by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Houses can’t be built in a day, either.

“But it’s amazing what you can get done one day a week with a group of volunteers,” George Searle said.

Searle is organizer of Bethel Presbyterian Church’s sixth house build in 10 years, a project for Cornelius resident Katrina Patterson and her three children. Searle and a team of volunteers from the church and the community started building Patterson’s house last October.

The house will be dedicated Feb. 17 and Patterson will move into the house in late February.

She applied to be a Habitat-supported homeowner two years ago and was accepted into the program to receive a home.

“My kids are excited and ready to move,” she said. “They’re ready for an environment where they can play. Just knowing people care is an awesome thing to me. You wouldn’t think people who didn’t know you would care so much to come out and build it.”

Bethel Presbyterian’s group worked Saturdays, “rain, shine or cold weather,” Searle said, to finish the job in time. The last volunteer day was Jan. 19.

“We feel there’s a need for housing in the Cornelius and north Mecklenburg areas,” he said. We wanted to make sure, despite the last few years being tough that we could make a commitment to this.”

Searle said the project for Patterson and her children was long process, beginning with securing funds and keeping the cause alive in the congregation. Habitat for Humanity worked with the volunteer group, which Searle said fluctuated between 15-20 people depending on the week, to provide lessons and all construction equipment needed to do the job.

Volunteers arrived at 7:45 a.m. on Saturdays and worked until 1 p.m.

“The great thing about it is you don’t have to have any (construction) skill when you arrive,” Searle said. “If you need to learn something the Habitat leaders help you through it. It’s all about following directions and working together to achieve whatever the goal of the day may be.”

Searle said one of the most satisfying aspects of building a house for a local resident was the feeling volunteers get when the project is finished. Another benefit, he added, was the opportunity to make new friends by working alongside volunteers.

“I had no idea how to do anything related to building a house before we started house builds,” Searle said. “I used the lessons I learned from Habitat to build a deck on the back of my house.”

Patterson worked alongside the volunteers to help build the house she’ll soon inhabit with her children.

“It taught me a lot about houses,” she said. “I learned about plumbing, flooring, things I wouldn’t have known.”

Will Patterson have an emotional moment when she moves in?

“It hasn’t really fully hit me yet,” she said. “After we actually cut the banner, I’ll probably break down.”