Habitat for Humanity of York County nails homebuilding Buzzie

Ground is broken, the foundation is poured, framing goes up and another house is underway thanks to the work of volunteers on the Construction Committee of York County’s Habitat for Humanity.

The builders in the Rock Hill-based organization have reason to hammer with a little more pride as winners of the Best Homebuilder Buzzie, voted by readers of The Herald and heraldonline.com.

“We build an excellent house,” said Tom Luke, 68, a Rock Hill retiree who spends at least a day each week on a Habitat construction site. “We like what we do and build a good, usable home. We don’t take shortcuts.”

Since 1988, Habitat for Humanity has been working to provide decent, affordable housing for deserving local families, believing every man, woman and child should have a safe place to live.

The Construction Committee has 25 members who provide on-site leadership to the short-term volunteers involved in faith and corporate builds. They provide on-the-job training, supervision and encouragement.

Habitat builders regularly receive top marks from building inspectors, work to comply to state and federal codes and implement the latest energy efficiency measures, said Wes Martin, 65, who began volunteering with Habitat through St. John’s United Methodist Church.

“If something was wrong, we would tear it down and put it up right,” said Martin, who transitions from his full-time office job to wearing work clothes and swinging a hammer on Habitat Saturdays with the Construction Committee.

He enjoys working alongside the families and volunteers, the satisfaction in watching the progress of a build, and the ache of hard manual labor that benefits others. Martin believes he’s helped build nearly 40 houses in the 11 years he’s volunteered with the organization.

“You get to hear the people’s hopes and dreams, and when a dream comes true for someone like that, it becomes addicting,” he said. “There’s nothing like being involved with a build for three months and watching the homeowner get the keys.”

George Sawyer, 73, of Rock Hill considers himself a starfish person. He’s been on the Construction Committee for eight years.

He tells the story of an old man who comes across a young boy on the beach. Around them are hundreds, maybe thousands, of starfish on the sand. The boy begins to save them by tossing them back into the ocean, one by one. The old man tells him there are too many, and saving a few won’t matter. The boy picks up another starfish and replies, “It matters to this one.”

Sawyer, a retired college professor, said the work of Habitat matters. He has pride in the Habitat community on Crawford Road.

“We can’t put everyone into a house, but everyone we put into a house we have helped,” he said.

There is a camaraderie among members of the Construction Committee, and it seems to be a laughing matter. All said it is a calling. There is plenty of fun and joking on site.

“I am retired. I should be playing golf, but I don’t play golf. I spend most of my time working on Habitat homes,” said Rick Harper, 65, a retired chemist originally from upstate New York.

Harper jokes that he doesn’t have any building expertise – eight years with Habitat and a lifetime of being handy – but he’s willing to pay attention and try to do anything.

“When I show up, they seem to put me in charge,” he said with a laugh.

The committee is working on two homes – one in the Crawford Road development in Rock Hill and another in York – that members plan to finish by Christmas. Both are single-family homes.

For Habitat workers, building a home is so much more than four walls and a roof.

“It’s such a rewarding feeling to know, to hope we have lifted up not only families,” Harper said, “but future generations.”

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