Mid-East students develop their carpentry skills while building a Habitat for Humanity home for local family
A group of students in Mid-East’s carpentry program work on drywall in a house the program is building for Habitat for Humanity. (Photo: Chris Crook/Times Recorder)
ZANESVILLE – Kyler Emerick and Cole Baker strut around on the unfurnished floor, the heavy thud of their metal stilts reverberating underfoot.
Cole, a tall senior at the Zanesville campus of the Mid-East Career and Technology Centers, barely clears the ceiling as they patch the top corners of the newly-erected drywall.
Throughout the unfinished 1,092-square-foot house echoes the constant grating sound of sanding, as the 10 Mid-East carpentry students go about applying and reapplying a second coat of Sheetrock to the living room and kitchen wall panels. Others coming up behind them with sandpaper to smooth out the imperfections, as a haze of powdery white dust hangs in the air.
Thanks to a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the construction will be complete and a mother and her two children will home by the beginning of May.
As the students go about their work, their instructor, Robby Robinson, monitors from afar. Occasionally he steps in to point out a spot the students missed or check that the job is being done correctly, but he is largely hands-off.
“I kind of direct them, and they take it,” he said. “They drive the nails, they’re cutting the boards, framing the floors and walls up.”
Since the school year began in August, the 10 senior students, along with some help from the junior class, have been constructing the house from the ground-up atop three large steel beams behind the school’s parking lot.
“It’s a nice project, because it’s a win-win,” Robinson said. “The students are getting to learn how to build a house, and someone is getting a house.”
Delisa Churchill, the recipient of the house, said she is thankful for being selected to receive a new home.
“I’m not exactly sure how I got recommended, but in October they gave me a call telling me I was selected,” she said.
Churchill, her 10-year-old daughter and her 4-year-old son currently live in Section 8 housing in Zanesville.
“I never expected it in my life, owning my own home,” she said. “I’ve never owned anything. I’ve lived in apartments my whole life.”
Mid-East has coordinated with Habitat for Humanity since the organization’s inception in Muskingum County in 1990, with carpentry students driving out to volunteer with on-site builds.
Back on campus, the carpentry class would often build homes, auctioning them off once completed at the end of the year.
Three years ago, Mid-East and Habitat for Humanity decided to coordinate closer, having the students specifically construct houses for Habitat recipients. This house is the second house the carpentry class has built on campus specifically for the charity organization.
“We love this partnership, because we feel like we are making a difference, and we are giving (the students) an opportunity to learn hands-on, and I think that’s invaluable,” said Melissa Best, director of community engagement for Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio.
Habitat for Humanity, backed by sponsors, specifically the Bank of America Foundation and local Merrill Lynch advisers, funds the project — $40,000 plus an additional $60,000 in grants — and provides Robinson with blueprints. Robinson coordinates with the lumber yard and vendors to get the necessary materials.
From there, the students take over.
Baker scrubs the back living room wall, trying to erase a seam between two panels that might otherwise appear when the drywall dries. Fixing the issue later would take more time and effort, so it is important to do it right the first time.
“We practice, so they get the mistakes out here in the lab before they go out to the project,” Robinson said.
The build has largely gone off without any major setbacks, outside of an issue with lining up the two center walls that allow the structure to be split and transported in halves.
“The center wall was not squared up the first time,” Baker said. “It was only off about a half-inch, but it was still off.”
The mistake took only a few hours to fix.
Occasionally Churchill comes out to help with the build. As part of the agreement with Habitat for Humanity, she is required to put in at least 250 hours of sweat equity into the project.
“I’ve helped with putting in the insulation and some drywall, sanding it down,” she said. “It’s an awesome experience to be able to build my own home and watch step-by-step everything that gets done in it.”
While many of the students come from carpentry and construction backgrounds, the house is by far the largest project most of them have worked on to date.
“I worked on shingles and roofing a bit, but I’ve never really built anything before,” Baker said.
It is a big step up from junior year, where the students practice cutting, measuring and tool work on smaller build projects, but it is necessary to give them real-world experience.
“I like that (Robinson) was willing to get students out and help us find jobs rather than setting us out there on our own,” Baker said.
“Instead of building dog boxes and backyard barns, they’re getting to build a real house,” Robinson said.
Both Baker and Emerick want to go into commercial construction, working on larger buildings such as office spaces, schools and hospitals.
Like any build, the project is inspected by state and local inspectors at major milestones.
“It’s nice that students get the opportunity to meet with the inspectors that they’re going to see out on the work site,” Robinson said. “They get some one-on-one and maybe some tips on how to do something better or more efficiently. And then the inspector will come back next time and check to see if they did it the way he suggested.”
Almost all the students in Robinson’s class said framing the house and installing the floorboards were the most exciting parts of the build.
“Not everybody likes drywalling,” Robinson chuckled. “But (Emerick and Baker) are good at hanging and roto-zipping the boxes out and doing a nice neat job.”
While some parts of the build are not as interesting as others, the students are committed to getting the job done, spending nearly two and a half hours every weekday working.
“Sometimes they’re so involved, they don’t want to stop,” Robinson said. There are times where the bell rings and Robinson will hear, “I’ve just got a few more nails,” before he replies, “Guys, the buses are leaving.'”
Churchill gets to make a lot of the interior decoration decisions, including the color of the walls and the style of counter tops.
Afterwards, Habitat for Humanity will come and haul off the building to the permanent site on Mead Street in May. The students will then help out with installing fixtures and connecting utilities before welcoming Churchill and her family into their new home over the summer.
“It’s not the easiest way to get a house built, but it’s the best way,” Best said.
For more information on the Zanesville campus of Mid-East Career and Technology Centers, call 740-454-0105.
For more information on Habitat of Humanity of Southeast Ohio, visit http://www.habitatseo.org/
Read or Share this story: https://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/story/news/2019/03/16/careers-and-charity/2884788002/