Students from Connecticut spend Spring Break building home for Roan Mountain family

Published 1:00 am Friday, March 13, 2015

NW0313 Habitat for Humanity

Spring break is usually a time for students to take a break from studying and relax before finishing out the rest of the school year.

But for one group of high school students from Connecticut, it was a chance to help build a new home for a Carter County family in Roan Mountain.

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Six students and two instructors from The Hotchkiss School in Lakeview, Conn. worked with the Holston Habitat for Humanity for the past week. The students worked on projects in Kingsport and Bristol, and on Thursday, they found themselves in Roan Mountain helping to finish a home for Chris Holtsclaw and Lucretia Beattie.

The Hotchkiss School is part of a Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge, which takes place during spring break, Hotchkiss Biology instructor Susan Park said. Through the challenge, schools gather groups of students and travel to different sites across the country to help the local Habitat for Humanity chapters.

“We get to come out to build sites and help,” Park said. “For some of these students, it is their second trip. We went down to Texas last year. This year, we came here to Tennessee. We are getting to know the people and it has been wonderful.”

In the past week, the students have helped work on current build sites, clean up abandoned home sites and help with other Habitat for Humanity programs as needed.

“We have students from all different skill levels,” Park said. “We have some who are very inexperienced and have never done anything like this before, and we have others who are very familiar with building. That is the great thing about Habitat for Humanity. They work with all ability levels.”

Hotchkiss senior Alex Gotsis was on his second Habitat for Humanity trip, and he is one of the leaders of the school’s Habitat for Humanity club. Gotsis had been helping cutting and nailing baseboards, sawing roof trusses, cutting insulation and helping to clean building sites during the week.

“I very much enjoy building,” Gotsis said. “Building fascinates me in the way everything comes together. Like today, a group of 10 people are going to work together to help build a house. The fact that I can work on building something, and we get to help people at the same time, it is great.”

Cady Stanton, a junior at Hotchkiss, was participating in her first Habitat for Humanity project. At the Roan Mountain home, she was helping to prepare trusses for installation on the porch roof.

“It has been pretty awesome,” Stanton said. “Not only do we get to team up and help others who are passionate about Habitat, we get to meet new people and learn their stories. I thought it was great that Habitat lets you jump right in. You find what you are good at, and you do it.”

Having additional volunteers on site helps the process go faster, Habitat for Humanity volunteer Jim Bouschley said.

“It helps us immensely to have extra workers,” Bouschley said. “They can help with some of the non-skilled tasks, like sawing and lifting. it is a big help. The more hands we have, the easier the job is.”

Habitat for Humanity has been working on the Roan Mountain since December and plans to have the home completed in the next few weeks, Habitat volunteer Dave Hafell said. The Holston Habitat for Humanity builds homes in Sullivan, Washington and Carter Counties.

“We try to build 10-12 homes a year,” Hafell said. “It is a nice program. Not only does that help build homes for people who need them, the volunteers learn skills in the process.”