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Keesler Surgical Squadron members and Keesler Students Help with Habitat for Humanity Project in Gulfport
From: Keesler A.F.B     Filed 9/28/07 GCN

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – In spite of threatening weather, members of the 81st Surgical Operations Squadron eagerly spent Sept. 21 helping construct a Habitat for Humanity home in Gulfport.  They were joined by approximately 30 technical training students from the 338th Training Squadron.

According to Col. (Dr.) Bartlett Hayes, 81st MSGS commander, he had invited his unit to become involved because he “wanted to have a squadron function aimed at post-Katrina recovery.”  He coordinated the activity with local Habitat for Humanity officials.

(Photo Right: Colonel Dolan, right, watches Major Morris drive a nail into framework for the Habitat for Humanity home. Approximately 30 students from Keesler AFB’s 338th Training Squadron also joined in the effort.)

After a safety briefing by Habitat staff, the Keesler volunteers went to work on the house, located on 42nd Avenue near the Gulfport Navy Construction Battalion Center and Gulfport Memorial Hospital.

Among the 81st MSGS members were Colonel Hayes, Lt. Col. (Dr.) James Dolan, Lt. Cols. Angela Thrasher and Sharon King, Maj. (Dr.) Michael Morris, Master Sgt. Lorna Dembo and Linda Sarpy.  Colonel King, a reservist, had completed her two-week assignment with the squadron but volunteered to stay an extra day to help with the project.

“I learned a lot about Habitat for Humanity,” Colonel Hayes said.  “They partner with people who can afford to pay the mortgage for the new home, but are living in substandard housing, such as a FEMA trailer.  The new home owners volunteer as well, spending 80 hours in construction and 40 hours of classes.  They pay $50,000 for the house with an interest-free 20-30-year mortgage and in the end they have a 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-a-half bathroom brand-new home.” 

Construction is done by volunteer labor.  Colonel Hayes said that many companies participate by donating construction materials.  “Certain aspects are done by professionals, such as the plumbing and the wiring.”

The colonel added, “The beneficiaries get a brand new, landscaped home.  This helps improve a neighborhood which may be in some disrepair due to Katrina.  When a Habitat for Humanity home appears, others in the neighborhood seemed to be inclined to improve their own property.  Everyone realizes the efforts can help increase property values for all.”

Colonel Hayes hopes that members of his squadron will volunteer for Habitat for Humanity projects periodically, and is planning to volunteer at least one day per quarter.  “It is a great way to support the local community and will make a huge difference in some people’s lives.”

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