BENNINGTON — All the way from Ohio, a group of 12 dedicated construction workers partnered with the Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity (BAHfH) this week to construct a new home on North Branch Street.
Thrivent Builds Team is an independent, international organization that helps build homes and brings $8,000 to the operation for necessary materials to offset Habitat's budget. Men and women sporting shirts that read 'Live Generously,' drove 10 hours to get to Vermont and said they enjoyed the scenery the most on their journey. Some have biked in Burlington and others have hiked part of the Appalachian Trail before. Some are retired, and all journeyed on their own dime and time.
"It's a new challenge," Bill Gelogue said.
"We're working for the Lord," Tom Riles said.
"It's for our people in the United States," Nancy Bloom said.
Thrivent Financial, which heads the build team's monetary contribution, is a Christian agency that values money differently than other financial institutions. According to its website, Thrivent believes money is a "tool – for serving God, the family and the community." This is the first time the group has helped BAHfH, Site Supervisor Curt Marrow said. Otherwise, Global Village volunteers partner with them.
"We work with Habitat for Humanity because it's a faith based mission of being of good service to those who need decent housing," Team Leader Elizabeth Schnabel said.
The North Branch Street site is Riles' sixth build, with other operations located in South America and Europe. He's a retired engineer and said he enjoys building in the U.S. better due to the construction differences.
"It's different," he said. "In America, you build with wood, but if you go to South America or Europe, you use concrete blocks and stone. It's a lot of cement and a lot of hard work."
Little construction expertise is needed to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity because it's learned on the job, which the Thrivent builders vouched for.
Schnabel sets up a budget before the trip to inform volunteers of what expenses to expect. She's also in charge of locating lodging and seeking out dinner deals at local restaurants. She said she had luck with just a few out of 10 restaurants in the area. She also decided on the Greenwood Lodge hostel, which the group said they thoroughly enjoy.
Demolition of the 296 North Branch Street home occurred in October 2015 after being vacant for two years. A home next to it was rehabbed and dedicated to a mother and two children this May. BAHfH hopes to build three units on North Branch Street. The Kornn family is the homebuyer for 296 North Branch Street, according to BAHfH Executive Director Susan Sommer.
Carrow said on Monday that when construction started, there was just a concrete slab, but now walls have gone up. By the end of Thrivent's stay on Thursday, he said, plywood and insulation will be up as well as the interior walls.
Schnabel explained there wasn't a procedure in deciding where to volunteer, but when it's hot in Ohio, they travel north, and when it's cold, they go south. Almost all volunteers are from Ohio.
On Sunday the group attended mass at the Old First Church and got a tour on Monday night as well as entrance to the Bennington Museum. They also had dinner with the homebuyer family that same night.
"Building relationships is more important than building houses," she said. "While we're on a build, we are working with the community by getting to know their particular culture or history."
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at 802-447-7567, ext. 118.