Nailing together an American Dream

Published 5:41 pm Monday, March 9, 2009

Inside the frames of a three-bedroom home in Montevallo, Roslyn Harris-Gregory sweeps the floor as students from Shelby County’s School of Technology saw 2x4s and nail in supports around her.

Two doors down, other students work alongside Amelia Harper. Each nail they drive in puts Harris-Gregory and Harper a few steps closer to the American Dream.

“Almost all the work is done by volunteers, and for these kids to come out and volunteer their time, and talent, to building me a home — I just count it a blessing,” Harris-Gregory said. “It’ll be like opening the door to heaven almost.”

Putting skills to work

Carpentry instructor Tom Edwards said he signed up to participate in the Habitat for Humanity builds to expose his students to work outside the classroom.

“This is probably the greatest community project that we have come upon yet,” Edwards said. “If my students take nothing else from this job, it’s to make a difference with their skills.”

Habitat put the student’s skill sets to use Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Each one measured, sawed and nailed beams in place.

Edwards said what they work on in the classroom acts as practice. On the Habitat site, though, the work must be precise. You wouldn’t want walls to be measured incorrectly in someone’s home, Edwards said.

“This is great hands-on experience. It gives them just a taste of what goes on in the real world,” Edwards said. “It’s a faster pace, it’s more demanding, and its something that the kids really need to learn.”

It takes more than 18 sets of hands though to finish a home in little more than a month. Through the Collegiate Challenge, more than 250 students from across the country will give up their Spring Breaks to install windows and doors and do a bit of painting.

Members of Asbury United Methodist Church, CrossPoint Baptist Church, Evangel Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church of Alabaster, Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church also plan to pitch in.

“Building On Faith gives congregations an opportunity to reach goals of ministry … by offering people a way to share God’s love and lead people to grow in their faith,” said Charles Moore, President and CEO of Habitat Birmingham. “It is a tangible way for church members to put their faith into action, and reach beyond the walls of the church to serve.”

A safe place

While church members reach beyond their own walls, Harris-Gregory and Harper can’t wait to get inside their own. Turning the keys to their new homes mean providing a safe place for their families.

“They’ll give me a key and a little silver hammer showing I actually helped build my home,” Harris-Gregory said.

Harris-Gregory took custody of her three grandkids Isa, Taniya and Tytianna last year and moved from Nashville to Calera. They currently live with her twin sister in a cramped two-bedroom house.

Harper is ready for her family to have room to spread out as well. Her son DeVarez is 16 and her daughter D’Nyah is 4.

“This will positively change my life,” Harper said. “This will change my kids’ lives because they will have a safer environment to grow up in and a backyard and rooms of their own.”

The future homeowners will receive the keys to their homes on Good Friday, April 10.