These days and several more weeks to come are busy times for Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carmen Smith.
One build is underway now in Marianna, another will start soon, and then a crew will head into Chipley for a third construction project in a back-to-back flurry of activity.
Originally hired for Jackson County’s Habitat group, Smith agreed to take on Washington County as well when the two merged into an area chapter a few years back.
In both the counties, locals join with travelling volunteers to construct affordable homes, the owners putting in “sweat equity” themselves and signing traditional but no-interest mortgages to pay off their new homes over time.
At this time of year, Smith is usually dealing with college-age volunteers who come in from one or two schools around the country to help out with spring builds.
But this week, Smith is getting to know the RV CARE-A-VANNERS. That’s a set new to local projects. They’re all, or mostly, retirees. Although they’ve never been here before, the organization has a 30-year partnership with Habitat for Humanity. That experience is valuable, Smith said.
“The RV CARE-A-VANNERS are knowledgeable about the whole process,” she explained. “They understand the partnership with families and the community, and they’re accustomed to working with other volunteers.”
This week, those who raised their own children long ago, and now have grandchildren, are helping a young mother with a stack of challenges; she’s raising four little ones on her own and has been displaced since Hurricane Michael. The rental she had was so damaged that she had to move. Now she’s living in a camper outside her parents’ home. And that camper now has big problems. Never an ideal shelter, the used camper was struck by a tree that breached its roof. It was patched, and the family is now huddled in an even smaller space within the camper.
It’s no RV, by any means, nothing like the rigs that rolled in with people to help her.
Driving their RVs in from various places around the country, a team arrived to participate in the Marianna project with another crew from their organization headed this way in mid-March. They’ll help with the Chipley build.
Meanwhile, Smith will break in a new team of spring-breakers from Arizona State University, a school participating in local builds for the first time.
The ASU group arrives in just a few days, to work on a house not far from Booker Street.