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Air Force cadets help build home for longtime St. Joseph coach

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
March 23, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2010 at 10:24 p.m.

Freshman cadet Johnson Ho, from Chicago, uses a hammer stapler to attach a moisture barrier wrap to the exterior of the house. Ho was impressed with the green spring here in Texas compared to the snowy conditions back in Colorado Springs.

St. Joseph High School coach Alvin Mumphord III's positive influence on young people has come back to help him.

A 12-year-veteran of the coaching ranks at the Victoria private school, Mumphord is the beneficiary of two youth-oriented Habitat for Humanity programs, Collegiate Challenge and Youth United.

Fourteen cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., are in Victoria this week to work on a new home for Mumphord.

The funds for the build came from Youth United fundraisers at Industrial High School in Vanderbilt and at St. Joseph High School, according to LeAnne Welder, a coordinator for the Victoria Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The coach said he is touched by the support.

"It means a lot to see how hard they are working and how quickly they are getting things done," Mumphord said from the work site on Virginia Street.

Habitat for Humanity homeowners must meet certain financial criteria, including the ability to make mortgage payments, and contribute 300 hours of sweat equity to their build. A selection committee chooses homeowners based on financial criteria and after in-person interviews.

Mumphord said his work on the build pales in comparison to the efforts displayed by local students.

"When you see them put all the work they do into the fundraisers, it really shows how much the kids care," he said.

The cadets are a mix of those with some construction experience and some with none. Those who work on Mumphord's new house comprise just one of several groups from the Air Force Academy who work at various Habitat sites around the country.

"At the Air Force Academy, one of our core values is service before self," said cadet Brendan Maestas, 19, of San Antonio. "We are giving up our Spring break but we're having fun and feel like we are making a contribution to the community."

Maestas is one of several cadets with Texas ties. Others are from Houston, Austin and Tyler. The group also has an international flavor; one cadet is from Ghana, Africa.

Team leader Bridget Flatley, 20, of Plainview, N.Y, said she has worked on similar projects, but this is her first Habitat for Humanity build.

"It feels good to come out and help someone who needs a house," Flatley said.

The Colorado-based cadets, who briefly left cold temperatures, say South Texas nighttime temperature drops hasn't fazed them.

"It hasn't been snowing, raining or slushy. It's beautiful weather for us," said Maestas.

Robert Walker, 21, of St. Louis, said a few cadets even slept outside on Monday night.

First Baptist Church is providing sleeping quarters for the group and various businesses and people around town donated meals.

The cadets said they chose Victoria because of its proximity to the beach. The group plans to hit Port Aransas on Friday.

Volunteers from The Victoria College, Memorial High School and St. Joseph High School will take over when the cadets leave. National Guardsman Brian Speer of Victoria is also spending his vacation volunteering on the build. Bill Spellacy is the volunteer construction consultant.

The Victoria Chapter of Habitat for Humanity was chartered in 1994. It dedicated its first house in 1996. Mumphord's home is the 73rd to be built.

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