TUCKERTON – Two families are the recipients of brand new homes that are being constructed with help from Habitat for Humanity Southern Ocean chapter volunteers and Ocean County Vo-Tech’s adult education New Home Construction program.
The instructor of the vo-tech program Chris Sullivan explained how the partnership between Habitat and the vo-tech is unique since it allows hands-on training and the homes that are built are actual, permanent homes.
“This is the only program where students build a house and don’t tear it down afterward and put it in a Dumpster,” said Sullivan.
The Habitat for Humanity Southern Ocean chapter and Ocean County Vo-Tech’s New Home Construction program have been working together for eight years now. The partnership began after Superstorm Sandy destroyed the homes in the area, and the need for trained, professional construction workers was great and still is.
The New Home Construction program works simultaneously with a high school year and it prepares its adult students, both young and old, for construction jobs.
“I’ve had a student in his 70s and we usually have some ladies but not his term,” Sullivan noted. Since it’s an adult school, students can come from anywhere in the union. “I had a student from Maryland, but usually they come from all over New Jersey.”
“It’s great for any homeowner,” John O’Connell, a student, stated. O’Connell is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran who is taking the course since he wants to build his own house. “I get to learn the correct way to build things and how they should be built. I’m lucky in that I have the time to do this. My wife has noticed that I’m always happy when I get home from the job.”
Sullivan discussed how the program includes job placement and has placed every participant who has wanted placement.
Since September, volunteers and participants from the program have been preparing the site for the two houses on Marshall Avenue in Tuckerton. The one house constructed by Vo-Tech should be ready by early June, while the four-bedroom family home built by Habitat’s volunteers may be finished before June.
“It’s a misnomer that Habitat gives away houses,” said Sullivan. “Depending on the family, they put up to 600 hours of sweat equity into the house and then they get a mortgage, but it’s a no-interest mortgage.”
On a recent Thursday, 14 students were at the site working on a three-bedroom home. Some students were on the roof, putting in rafters, while others were on the ground, cutting sheathing to nail on the rafters.
According to Sullivan, students must first take a 10-hour OSHA class on safety before doing any on-site construction. In this class they learn CPR, AED preparedness and hand tool and power tool training which are required before coming on the site.
“It’s a great program and we’ve had great success,” said Sullivan. “We were doing a lot of building in Stafford Township, but now they have met their affordable housing quota so now we are building in Tuckerton to help them meet theirs.”