The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 27, 2020 1:00 am

Collaboration at Habitat site

Volunteers from organizations help build walls

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The thwack of hammers on nails created a constant soundtrack in a southeast Fort Wayne neighborhood Sunday afternoon as volunteers from multiple organizations worked to accomplish a task typically done in employers' parking lots.

Volunteers from Youth for Christ's City Life ministry, Fort Wayne United and the Fort Wayne Police Department had six hours to build 19 walls for a three-bedroom, one-bath house at 2415 Gay St.

It is one of 10 homes Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne plans to build this fiscal year, said Dannielle Goodrich, marketing and creative manager.

An estimated 150 volunteers were expected to participate in the panel build, and a numbering system was used to ensure they worked alongside people outside their organization.

Typically, panel builds involve employees of the same company, and construction is done at the business, not the future home site, Goodrich said.

It was the collaboration on Gay Street that made Sunday's panel build about more than building a home.

Having different organizations work together presented the opportunity to break down figurative walls, said Taylor Monaco of Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana.

Pastor Luther Whitfield – a board member for Fort Wayne United, Youth for Christ and Habitat – agreed. Coming together is especially important when there is so much division in the country, he said.

“By working together, we are sending an alternative message at such a needed time,” Whitfield said in a statement. “That we are better together, better for our community and its residents and families. Together, we will begin to build a brighter tomorrow for a deserving family in our community.”

Fort Wayne United was honored to be involved, Director Iric Headley said.

“Quality of life is an essential ingredient in the lives of hopeful and healthy families, and a home is the greatest physical foundation that hope can be built upon,” Headley said in a statement.

Chris Todia, CEO of Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana, said it was easy to fill his organization's share of one-hour shifts. He had to ensure it didn't bring too many volunteers, he added.

Showing up for young people is “what we do,” Todia said at the work site, his wife and two young children nearby. 

Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena said the Fort Wayne Police Department was grateful for the opportunity to participate.

“Having these kinds of interactions with youth will improve understanding,” Rosales-Scatena said in a statement. “Having open dialogue will enrich all of us.”

As the house took shape, volunteers could refuel with meals provided by Lewis Street Grill, a Black-owned restaurant in southeast Fort Wayne. Brotherhood Mutual sponsored the lunch.

Theoplis Smith III, a local artist also known as Phresh Laundry, worked on another project on-site. He transformed a 4-foot-by-8-foot wooden panel into an acrylic painting that captured the spirit of the day. Using “bright, bold colors” – blue, red, yellow – he conveyed the hand of God reaching toward people around the word “build.”

Plans for the artwork weren't finalized Sunday, but Goodrich said the art could become part of the Gay Street home.

A speed painter, Smith intentionally worked slowly and welcomed conversation from the volunteers.

“I definitely enjoy being out here,” he said. “I love it.”

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