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Old hospital site gains three more Habitat houses; helpers turn out

Old hospital site gains three more Habitat houses; helpers turn out

May 14, 2017 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

As redevelopment of the old Riverton hospital property continues in east Riverton, more than 80 volunteers put in the time and muscle needed to lay 10,000 square feet of sod and build 500 feet of privacy fence in a busy eight hours on three new houses in Riverton built by Habitat for Humanity.

The organization counts on the in-kind efforts dozens of local groups, businesses, student and adult volunteers, and families every time a foundation is set, said Andy Eckart, board president and job supervisor for Habitat for Humanity.

"This will probably be one of the biggest, short-term renovations that the city has seen," Eckart said, specifically about the May 6 community event.

All ages

Age doesn't matter when there's work that needs to be done. Kyla Olson, age 2, followed 4-year-old brother Cooper Olson as he laid out sod and unrolled it. She watched what her brother did and mimicked his exact technique.

Members of the Riverton Rotary Club did the same at a different house. Mick Pryor, Heidi Coulson and Julie Watts worked quickly to lay the sod, piece by piece. Just a few feet away, Christina Castro and her children, Sierra, Brandon and Sammatha Castro carried and unrolled sod. The Castros one of the three families who will occupy a new house.

The new homeowners are required to invest at least 500 hours of labor in preparing their new houses, Eckart said, noting that there are no complaints and always a willingness to help.

"It creates a connection between the homeowner and the house," Eckart said. "Most of them wind up doing more than the 500 hours."

Business contributions

The City of Riverton provided a great deal on the costs associated with the lot and permits, Eckart said, including the donation of compost and wood chips.

The Soldier's House of Fremont County provided food for the volunteer crew. Businesses including Ace Hardware, A.D. Martin Lumber, and Clark's Meat House in Riverton, Home Depot in Casper, and the Turf Master Sod Farm provided affordable prices and deals on materials.

The Riverton Kiwanis Club and Habitat for Humanity staff also helped.

"It really is a community event," Eckart said. "It creates pride in the neighborhood."

Job Corps helpers

About a dozen Wind River Job Corps students used what they have been learning in class to do hands-on work at the site over the past few weeks as well.

Eckart said four skilled-trade programs from Job Corps were represented on site, with about a dozen students to help do a variety of jobs.

They did preparatory work such as digging holes for the fence posts and trenching the sprinkler system.

Eckart said Habitat for Humanity paid only for the fuel to run machinery and materials.

"That's huge in savings," he said.

Carpentry instructor Rick Browning was accompanied by four students who were ready to dig holes and place posts.

New houses

Families fill out a special loan application to determine their eligibility for the houses. If selected, the home mortgage ends up being what it costs to build the house, Eckart said, while volunteer work helps keep the cost down.

The cost of the lot also is passed down to the homeowner.

The three houses sit on the site of the old Riverton Memorial Hospital, which sat empty for more than 20 years after the hospital was abandoned in 1983.

There now are four houses on the lot, one of which is the original Habitat for Humanity house there.

The three newer homes were built by the Riverton High School geometry in construction class, with instructor Len Abernathy supervising.

A fourth new structure remains under construction at Riverton High School. When it's completed, there will be 10 Habitat for Humanity houses in Riverton across several locations.

Habitat for Humanity also has built two houses in Shoshoni, one in Lander, two in Arapahoe, two in Fort Washakie and one in Pavilion.

"The mission is to help provide homes at an affordable price for people that might not be able to do so otherwise," Eckart said.

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