Volunteers get to work on Pope Francis house


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT – By 8 a.m. the temperature was already around 80 degrees outside and a heat advisory was in effect. But volunteers were committed to helping with the Pope Francis Habitat for Humanity house build on July 18. Twenty-six volunteers from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf signed up to help out in two shifts for the house building project on Tremont Avenue in Davenport. Meanwhile, other volunteers were working on a second Habitat home next door.

Anne Marie Amacher
Keeghan Hutchinson uses a jigsaw to cut out a stair template for the Pope Francis house. Parishioners from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf helped with the Habitat for Humanity build July 18 in Davenport.

Dick Kleine, coordinator for the St. John Vianney volunteers, said the parish intended to make a donation for the Pope Francis home, but Kleine wondered whether anything else could be done.

“Participate in a build,” suggested Dougal Nelson, development director for Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities.


St. John Vianney’s pastor, Father Jim Vrba, approved the suggestion and announcements were made at Mass to recruit volunteers. “We had all the slots filled that weekend,” Kleine said. The heat advisory, however, resulted in cancellation of the second shift. Volunteers scheduled for the second shift were invited to participate with the first shift.

Cathy Halligan and her grandchildren, Keeghan and Kevin Hutchinson, volunteered. “I wanted to give back,” said Halligan. She thinks Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful organization and wanted to see what it would be like to participate in a build.

Among the projects to be tackled was removal and rebuilding of a set of stairs leading to the house’s second floor. Halligan hauled the wood that was removed and placed it in a pile. She used a drill to remove a couple of screws from the staircase before turning the challenging job over to fellow parishioner Joanne O’Gara. “I gave it a try,” Halligan said.

O’Gara was participating in her fourth Habitat build. “I love to learn how to do new things,” she said. She also enjoys working with and getting to know other parishioners and community members.

Troy and Kasi Howell had originally planned to bring their three daughters to the build, but the children were too young. The couple participated anyway. Troy, who doesn’t like heights, willingly climbed a ladder to help put up a second-story wall. He felt just fine doing the work and helped raise the final wall by 10 a.m. Kasi stayed in the lower level helping with the stairs and got to use a jigsaw.

Project manager Dan Mizner thanked the volunteers working on both houses for helping to make a dream come true for the future homeowners. Those homeowners receive an-interest free mortgage, but work hard for the opportunity to own a home. They invest hours of volunteer work, helping at Habitat for Humanity and Habitat ReStore sites, shoveling snow on Habitat-owned property and volunteering at builds, for example.

Avita Hicks will become the owner of the Pope Francis house. She had shoveled snow in this neighborhood before the groundbreaking as part of her volunteer hours. “Who knew that this is where I would someday live,” she said. Since work began on the house, Hicks has worked virtually every Saturday and a few Wednesdays at the build. She has also attended homeownership and other classes.

Nelson said donations for the Pope Francis home continually come in from Knights of Columbus councils, various organizations and individuals. The Pope Francis house still needs $8,500 toward its $40,000 goal, he added. Despite the rainy summer, Mizner and Nelson anticipate the home will be done this coming winter.

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