Twenty men and women will catch planes Saturday and say farewell to the hard work and good times they had in Alaska. But many admit their plans to come back to the Kenai Peninsula are already in the works.
The Global Village volunteers, a program with Habitat for Humanity International, have spent the past two weeks building a house off Colonial Drive in Kenai. The house is the second home to be built on the land that was donated to Habitat by the Kenai Peninsula Borough in 1994, the same year the first home was built.
The men and women have traveled from various areas of the Lower 48 to help construct the newest house for Habitat for Humanity. They paid for their airfare to Kenai and also donated money to Habitat.
"It is a big fund-raiser for us as well," said Susan Hatch, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Kenai.
In exchange for their hard work, their meals, transportation and lodging have been provided by area businesses. The group stayed in the United Methodist Church of the New Covenant in Kenai on cots provided by the Alaska National Guard Armory. When they worked, lunches were provided by area business and dinners were provided by area churches. Two vans were donated by Kenai Chrysler for the group's transportation in the area.
"The local businesses and churches have been a great help. They don't even blink an eye when it comes to helping out," said Elizabeth Scarlett, past president of Habitat.
The group works eight hours a day, four days a week on the house. During the two weeks, the group put in the footers, laid the foundations and put up exterior and interior walls. The group also painted the exterior of a Habitat house on Sohi Lane in Soldotna Thursday while waiting for trusses for the Kenai site.
"They have scouted along, they have done well," said Scarlett.
Dick Vandervoort, construction supervisor, agreed that the group did an excellent job, though some of them had little building experience in the beginning.
"They will never be able to say that again," he added.
Both Vandervoort and his wife, Davida, have traveled to Habitat sites since 1997. Their last permanent address was in Florida.
"(We do it) just for the fun of it," he said with a smile, adding that they will travel and supervise Habitat homes until they find something else to occupy their time.
But Vandervoort said they do plan to leave Alaska before the mercury drops.
"We want to get out before the snow flies," he said.
When group members were not pounding nails at the home site, they took time to see the sights of Alaska. On their days off, the group visited Homer, Seward, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Peterson Bay and dug clams.
Scarlett said the idea was to get them to know the area that they are building the house in.
The group ranges from college students to retirees.
"It is nice to have that mix," Scarlett said, adding that many of the volunteers had never met before coming to Alaska.
Jason Sturman and his wife, Molly, have enjoyed their trip to Alaska and being a part of the volunteer team.
"You not only get to visit Alaska ... but you get to meet lots of local people," he said.
The couple, who are college students from Chicago, said they took the summer to volunteer with Global Village. They had not had much experience with building before starting with Habitat.
"It is a good way to learn," he said.
Since their visit to Kenai, the couple said they have definite plans on returning to Alaska.
Barbara Egan, a curator from Cody, Wyo., joined the project because she liked the outcome of the program.
"I think it is one of the most worthwhile projects, in my opinion, to give people housing," she said.
Egan visited Alaska last year and said it rained the whole time she was here camping. She said she wanted to give the weather a second chance.
"I knew it would be different, so I wanted to see how it was different," she said, adding how warm and sunny the weather had been.
The leaders of the volunteer group also were glad to return to Kenai for this year's project.
Alice Halsall, of Alexandria, Va., and Todd Hicks of Greeley, Colo., have both led Global Village Volunteers before in Kenai.
For Halsall, this is her third year in Kenai. She got involved with Habitat in 1996 and said she tries to co-lead a Global Village group every year.
Hicks had led groups to Kenai for the past three years and said he got started by volunteering for Habitat in Anchorage.
He decided to lead a group because he wanted to share the opportunity he had as a participant.
Since being involved with Habitat, he said, his horizons have expanded.
"(I have a) renewed sense of hope for the future," he said.
After the Global Village Volunteers leave, the RV Caravanners will arrive to help with the house in July. As another program within Habitat for Humanity International, the group of highly skilled individuals will bring their own tools to add to the home.
Kathy Davidson, a photographer and volunteer from Atlanta, Ga., developed a Web site for the house as well as participated in building it. The volunteers, the progress and the home can be viewed at www.kathydavison.com.
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