortgage and are required to work more than 250 hours on their and another families’ home construction.
Providence College Executive Board member Sarah Dwyer said Providence’s Habitat program is involved in 22 different sites including Pilot Mountain.
“We’re pleased to be involved with this home and to be working and living in solidarity on it,” said Dwyer. “This is a new direction for me, because my home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and I remember people coming to help rebuild my house. It is great to see people coming together. You do what you can do for what time you can.”
Wittenberg University student Jordyn Baker said the school has been involved on four trips to help with habitat projects.
“We’re really excited about this,” said Baker. She explained that this was a natural extension of the university’s mission to serve communities. She noted that the campus Habitat chapter tee shirts bear the slogan “They’re not next door. They’re our neighbors.”
Pilot Mountain Mayor Earl Sheppard, Mayor Pro Tem Linda Needham and Town Manager Homer Dearmin were on hand to praise the students’ efforts.
“I commend you for this,” said Sheppard. “You are in a rural county with a population of about 75,000 with 20,000 living in municipalities. I applaud you and your work. It’s a great community service you are doing. If you get a chance to drive around please drive to the top of Pilot Mountain and then go visit Shelton Vineyards.”
Dearmin later said he hoped the students would like what they saw in the area and return some day. Members from Shoals United Methodist Church provided lunch for the students. Church members on hand to serve them included Brenda Brown, Mary Smith, Donna Collins, Lori Adams and Jacob Sawyers.
Wilkes said this home is being constructed for Sharon and Darin Hodges and their family. The couple said their family has grown with the addition of three grandchildren, Brooklyn, Abigail and Colin. The couple said they are living in a 17-year old mobile home that houses the family of eight. Both said their home has seen better days and look forward to the comfort of the Habitat home they are helping to build.
“Our three grandchildren are really the reason we are doing this,” said Sharon Hodges. “This past Saturday we celebrated our 21st anniversary working on this home.” Darin Hodges remarked how weather-tight the new home already is without any insulation on the inside. He said he could put his hand up to the new windows and feel no drafts or cold, unlike their current home.
While Sharon Hodges had no prior construction experience before the Habitat build, Darin said he had gotten some experience from his father and mother’s business, Hiatt’s Home Improvement. He jokingly said the two, Randy and Sherry Hiatt, often called him for heavy lifting projects.
“Before this I had trouble hammering a nail in straight,” added Darin Hodges. “Today I only bent two. I’m getting better.”
Wilkes said Habitat is looking for volunteers and organizations to volunteer to help with other projects. Groups which have helped support the local efforts include Mike Jones Produce Company, Papa John’s Pizza, Subway, McDonald’s, Mezzy’s Pizzeria and Just Save. In addition to the group from Shoals providing food groups that have agreed to help feed volunteers include First Pentecostal Holiness Church of Mount Airy, Mount Airy Wesleyan Church, Food Lion, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, The Sanctuary and Antioch Baptist Church.
Volunteer groups scheduled to help include Westfield Baptist Church, Collegiate Challenge Group from Clemson and Cornerstone Baptist Church. A Women’s Build Day has been announced for May 4 with 18 ladies already volunteering. The day is open to women 16 years of age and older. For more information call 789-4663.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.