Sweating for a cause

| July 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

Heat halts parish Habitat project for first time in 8 years

Teresa Bellows of St. Joseph in Rosemount reacts to the heat as she works on site at a house she and other parish volunteers are helping to build for Habitat for Humanity. The parish has been organizing week-long Habitat service visits every year since 2003. On July 18, the crew had to quit early due to excessive heat. According to lead organizer Craig Fleming, this is the first heat-related work stoppage the St. Joseph crews have ever had. See story on page 7. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Helping those in need find affordable housing has been the legacy of Habitat for Humanity, which relies on church members like the dozens of volunteers from St. Joseph in Rosemount, who worked throughout this week’s heat wave.

On a sweltering Tuesday morning, 27 parishioners came together to help build a house in Shakopee. On hand were several volunteers whose sole job was to pass out water and Gatorade to the workers.

“We actually brought some water, but they had a good supply,” said volunteer Katie Hansen, who came with her husband, Ryan. “Some­body was thinking.”

When asked about the heat, she said: “It’s not too bad. It’s not completely unbearable.”

That wasn’t the case the previous afternoon when the heat index shot up to 102 degrees and led to something that crew leader Craig Fleming has never seen since he started organizing parish Habitat crews in 2003 — a shutdown caused by excessive heat.

“This was the first time we closed early,” he said. And, with temperatures predicted to be in the mid to upper 90s all week and heat indexes over 100, afternoon shutdowns were expected throughout the crew’s week of service.

Yet, the heat did not keep volunteers away.

“I feel blessed. Every year, we get a full amount [of volunteers],” said Fleming, who leads the parish Habitat committee with his wife, Donna. “I never have to worry about filling it.”

Working through the pain

People like Jan Holmes would not even consider missing out, even though she is grieving the loss of her husband, Phil, who died suddenly in October 2010. For several years, they came together to the house their parish was assigned. Even though Phil is gone, Jan chose to come. And, she gladly — though tearfully — accepted the proposal to put Phil’s name on every T-shirt the volunteers wear.

It is a parish tradition to have T-shirts printed for the volunteers to wear on site every year. The words “Phil’s crew” on this year’s shirts are a tribute both to his hard work every year and his love of the T-shirts.

“Phil was very proud of his Habitat shirts,” Jan said. “He had the whole collection.”

The volunteers who come are passionate about their desire to help build affordable housing for the poor. Matt Timmers is using a week of his vacation time to serve.

“Habitat is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “I’ve got vacation to burn. I might as well use it in a good way.”


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