By Patty Booth O’Neill
It was an impressive sight and was a site of pride on Saturday morning at 10:30 as local dignitaries amassed in the parking lot of the old Long Branch High School.
But the students had already been there since 7am working diligently on the Habitat for Humanity house, constructing bare bones of walls out of 2x4s, then sending the shells to another area where more students hammered on sheets of plywood.
From there the finished structures were piled onto a tractor trailer, ready for the two-story home to be erected on Seventh Ave. They returned on Sunday and repeated the process all over again.
The idea of teaming up with Habitat for Humanity was the brainchild of Dennis O’Keefe, a Long Branch High School teacher and the Project Lead the Way monitor.
Project Lead the Way is a civil engineering program at the high school where students apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to solve complex, open-ended problems in a real-world context.
Habitat for Humanity in Monmouth County (HFHMC) were there for the two-day kick-off for the House that Youth Built Project.
The event began with the presentation of colors by the High School Jr. Air Force ROTC. Morgan O’Neal lead the flag salute then Rafaela Saude and Gloria Santon sang the National Anthem.
Many dignitaries spoke to the proud parents and students including Superintendent Michael Salvatore; Ray Gabler, Executive Director for HFH Monmouth County; Mayor Adam Schneider and Nancy Doran, President HFH Monmouth County. While Gabler addressed the crowd a representative from Walmart approached the podium and presented him with a $25,000 check towards the project.
Barbara Durchak told the people how she and her husband started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity sixteen years ago in Long Branch and how she loves the work.
Some parents were so moved by the event they also donated money, and some donated their time, signing up to work on the house which will begin on site in April.
“This is amazing, one impressed parent commented. “For the rest of their lives, when these students pass that house they will know they had a hand in building it.”
HFHMC has been accepting applications for the home to be located in Long Branch. The chosen partner family, will purchase the home with a 0 percent interest mortgage and complete “sweat equity” hours to work alongside students and volunteers to build their home.
It was also a proud moment for Long Branch Superintendent Michael Salvatore. “You are going to remember this day forever,” he told the students. “You’re going to remember swinging the hammer, putting together and creating something you never imagined you could create.”
For more information visit www.habitatmonmouth.org.