Seven parishes unite to build walls for Habitat house

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Seven parishes unite to build walls for Habitat house

Nearly 300 volunteers from seven south suburban Archdiocese of Chicago parishes built the framing walls for a duplex home in partnership with Crossroads Mission and Habitat for Humanity in Will County on Aug. 6, 2021. The construction took place in the parking lot of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orland Park. The walls will then be transported to the home site, where Will County Habitat for Humanity will complete the house with other volunteers and skilled tradespeople. Upon completion, the home will be dedicated to a family in need. The seven parishes have worked collaboratively to raise more than $15,000 for the housing project through donations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bob and Eric Enguita work on framing as Lisa Enguita and Maddie Poole supervise. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Felix Lesher works with his dad Chris on nailing a corner piece of the wall. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Anne Lesher holds down a corner as her husband Chris and sons Felix and Henry nail down a corner piece of the wall. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
So many volunteers came to help that the project finished early. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bob Grogan (in yellow) from St. Elizabeth Seton Parish directs volunteers in steering the finished frame to the truck. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chris Steinmetz, one of the builders, carries a finished frame. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dan Danahey and John Sobel from St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and Terry Radejewski from Blessed Sacrament Parish combine their building skills. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rich Bonnevier works with Carl Evans Jr. and Carl Evans III. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Seven parishes. Nearly 300 volunteers. More than $15,000. Ninety-six wall panels.

That is what it took for members of seven southwest suburban parishes to pre-assemble walls for a duplex house that will be constructed by Habitat for Humanity in Elwood.

Volunteers gathered in the parking lot of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orland Park Aug. 6 and 7 to cut the lumber and build the walls under the watchful eye of Joe Wilson of CrossRoads Missions in Louisville, Kentucky. CrossRoads helps groups around the country organize similar projects as well as running mission trips.

“It’s kind of like building with Legos,” said Wilson’s wife, Colleen, who sat in the shade of their trailer distributing sheets with plans for each section of wall to building teams. Each team of about a half-dozen people used their sheet to pull the components, already labeled and marked so that volunteers knew where to attach one piece to the next.

“Make sure you’re taking breaks and hydrating!” she called after one group dropped off a completed sheet of plans and picked up another.

Joe Wilson and other experienced builders inspected each wall panel before it was stacked up to be loaded into a semi-trailer.

Gina Glasgow, development director of Habitat for Humanity of Will County, said this is the first time her local organization has worked with CrossRoads, but she welcomed it.

Having the parishes provide the lumber and the labor to put component pieces together will make it easier for Habitat for Humanity to provide homes to people with affordable mortgages, she said.

“This is really going to give us a boost,” she said.

The seven parishes — Incarnation, Crestwood; St. Elizabeth Seton, Orland Hills; St. Francis of Assisi; St. George, Tinley Park; St. Julie Billart, Tinley Park; St. Michael, Orland Park; and St. Stephen Deacon & Martyr Parish, Tinley Park — worked with CrossRoads two years ago on a similar project, that one staged in St. George’s parking lot. That home went to Habitat for Humanity of DuPage County.

The two days of construction on Aug. 6 and 7 were the culmination of the project, which included fundraising at each parish to pay for the lumber and supplies. The opportunity to follow up the fundraising with actual labor made this project special, said Gary Olson of St. Michael Parish.

“People know they can get their hands on it,” said Olson, who volunteered cutting wood Aug. 6 and returned to help assemble wall panels the next day.

His wife, Ellie Olson, led a team on Aug. 7 that included her husband, Gary, and the Lesher family: parents Chris and Anne and children Catherine, 12; Henry, 10; and Felix, 6.

“My husband heard about it and I said yes,” Anne Lesher said, holding a two-by-four while her husband helped Felix nail it to a board. “We’ve never done anything like this.”

The kids are not complete novices with tools, Chris Lesher said. They have an uncle and aunt building a new home, and a grandfather who likes to share his woodworking hobby.

Henry said he was enjoying the work, as the crew embarked on their fourth wall panel of the morning.

“Especially the hammering,” he said.

Nearby, Knights of Columbus member Joseph Kunnengode worked with his daughters Mariya, 14, and Ana, 12. Kunnengode and Ana participated at St. George in 2019, he said.

“It feels good to help,” Mariya said.

“And I’m learning how to use all this stuff,” Ana said, adding that she would like to do more building.

Suzanne LaCosse of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish pushed a cart laden with fruit and granola bars, offering other volunteers snacks.

“I use a walker,” LaCosse said, leaning on the cart. “So today, this is my walker. I wanted to help and they found something I could do, and I was tickled pink. It’s a wonderful thing to help make a home.”


  • housing
  • habitat for humanity
  • parishes

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