Habitat volunteers build homes in BR

Volunteers worked at two locations in the Baton Rouge area Saturday to put together new Habitat for Humanity residences for deserving families.

Dianne Clark was busy at work building her new home on Elvin Drive in Baton Rouge’s Rosewood subdivision.

Clark, wearing an orange Habitat for Humanity shirt with “Homeowner” imprinted on it, received instructions from Habitat for Humanity workers on how to cut and nail pieces of lumber that would evolve into the house’s frame.

Clark said she rents a home now and could not afford a house of her own until Habitat for Humanity approved her for a new one.

“I’m very thankful because for one thing, it makes home ownership affordable,” she said.

Clark and some other Baton Rouge residents are the beneficiaries of new homes thanks to home builds sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge and local chemical companies.

The Elvin Drive home was built during the “Super Saturday of Service Legacy Program” as part of a week of festivities for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

BASF Corp., a New Jersey-based chemical company that has a plant in Geismar, is serving as a sponsor of the New Orleans Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee.

Tom Yura, senior vice president and general manager of BASF Geismar, said Saturday the company wanted to host a community service event in Baton Rouge, as opposed to New Orleans, because it’s so close to New Orleans and will have a statewide impact economically.

“If there’s a party going on at your neighbor’s house, why wouldn’t you want to join as well?” Yura said.

About 200 volunteers worked Saturday at the Elvin Drive site, said Lynn Clark, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge. Most of the volunteers were from BASF.

The volunteers helped set up the frame of one home and arranged the materials necessary to build a second home, Clark said.

The sounds of buzzing saws and pounding hammers filled the air as the volunteers brought the home to life. Most of the frame of the home was upright within about two hours. Volunteers also performed landscaping at other houses nearby.

The community service event “draws attention to (the fact that) there’s a lot more going on than just the party aspect of the game, that people are attuned to the importance of making their communities better,” Clark said.

Ben Pejsach, a BASF production engineer, said he helped build window and door frames and helped pre-arrange materials for the second home.

Pejsach said he participated in Saturday’s build because it’s a great way to give back to the community.

“I want to help others,” he said.

On the other side of town in the Scotlandville area, dozens of high school students and teachers partnered with Habitat for Humanity workers to build a house on Chinn Street, just off Rosenwald Road, as part of the seventh annual Albemarle Youth Build.

The students were from Catholic High School, St. Joseph’s Academy and Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge.

Molly Magill, 17, a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy, said her workday Saturday included “a lot of physical work.”

“A lot of nailing, hammering — splinters,” Magill joked.

Magill, who was participating in the Youth Build for the second time, said she enjoys meeting the families who will become new homeowners.

“I’ve only met two families, but they’re always the nicest people,” she said. “Knowing how hard they worked just to get to this day is great.”

The Youth Build is sponsored by the Albemarle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to community sustainability run by Baton Rouge specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corp.

“We all get more than we give. We’re helping a less fortunate family,” said Eric Spratmann, director of purchasing for Albemarle and board president for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge. “We’re giving them a hand up, not a hand out.”

Kathy Meares, the registrar at St. Joseph’s Academy, said she has participated in the Youth Build in all 12 years of its existence.

Meares said she enjoys seeing the St. Joseph’s students learn new skills and life lessons.

“The girls become so much more assertive and confident than I think they would be if it were just an all-girl build,” she said.

Sarah Pulliam, a biology teacher and science department chairwoman at Episcopal High School, said she has worked at the Youth Build the past 11 years.

Pulliam said the event helps the students understand the importance of community service.

“I secretly hope that they’re going to get so in love with this that eventually they’ll go to college and be involved with Habitat, they’ll do it as an adult, and it just will become part of who they are,” she said.