Volunteers swing hammers to help build homes

HabiJax partners with Home Depot to build frames for 8 new homes

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

Hundreds of volunteers came together Tuesday to help build new homes for families in need.

HabiJax and Home Depot partnered with community members to build the frames for eight new homes in the Home Depot parking lot in Yulee.

Even HabiJax Chief Operating Officer Roger Cortie joined in for hammer time.

He was one of a dozen captains assisting the groups of volunteers with construction.

More than 200 volunteers from all over the country showed up.

"There's people here that have probably never swung a hammer in their life before, so it's been great,” said Derek Fleming, store manager of the Yulee Home Depot. “There's a lot of bent nails lying around, but the fact is that we're doing something, we're having fun and they're learning a skill."

The volunteers framed walls for eight houses, all with the same 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-story design, with a Craftsman-style front porch.

Cortie said free labor from the volunteers helps HabiJax get the most bang for its buck, providing more homes and resources for people in need.

"(It's) a good way for us to save money this way, when you precut all the pieces. We reuse the scrap,” Cortie explained.

Some of the volunteers, like Zoe Ward of New Jersey, traveled a long way to give back and pressed on despite rainy conditions.

"I've never built a house before,” Ward said. "We're kind of learning as we go along. We've had to take things apart a couple (of) times, so it's been trial (and) error for sure."

After some help and direction, Ward got the hang of swinging her hammer.

She said the hard work was worth it.

"It is just an amazing experience to be able to contribute to this whole entire organization,” Ward said. “Look at all the people around here."

In addition to building the house frames, volunteers stuffed care packages with things like soap and toothpaste that will be given to the homeless and veterans in Northeast Florida.

"There's so many folks in need and to be able to give back in our our community, it's phenomenal,” Fleming said.

At the end of the day's work, 7,000 kits were made. The frames for the eight homes will be used to complete HabiJax housing projects this summer.