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January 20, 2014

Kaiser Permanente volunteers help build Habitat for Humanity homes in west Modesto to honor MLK Day

Several dozen volunteers participated in the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. For the past decade, Kaiser Permanente Central Valley’s physicians and staff have partnered with Habitat for Humanity in home building projects.

Corwin Harper spent Monday using a power saw, cutting up pieces of wood that will be used to build homes for low-income families in west Modesto. Volunteering and helping others is his way of honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

“Much is given; much is required,” said Harper, senior vice president and area manager at Kaiser Permanente Central Valley. “Today, I just want to do my part to honor him.”

He and several dozens of his colleagues participated in the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. For the past decade, Kaiser Permanente Central Valley’s physicians and staff have partnered with Habitat for Humanity in home-building projects.

This year, the group of volunteers put together the wood framing for three single-story houses in the River Vista subdivision, along Sunset Avenue, just west of John Thurman Field. Habitat for Humanity’s Stanislaus County chapter has already moved two deserving families into homes there and plans to move in six more through the end of next year.

Kaiser’s volunteers saw just concrete foundations when they arrived Monday morning. By noon, they had erected the framing on one home and were working together to put up the walls on the two others. It’s their second year building homes in the River Vista subdivision, so they’ve seen the neighborhood sprout up from nothing but dirt.

Lola Aceves of Modesto hopes to move into one of these homes someday with her 7-year-old twins, Jesse and Jasmine. She spent Monday hammering nails into what will become someone’s home.

“It’s a blessing; it’s heartwarming,” Aceves said about the Kaiser volunteers who joined her. “I can imagine the feeling now of what it will be like when the keys are handed to me.”

The nonprofit organization chooses low-income families to buy the houses on the criteria of work ethic, family stability, credit history and need. The chosen family must put 500 hours of “sweat equity” into the remodeling or building. They are joined by Habitat construction crews and volunteers who put in new windows, doors, roofing, floors, electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning.

In previous years, Kaiser volunteers have helped Habitat crews build 20 homes in the Hope Village housing subdivision near Houser Lane in west Modesto.

Like Harper, Bill King has spent the holiday for the past 10 years building homes with Kaiser Permanente. He said the day is a great time to find ways to serve the community. The physicians and staff are asked to bring their families and friends to help with the home building. This year, King even recruited his next-door neighbor.

Working in unison with other volunteers, King helped raise the wall of one of the homes Monday. It’s what the volunteers consider a small moment of glory as they erect the home’s structure.

“The joy is in the teamwork,” said King, a Kaiser assistant physician in chief for Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals in Modesto and Manteca.

The holiday has become a family tradition for Scott and Kathy Harris. This year, they could only bring along five of their children to volunteer; their oldest is attending California State University, Chico.

The Harris family had its own wall-building squad. Although they didn’t get to raise any walls Monday, they shared in the satisfaction in building a home from scratch.

“Framing is always fun to do,” said Scott Harris, director of occupational medicine and employee health for Kaiser. “When you come in with nothing, then you see it starting to come together.”

They’ve participated in the Day of Service for the past nine years and hope their children continue the tradition with their own families.

“It’s just a way to give back to the community and have our kids see us do it,” Kathy Harris said.

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