BURRILLVILLE – A building vacant for more than a decade has received new life – and will soon have new owners – thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers on a mission to provide decent living quarters for Rhode Islanders in need.
Habitat for Humanity is rehabilitating a property at 66 Wallum Lake Road, turning a long stone building previously used as a lodge, into a clean and efficient home for a family.
The organization purchased the building in September of 2016 and has since replaced the windows and added vinyl siding.
“We had an empty shell to work with,” said Louise Carriere North Smithfield, co-treasurer of Habitat’s local chapter. “We’re trying to make it easy maintenance for the homeowner. This is why we put on vinyl siding.”
Habitat for Humanity is a national organization that has been building homes for those with inadequate shelter for four decades. The organization’s basic principal is that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to live.
The chapter that works in Burrillville –Habitat West Bay and Northern Rhode Island. – is one of four in the state. Formed in 1999, the group has rehabilitated or built some 14 homes in their target communities, which includes everything north of East Greenwich in Rhode Island, except for the more urban areas Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket.
The Wallum Lake Road project – the 15th in the group’s nearly 20 year existence – is only the second in Burrillville constructed for the purpose. But four more Habitat families may soon move to town. The organization is in the process of purchasing two lots where they hope to build duplexes.
Volunteer Earl Marsh, a former registered land surveyor and licensed builder with a degree in architecture from Rhode Island School of Design, has been with the West Bay chapter from the start. Marsh, a Cumberland resident who once owned the Cumberland quarry, is head of construction, providing guidance for the group. He recently became licensed as a builder with Habitat, a certification needed for an upcoming project the volunteers plan to take on in Woonsocket.
Asked why he’s been a Habitat volunteer for so long, Marsh said he wants to give back.
“I’ve been very lucky,” he said.
Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are recycled into a revolving Fund for Habitat for Humanity, West Bay and Northern R.I. that is used to build more houses. Recipients must fill out an application, and go through a screening process that includes a credit check.
If multiple applicants are qualified, the final decider is the condition of the home the family is currently living in.
Typically, the recipients help to construct their future home. Most who volunteer with Habitat hold down full-time jobs, and work is completed during shifts on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The limited hours make the progress slow.
“It takes almost a year to build a house,” said Carriere.
But on Wednesday, Oct. 10, the Burrillville project got a boost in the form of a $10,000 check and four weekdays of free labor from AAA Northeast.
AAA got involved with the project by signing up for a “Team Build Day,” where a group of up to ten volunteers from a business does a day of service. Habitat asked for a $1,500 donation to accompany each day of the work, with plans to provide the volunteers t-shirts and lunch.
AAA signed up for four days and included even more funding with the generous donation.
“We’re glad to help out a great organization and help some families in need,” said AAA Assistant Manager Brian Butterworth.
In a statement, John Galvin, AAA Northeast president and CEO said, “We at AAA Northeast are extremely proud of our commitment to charitable giving, both at the corporate level and through the personal commitment of our staff. Efforts like the one with Habitat for Humanity allow us to live our most important value – helping and serving as a way of life.”
On Wednesday, the group was starting work in the kitchen, putting down flooring and installing cabinets.
Chapter President Amy Gates of West Warwick encouraged the volunteers to get their hands dirty and learn how to operate the construction tools.
“One of the reasons I wanted to volunteer with Habitat was to learn how to do these things,” said Gates.
“I’ve learned so much working with Habitat,” Carriere agreed. “I think it gives you a sense of pride.”
The building on Wallum Lake Road has been vacant for at least the past 10 years, and sits on a .3 acre lot valued at $177,300. Habitat got the property for a steal, paying only realtors fees, but still needs to install a leech field at a cost of $28,000.
Materials they’ll use to convert the 24 X 60 square-foot lodge and surrounding property are donated.
The northern Rhode Island chapter currently has 10 board members and is always looking for new members – particularly those who bring new and diverse skills.
Any of the funds they receive are put back into the homes.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Carriere. “This house has been coming along.”