‘Awesome’ turnout as parish assembles walls for vet’s home during Habitat build
St. Mary parishioners lay a wall on a flatbed truck during the veterans build for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana in the Crown Point parish's parking lot on Nov. 1. Parishioners assembled walls for transport to the building site in Merrillville. (Steve Euvino photo)
By Steve Euvino
Northwest Indiana Catholic
CROWN POINT – After harsh weather the night before, the sun shone Saturday, Nov. 1 on the parking lot of St. Mary Parish, where volunteers gathered to help a veteran’s family.
More than 100 volunteers participated in the first veterans build for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana. Working in conjunction with the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council, St. Mary’s Habitat team nailed together walls for a home going up in Merrillville.
“This is an amazing turnout,” said Kristin Marlow-Kellemen, construction coordinator for Habitat, who explained that St. Mary volunteers would be assembling 14 exterior and 21 interior walls for the 26-x46-foot home.
The home will house up to five persons for the family of a veteran, for whom Habitat is reviewing applications, Marlow-Kellemen said.
Bill Gates, St. Mary’s Habitat ministry chair, called the turnout “quite awesome – we’ll get these walls up in no time.”
Gates explained the parish promoted the project, its fourth such Habitat build, through the bulletin and having veterans speak at Mass. The three previous builds were all home rehabilitation projects.
“This is something people are passionate about,” Gates said. “Plus, it brings families together and they can learn something new.”
Jenny Horn, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Mary Catholic Community School, and her daughter Rylee were first-time Habitat volunteers, learning how professionals drive nails.
“I wanted to do something to give back and be part of St. Mary,” said Jenny. Her daughter, a sophomore at Andrean High School, added, “I wanted to help our parish, and I thought this would be a good experience.”
Once completed, each wall was loaded onto a flatbed truck for transport to the home build site. Volunteers were encouraged to write their names or messages on the walls. One message read: “Good luck with your home.” Another volunteer wrote: “Jesus, our God, is still keeping his promises, so be blessed.”
Mike Berdine, a parishioner, came with wife Alexis and children Lisa and Ethan. “We wanted to give back to veterans. I can’t think of someone who’s given more of themselves to this country,” Mike said. “I’m a firefighter and I was off today, so this was a perfect opportunity to give back.”
Among the veterans helping was Lowell Killion, who served in the Air Force in Okinawa and Korea during 1968-72. A parishioner and retired pipefitter, Killion said, “I’m exceedingly proud of being an American, a member of this parish, and a veteran for seeing the work being done here.”
Gates said parish volunteers included those wielding hammers and those who donated and prepared food for the builders.
The walls will be set and squared in a few hours at the site. That part of the project, Marlow-Kellemen said, should be completed in the next two weeks.
Among the St. Mary family volunteers were the Zariks, Mike, Margie, and daughter Jess. Margie has gone on several of the St. Mary mission trips to Guatemala, while Jess is a sophomore at Aquinas College in Michigan and president of the college’s Habitat chapter.
Coming home for the weekend, Jess, a community leadership, international studies, and Spanish major at Aquinas, said, “This is awesome – so many different age groups, from the very young to retirees, working together on these walls. It’s so cool.”