Toolboxes closed, ladders folded, paint dry; the only hurdle remaining between eight families and their new homes last Wednesday was the key ceremony.
Justin Roche Executive Director of Homes for Islanders, a sweat equity program, gave an overview of the 14-month-construction period. "In various groups it's typical we have at least a couple of carpenters in the families and extended families. There were no carpenters in the Woodland families. We got off to a bit of a slow start. They learned the ropes. They really kicked it into high gear. After that slow start, they finished really strong.
"Woodland Estates had the highest contribution of parents of any group. This was a little bit younger group. Parents were a subset of a much larger community effort of volunteers. They Put in the most hours of any community than ever before. This says something about this community. If you add up the hours - 12,000 hours came from homeowners; 7,700 hours from community. That's nearly 1,000 hours per house from parents and volunteers."
"This is not a giveaway, this is an opportunity. These families took advantage of the opportunity,"said Mario Villanueva State Director of Rural Development for USDA. "USDA is excited to be a part of what you all accomplished. You did all the work." He joked he was getting to do the fun part,"You know the five phases of construction. First phase of a project is enthusiasm, second phase is panic, third phase is search for the guilty, fourth phase is punishment of the innocent, fifth phase is praise and honors for the non-participants."
"You had to learn teamwork,"said Art Seavey, technical assistance specialist for Rural Community Assistant Corporation which is a consulting firm for the USDA. "You were successful, you learned a lot of stuff, some of that stuff has nothing to do with construction. Conflict management, group decision-making, setting a goal and achieving it. All kind of skills, interviewers for jobs would ask abour 'have you done anything that does this'. You have built a community not just a home. And you are part of a community. I am challenging you: keep building on that community. Make that community larger and larger, incorporate the whole island. I hope I can come back and see them again when there are yards and kids running around."
Carolyn Carroll spoke on behalf of the homeowners. She thanked the North Beach homeowners for helping the Woodland Estates people with framing so they could meet the first-time homeowner's tax break. North Beach is the next Home For Islanders project on Orcas. Six families are building homes in the northern section of Eastsound.
Next she awarded Homes for Islanders Construction Manager Larry Coddington the Closed Mouth Award "for being the only person on the whole project who kept his mouth shut." She said, "He didn't gossip or say anything bad about anybody."
Accepting the certificate Coddington said, "It's been a pleasure, you've not been given a gift. but you've earned a gift. It's going to give you a leg up on the rest of your life. At some point in the future I hope you'll say, 'My life is good, I think I'll dive in and help somebody else too'."
Carroll said, "This is the Super Finger Award. She (Rebecca Evans) must have caulked 200 miles of siding and trim. We want to appreciate her for doing all of the caulking."
Homeowner Chad Kimple also spoke on behalf of the homeowners, he said, "We are grateful for this program, for the chance to afford. We now can afford our own little American dream. Coming from a family that has lived on Orcas since the late 1800s, believe it or not this program has given me what I have dreamed for, to own land and build a house. I couldn't have afforded a home conventionally as the payments would have been my monthly salary. It's difficult when the working class cannot afford to buy a home."
"I'd be lying if I said this was a cakewalk. It is an experience no one of us will ever forget or should," Kimple said. "It is not every day you get to know your neighbors by swinging a hammer next to them every day for 14 months."
Carroll and Kimple did their best to thank all the sub-contractors, volunteers, the Homes for Islanders staff, USDA, Islanders Bank and others. Carroll noted there were more than 180 volunteers.
Next up, the handing over of the keys. Applause followed each presentation.
The luncheon ended with a slide show put together by homeowner Kevin DeHart. The soundtrack - Woody Guthrie's If I had a Hammer.
Carolyn Carrol and Chad Kimple thank the Mount Vernon Lowe's representative for all the company's help.
Mario Villanueva State Director of Rural Development for USDA
Art Seavey, technical assistance specialist for Rural Community Assistant Corporation
Homes for Islanders Construction Manager Larry Coddington was awarded the Closed Mouth Award.
Carolyn Carroll's graph illustrated the steps involved in the construction of the homes.
Rebecca Evans probably doesn't have a fingerprint left.
Homes for Islanders Executive Director Justin Roche hands Dennis DeHart the keys to the DeHart home.