Student labor builds Habitat for Humanity house

Evergreen, Mountain View wed construction, math for family's benefit

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Evergreen Habitat for Humanity

Latest house: Danforth family at 3715 Lincoln Ave. 1,200 square feet; three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

History: The nonprofit has built 29 houses since 1991.

Financing: The house cost about $75,000 to build. The Nike Employees Grant Fund gave $30,000. Nikki Danforth has a no-interest loan and will pay about $600 a month. She and her boys put in about 300 hours of ”sweat equity.”

Nourishment and blessings: Grocery Outlet provided $400 of food for the new homeowners. The family also received small wooden crosses from the Friends of the Carpenter.

Next up: Another student-build is underway in the Evergreen school district and will trucked to O Street in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood. Dedication is expected to happen in June. Also, Habitat will start another three houses in 2014.

You could call it the house that young hands built, but Nikki Danforth and her two boys will call it home.

Evergreen Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 29th house on Sunday, this one largely built by students at Evergreen and Mountain View high schools.

"It was an amazing experience," said Cody Eisenhart, 15. He worked with about 48 other high-schoolers last year to build the house that now sits in Vancouver's Lincoln neighborhood. "I'm going to use this in real life."

"The high school kids were fabulous," Danforth said as she accepted the keys to the house at a ceremony. She will share her home with sons Coby, 16, and Koda, 12.

The modular home was built in two pieces at the two high schools in east Vancouver and then trucked and merged.

"We've never moved a house across town," said Josh Townsley, the executive director of Habitat, noting the house is a partnership between Habitat and Evergreen Public Schools.

The house was built by students in a class called Math in Construction. Nineteen Evergreen and 30 Mountain View students did the work, many in their freshman year. About an hour each day, they labored on the two halves of the house.

"Right out of middle school, they gave us a chance to build a house," said Maddy Murosako, 15, a sophomore this year at Mountain View. "It's really cool."

Students were guided by their instructors, Bill Culver at Evergreen and Eric Dodge at Mountain View, and Habitat's construction manager Kris Cowan.

"It was really great to see the confidence grow" by the high-school builders, Cowan said. "It was a blast. A lot of energy. A big learning curve. … I love the partnership (with Evergreen schools). A big part of Habitat is building community."

Culver said the goal was to marry math and construction.

"There's a lot of geometry in the curriculum," he said. "The kids did great."

"It's awesome," Dodge said of the young builders. "How many high school kids at the end of the year can say, 'I helped build that house'? At the end of the year they kind of became contractors themselves."

Nikki Danforth and her boys also helped, as well as Habitat volunteers. But Cowan said the bulk of the construction was done by the students.

"It's still not real yet," Nikki said while she greeted friends in her new house. The family will have to wait a bit to move in because the house does not yet have electricity."

Nikki had been waiting two years to be chosen by Habitat and earn her home. She thanked her relatives for housing her family. She is a medical assistant for Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

"I feel great; I just want to move in," said Coby, a Hudson's Bay High School junior. "They let us choose all our own colors and the style of cabinets. … It was pretty cool."

Coby painted his room Bay colors: gold and black.

"I love it. It's amazing," Koda said. He attends Discovery Middle School. His room is lime green. "It's my favorite color," he said.

Asked what she likes best about her house, Nikki said, "The fact that it's in one piece, and not two."

Voices of the builders

“I really liked the cutting and looking at the design to see what we have to do. The siding was a real challenge, but it was fun.”

Cody Eisenhart, 15, Evergreen High School

“I’m really proud of him. He talked about it every day.”

Cody’s mom, Emily Smith

“It was a pretty amazing experience.”

Jamie Adams, 15, Mountain View High School

Most interesting aspect? “Probably putting the roof on. It was interesting to see how it worked.”

Maddy Murosako, 15, Mountain View

“I picked up plenty of good skills. How to use tools and make things properly. Mr. Dodge described everything to me. A pretty cool teacher. Now I’m at the Skills Center in the construction program, and I actually want to pursue a career in construction. It’s all because of this one class.”

Joseph Brown, 17, Mountain View

“I cut out trim for the window sills in the back room. I did some flooring. I worked on the roof. We had to rebuild a wall, and that was tough.”

Steven Liddle, 17, Mountain View

“I’ve definitely never done anything like it.”

Ashley Dykgraaf, 16, Mountain View

Best part of the class? “Getting to be outside and doing hands-on work. We’re all tactile learners. Mr. Culver did a very good job. His patience was a key role. For him to not yell at us was a big thing. He made it fun.”

Matthew Dissmeyer, 18, Evergreen High

“It was a really good way to apply the math to real-world activities. Our goal was to learn as much as we could in one year, Basically, we did a little bit of every job.”

Gaia Kirk, 15, Evergreen High