MLK Build Day helps fulfill dreams for homeowners

Volunteer Annie Ruth Addy, 75, of West Columbia puts the hammer down during Sea Island Habitat for Humanity's Martin Luther King Build Day in Joeva Cove in West Ashley.

For those who believe that Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday should be observed by serving others, Sea Island Habitat for Humanity provides the perfect outlet.

On Jan. 17, some 50 volunteers -- locals and some from as far away as North Carolina -- turned out to help pound nails, saw lumber and lift framework for walls into place at Joeva Cove in West Ashley. The MLK Day Build was the eighth annual such event for Sea Island Habitat, said Rhea Miller, community relations specialist for the organization.

"Two homes are being framed today," Miller said as volunteers led by home-building pros on the Habitat staff swarmed over two houses that started the day as little more than foundations. The army of workers cut lumber, hammered boards into wall sections and raised the walls. By midday, there were two new structures with framework showing where exterior and interior walls will be.

The Rev. John Reynolds, a former colleague of King's, spoke with volunteers, which included church groups and several current and former AmeriCorps members.

"These are going to be great little homes," said Steve Yeomans, construction manager for Sea Island Habitat.

He said the three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot homes are being built using the latest "green" technology, and in addition to their insolated concrete foundations will come with "very eco-friendly" gas-filled, low-energy-loss windows and spray-foam wall insulation.

Homes are designed to use as little lumber as possible, and unused building materials are recycled to keep them from going into landfills, Yeomans added.

Yeomans said Habitat has great expectations for Joeva Cove and always is looking for more volunteers.

Miller said Joeva Cove, located on the Rev. Joseph Heyward Road and near Bee's Ferry Road and Savannah Highway, already has several Habitat-built residences. "Two homes are being framed today, and eventually we will have 10 homes here," she said.

Between the homes framed Jan. 17 is a third unfinished home, which on that date was simply a foundation in its earliest stages.

Adults who will be living in the homes when they are finished, probably in the spring, were among those providing labor. Habitat builds for working families who might not otherwise be able to afford homeownership, and one of the requirements of the families who will take on mortgages and live in the homes is their "sweat equity," an investment in the labor, Habitat spokesmen said.

One couple who will live in a home framed Jan. 17 worked that day but said they did not want their names published. But many others who labored expressed joy at being able to contribute.

"I've been coming out here for years," said Annie Ruth Addy of West Columbia.

Now 75, Addy said she started out as a cook for her Mount Tabor Lutheran Church group that turns out for Habitat, but she maintained that she can wield a hammer with the best of them.

"It's just such a good service project," she said.

Also from the same church were Brenda and Wayne Smith, making their first Habitat volunteer efforts. Nothing matches the excitement they see "on the faces of those who are watching their homes go up," Wayne said.

Jesse Edwards, a Johns Island resident and former AmeriCorps volunteer, said helping others is an especially good way to observe King's birthday. And, he added, "It's fun to give back to the community."

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