Thanks to many hours of volunteer help and a couple of local drywall pros from Storm Lake, the ninth Habitat for Humanity House is about a month ahead of schedule. According to Rod Muilenburg with the Habitat building committee, last year they estimate they spent the entire month of September hanging sheetrock alone.
After only two weeks of drywalling the two Tyson employees, Sonny Somphanthabansouk and Douang Vithayasab headed back to work at Tyson Foods after receiving two weeks paid time off from Tyson to work on the project.
"This is a huge job and to have these two guys do it as professionals is great," says Muilenburg. Typically the habitat houses are built by all volunteer help except for some work that requires a professional like electrical work.
"I'm really happy to have the chance to help this lady (Claudia Ramirez)," says Vithayasab. "We're grateful to help," adds Somphanthabansouk. Ramirez is also employed at Tyson Foods. When Vithayasab isn't working at Tyson he says he is building houses. He owns his own construction company, Violet LLC Development with his brother-in-law.
Vitathayasab who spent about ten years in a refugee camp in Lao with his ten siblings with only a small area in which to sleep. He says he builds homes that aren't necessarily fancy but are sufficient and a "nice warm place to stay," he says. He says many of the homes he has built go to families from Tyson or Sara Lee and knows many co-workers who don't have cars and have to walk to work which is especially hard in the winter. Building houses closer to their workplace makes it a little easier for them he says and helps as they many strive to build a better life for their family. "You only live one life," he says.
He has built a handful of houses on Violet Lane, is building a new triplex on Superior Street and has purchased 10 acres of land near the Buddhist Temple with a goal of building more affordable housing. Muilenburg says they are grateful for the volunteer help which has included many hours filled by Tyson employees themselves.
"Tyson has really been a good supporter of this project," Muilenburg says. Kenny Knecht, supervisor at Tyson and a member of the Habitat building committee says Tyson Foods is committed to getting involved in the community. "We're pretty excited one of our team members is going into this house," he says. Ramirez and her four children will be soon moving into their new home. A fundraiser to help complete the home as well as help fund future projects will begin September 16.
Dan Robinson, President of the BV Chapter of Habitat Board says they would also like to break ground for another house which would be located on the lot adjacent of the ninth home, on Tulip Lane.
"We're hoping to have a family and break ground for house ten yet this fall - our hope and plan is to complete two houses in 2009," he says. When they do, this will be the Buena Vista Chapter's tenth house over a period of ten years.