Hard hats and hammers lend a helping hand to local family in Blitz Build

Harley Nefe, Reporter

People carrying wooden beams and metal scaffolding were on the move. The pounding of hammers and the scissoring of saws were consistent sounds. One worker broke at least three hammers at the construction site. These were the sights and sounds of a new beginning for one Watauga County family.

The Barker family — David and Amy Barker, and their children, Nathan and Kali, were chosen by Watauga County Habitat for Humanity to receive a new home. This past Saturday, they saw their future home take form during a kickoff build event called the Blitz Build.

Volunteers, alongside the Barker family, are building the future house in the Habitat for Humanity GreenWood subdivision off of N.C. Highway 194 beside Green Valley School. It is up a gravel road and surrounded by trees. The Barker family’s home is the sixth home built in the subdivision and is located across the street from Hollis Park, which includes a neighborhood playground. Their home is expected to be completed in December, weather permitting.

“We’re still in disbelief, overwhelmed,” Amy Barker said, while watching volunteers build. “It’s a lot to process; (we’re) so blessed.”

The Barker family submitted their Habitat for Humanity application in February.

Holland Bostrom
The Barker Family stands on site as their future home is built by volunteers. The family was chosen by the Watauga Habitat for Humanity to receive this new home as apart of the Blitz Build.

Eligible habitat partners “might be dealing with poorly built, unhealthy, damaged, or inadequate housing,” have unaffordable rent or mortgage, or be living in a home that is inaccessible for people with disabilities, according to the Watauga County Habitat for Humanity website.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing organization that partners with communities all over the world to help build and improve affordable homes. Watauga County Habitat for Humanity’s vision is “a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” according to its website. 

Watauga County Habitat for Humanity builds one house each year and receives help from App State’s Habitat for Humanity Club. 

The club focuses on the broader picture and helps build multiple homes, said junior interior design major Kayla McDougle, who is the club’s president.

For the Barkers’ home, Watauga County Habitat for Humanity also partnered with the App State group App Builds a Home. 

“I’m just glad that this is happening because we’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Alex Hooker, executive director for Watauga County Habitat for Humanity.

App Builds a Home hosted its first interest meeting Sept. 6, 2018.

The App Builds a Home project can allow for the budgeting of an additional house each year, due to fundraising and community outreach that finds volunteers. The Barkers’ home is the first house built with the help of App Builds a Home. 

The total cost of the Barkers’ home is $120,000. Watauga Habitat for Humanity contributed $60,000. In one year, App Builds a Home fundraised $30,000 to contribute by hosting events such as percentage nights at Appalachian Mountain Brewery, bowling events and donation tables in Plemmons Student Union. Around $30,000 still needs to be raised to complete the house.

Alongside App Builds a Home, Watauga County’s Habitat for Humanity and App State’s Habitat for Humanity Club, a construction crew called Habitat Road Trip Crazies helped make the Blitz Build happen.

The “crazies” are a group of volunteers who mainly hail from Lynchburg, Virginia. However, some members are from other parts of the United States, like Ohio and New Jersey. They travel, meet up and help with various habitat builds.

At the Blitz Build, the crazies attempted to bring a humorous side to building, as they hung up signs reading things like “Reward — lost $50, if found, just keep it” and “Dry paint,” on tents around the site. 

The crazies wore attire like tuxedo T-shirts or hard hats styled in numerous ways, including cowboy hats, some decorated with American flags or mohawks on the top. However, most of the crazies wore pink and green T-shirts that read, “Peace, Love and Hammers.”

Around 100 App State volunteers and 50 crazies helped start the Barkers’ home Sept. 21-22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Different groups and organizations helped out in ways other than building the house. 

For example, bagged lunches with sandwiches and chips were donated by First Baptist Church. 

App State’s Integrative Design Experience Laboratory, a curriculum class in the building sciences program, allowed students to receive course credit for helping plan and design the Barkers’ house.

Tasks for volunteers included setting up scaffolding, putting up the home’s walls and painting the siding. 

Nathan Barker, 7, who could be found wearing a white hard hat with his name in red marker on the front, and Kali Barker, 5, both contributed their share of pounding nails into wood studs under supervision. 

When asked if they were excited about their new house, the children’s consistent response was, “yes!”

“I want to help other people once we’re in (our house),” Amy Barker said. “I can’t believe so many people came out here to do this. I forget how many good people are out there. It’s not nothing; it’s something. If they just knew how much this means to us.” 

A white 4-year-old Samoyed dog named Stupsi was also present. Onlookers and volunteers referred to her as the mascot of the project. Her owner, Mike Reynolds, is the construction manager.

“(This project) is awesome,” Reynolds said. “It’s rewarding work.”

Social media outreach and word-of-mouth communication helped the project gain publicity. Some volunteers have built many houses. For others, like sophomore political science major Betsy Kelly, the Barkers’ home was their first.

“It’s incredible,” Kelly said. “When the walls went up, it was like, ‘This is really about to be a house where a family is going to live and kids are going to grow up.’”

Junior building sciences major Alexis Cabra said he likes to keep busy and appreciates the hands on experience.

“(The build) actually helps me see how it’s done,” Cabra said.

Some volunteers wrote messages to the recipient family on the wooden studs that support the home.

Construction will continue every weekend until the house is completed.

Smaller volunteer groups of 10-15 people are expected to help finish the project in the future.

No construction skills are necessary for volunteers, according to the Watauga County Habitat for Humanity website. Tools that can be checked out at the build events.

The Barkers’ house is two stories tall, is entirely framed, and it has a metal roof, which is expected to last around 50 years. 

“It’s so beautiful,” Amy Barker said with tears in her eyes. “I’m at a loss for words.”