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Minnesotans help Habitat kick off an ambitious year

Moorhead State University student Joshua Berggren digs for the sewer main that will serve the home being built for a family in need. He spent his Spring Break volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Moorhead State University student Joshua Berggren digs for the sewer main that will serve the home being built for a family in need. He spent his Spring Break volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

A gaggle of college students made a 1,200-mile journey to Whidbey Island to help strangers build a new house.

Rather than spending their spring break someplace tropical, a group of eight students from Minnesota State University Moorhead, located near Fargo, N.D., volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help build a home for Michael Brown and his two children, Justin and Joshua.

The students spent their week-long break working on such projects as installing siding on the 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom home located in the new Frostad Pond development south of Oak Harbor.

“You might as well do something worthwhile,” said volunteer Corbin Routier, who is a student at the University of North Dakota. He was helping fellow volunteer Joshua Berggren dig to find the sewer main.

Routier noted that he would probably be volunteering in Fargo over his spring break anyway. Volunteers in that city were filling sandbags to brace for flooding of the Red River.

Proud homeowner Michael Brown expressed appreciation for the college students’ hard work.

“This is a real blessing having these kids here,” Brown said. “I had no clue it was their spring break.”

The Moorhead students were participating in the Collegiate Challenge program. In addition to their work, the students are also making a $1,000 donation, which they raised last semester, to Habitat for Humanity of Island County. While volunteering for Habitat, they stayed at the First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor.

Habitat for Humanity requires a homeowner to volunteer 500 hours in work, either through assisting in the construction of a home or staffing the Habitat furniture store located on Highway 20.

Brown, who is disabled, said he and his children have been living with his parents during his home’s construction.

“It’ll be nice for them to have their own rooms,” Brown said as he helped install siding.

He hopes his family can move into their new house sometime in early May.

Brown’s is one of four homes in the Frostad Pond development being set aside for affordable housing. The other three will be finished by the non-profit Saratoga Community Housing, said Annee Imle of Habitat for Humanity of Island County.

The charitable organization has an ambitious schedule in 2010.

“Our goal to build six houses by the end of the year,” Imle said. Brown’s home is the 22nd house built by Island County’s Habitat volunteers.

Habitat will build a home in Pine Terrace located off Ault Field Road, scheduled to begin in May. Imle described that project as a “blitz build” where a contractor, Cascade Custom Homes, will construct the new home in several weeks.

After that, a group of 12 churches are teaming up for a Habitat project in Teronda West.

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