Some of King’s ideals are alive and well in Nevada
Special to the Appeal
Last Friday, April 4, marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. A few days ago, I viewed the archival news footage of Rev. King’s life, and I realized that he was not only a great orator committed to peace and nonviolence in bringing about social change, but he was also a husband and the father of four young children, whose dream was equality for all children. His message of nonviolence, peace, and a spirit of cooperation still resonate with me today, especially during this time of financial hardship and recession that many families are facing.
Difficult economic times can bring out the worst in people, but last weekend I saw firsthand what a group of committed people can do to empower themselves in fulfilling their dream of home ownership. The JustFaith social justice group that I belong to spent a few hours working at home sites in Dayton that were originally funded through Citizens for Affordable Homes, Inc. On Saturday morning, our group of 21 participants headed out to the housing development in Dayton around 11:30 a.m. On the way, we picked up sandwiches to share with the prospective homeowners, work crews, and volunteers. During the lunch break, we learned that each applicant must work 17 1/2 hours every weekend as part of their sweat equity. The electrical and plumbing jobs are subcontracted out, but the rest of the home construction is on-the-job training. Families, friends and volunteers work on all the homes under construction, which can take up to six months to complete.
After lunch our group broke up into teams of four and were assigned to a work crew for instructions. Secretly, I hoped they would look at me and see a 4 feet 10 inch woman and give me a light-weight job assignment; no such luck – it must have been the tool belt I was wearing. Actually, all the jobs require bending, lifting, and using muscles that most of us don’t use on a daily basis. My friend and I were assigned to pick up and carry boards that were stacked on the ground and instructed to step up onto the foundation and restack them there. It looked easy enough. We picked up the boards, two at a time (what were we thinking) and after we got through about a quarter of the stack, I felt twinges of discomfort in my left hip and my friend’s back started to bother her. Just then, two friends, having completed their assignments, came over to see if they could help. The four of us working together definitely made the job much easier, with two standing on the foundation while the other two handed the boards up to them. Another friend decided she wanted to learn to use a nail gun and quickly got the hang of it – pop, pop, pop, driving the nails into the boards. Never underestimate the power of a woman with a nail gun!
A highlight for everyone working on a house is when a framed wall is completed and approximately 10 people lift it up into place – it’s a real feeling of accomplishment as the house begins to take shape. The men, women and teens on the work site said they gained confidence in their abilities each time they learned and a completed a new task. Measuring, hammering nails, sawing boards, assisting with framing or any of the myriad jobs associated with building a home are all a cooperative effort among the home buyers, whose faces beam with pride knowing their hard work will result in home ownership. The word “neighbor” takes on a whole new meaning for this committed group of people, who work on each others’ homes until they’re all completed. The supervisor for the housing development added that the highlight of the construction project for him is when he hands over the keys to the homeowners, whose tears of joy make it all worthwhile.
Despite experiencing sore muscles the next day, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We were inspired by the families who work so well with each other in pursuit of home ownership and a few of the people in our group look forward to going back and volunteering again.
The Nevada Rural Housing Authority has taken over supervision of the remaining homes being built in Dayton under the Citizens for Affordable Homes, Inc. program, which closed its offices in January.
• Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on timely and timeless issues. Elizabeth Reville is a freelance writer and resident of Carson City.