Eight local families are building their future homes on McCorkle Avenue, and with COVID-19 vaccines now widely available, they’re asking volunteers for help.
The families are providing most of the labor as part of the Brenkle Court self-help affordable housing project organized by the nonprofit Our Town St. Helena. The walls are up, but the families need help with drywall, siding, painting and insulation.
They were hoping to be done this spring, but the lack of volunteer labor — coupled with the poor air quality associated with the wildfires — has put them about four months behind schedule.
“Volunteers have been the real problem because of COVID,” project manager Larry Vermeulen said on Saturday. “The whole concept of a project like this is that the community comes out and helps. Yet public health officials were telling us to stay home.”
The families aren’t totally on their own, with help from their extended families and from weekly volunteers like Tom McBroom and Kevin Leininger.
“I grew up with a hammer in my hand, so I enjoy the work,” said McBroom, who used to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. “And I enjoy the people here. They’re great folks.”
“It’s like an old-fashioned barn-raising where everybody works together,” he added.
The families have also gotten help from the St. Helena United Methodist Church, which has been providing lunch on one Saturday a month for over a year.
On April 17, the church solicited donations from Azteca Market, Sunshine Foods and Villa Corona. Church members also made fruit salad, homemade chocolate cookies and drinks.
This past Saturday, Anai Ortiz and Alicia Salomon clambered up onto a scaffold to paint the side of one of the units.
“This has definitely been a good time,” said Ortiz, who will live in the unit closest to McCorkle. “Painting is a lot more fun than putting up walls. It’s actually very therapeutic.”
Salomon, whose brother is a future Brenkle Court homeowner, disagreed. She said she enjoyed wielding a hammer and nails to frame the walls.
“This is still nice, but you have to be very precise, and I’m not really that type of person,” she said as she painted.
Volunteers who are willing to work a shift as short as four hours should email Vermeulen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or email@example.com.