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TCU students help build Victoria family's house (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
March 13, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2014 at 10:14 p.m.

LeAnne Welder,  the construction volunteer and family services coordinator, watches as volunteers (left to right) Sarah Sheppard, 19; Matt Holsworth, 35; Sunny Vu, 19; Ryan Bui, 18; and Patty Do, 20, work together to attach a piece of wood to the top of the garage at the Habitat for Humanity home on Swan Drive in Victoria.

Kimberle Gaitan will soon live the American dream.

When her home on Swan Drive is complete, she will be able to move her three boys into a place they can call their own.

She applied for a home with Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, and after about a year of working with the nonprofit organization, Gaitan, 35, was approved.

"I never thought I would be able to build my own home," she said.

The foundation was set and construction started March 7.

She's participated in the build as much as she can, including seeing the concrete foundation poured and the building frame assembled.

"I'm really excited and glad to have a chance to be a part of it," she said.

While she's busy managing Loan Max, where she works full time, a small group of students from Texas Christian University are using their spring break to serve the community.

Through Habitat for Humanity's Collegiate Challenge program, 10 students visited Victoria from Fort Worth to get their hands dirty working on the home.

The project typically takes about 18 weeks to complete, said Rebekah Logan, outlying counties resource coordinator for Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, and with the help of the students, the project will get ahead of schedule.

The group started on the home-building project Monday and has been able to complete the exterior walls and put on the trusses, which will support the roof.

"They're working together and helping different components of the home go up as one solidified unit," she said about the students.

Teamwork is essential in building a home, said Sarah Sheppard, 19, group leader of the TCU team.

Last year, she was part of a group that traveled to Houston to build a home through the same program.

"I learned a lot of things that apply to life outside of building a home," she said. "Communication is important out here."

Especially because the work can be dangerous, Sheppard said she's had to learn to give better directions and be aware of her surroundings.

By her third day on the project, she was also more confident using the circular saw, nail gun and other equipment.

"I was afraid at first," Sheppard, a marketing major, said. "Everything is so loud, and it doesn't sound like it's right, but then you get over it."

As she helped complete the walls where the garage and entrance are, Tom Nguyen, 17, was in the back stapling the blue Dow house wrap to the particle board walls.

He was one of the five international students who were part of the group.

"I'm glad to contribute to something that is going to last for the next 30 years," he said.

After he graduates and has kids of his own, he said he plans to return to the home to show them what he helped build.

Tuesday afternoon, when the trusses were put in place, Logan remembered hearing Nguyen say how beautiful the home was.

"An entire family is going to live in this home," Nguyen said. "It feels great knowing that I am a part of that."

Sheppard said he is proud that no heavy machinery was used to put the walls and trusses on the home. The group lifted everything by hand, piece by piece, standing on ladders and by working together, she said.

"It's cool to see the transformation," she said.

Gaitan and her three sons - Christian, 15; Isaac, 13; and Alex, 9 - met the group who worked on the home. They spent some time at the UHV dorms where the students stayed during the project.

"It's awesome for them to take time off their spring break; they have time to go out and have fun, but they chose to help us build our home," she said.

The boys are really excited about moving into a new place, too, she said. The home they live in now is older and on a busy street. Now, she can feel better letting her boys play outside without worrying about their safety.

"It seems like a good, quiet neighborhood for us," Gaitan said.



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