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Habitat for Humanity honors volunteers, progresses with next build

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The Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity knows the importance of keeping volunteers happy.

Throughout the past couple of decades, the agency has utilized expertise of local business people during their off-hours and people who wanted to spend free time more meaningfully, to help build 21 homes for families who otherwise might not have been able to obtain a home through a traditional, conventional loan.

“That’s what’s critical to keep our costs down to make our houses affordable,” said Lynn K. Morgan, the agency’s part-time executive director. “With volunteers, we don’t have to hire the work out. We do hire out some people, like for the foundation, roof, plumbing and dry wall. Other than that, it’s donation of labor, materials, or both. Our partner families pay for exactly what it is to build the house.”

The agency honored its volunteers — about 150 — at a recognition dinner Thursday at the Bruce M. Wright Memorial Conference Center, 1291 Faichney Drive, for their hard work throughout the year, Ms. Morgan said. Individual community members, youth groups, church groups, Fort Drum soldiers, and high school honor societies are among the many volunteers.

After Brian R. Drappo ends his 60-hour work week as a fire inspector with the Fort Drum Fire Department, he puts in upwards of 18 hours volunteering with Habitat. He also is the agency’s Building Committee chairman.

“I grew up in construction because of my dad’s business,” he said. “I like building things, knowing it leaves a visual impact in the community. The nice thing I like about Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity is there’s no minimum; people help as much as they can. There’s nothing that mandates you being there.”

He said the love of helping neighbors is what keeps him coming back, and also working alongside his father, Paul, and brothers Scott and Dan on some of the builds. The senior Mr. Drappo brings his expertise from owning his own business, Space Age Pools, and having his own tractor and dump truck.

“We don’t do it for the accolades,” Brian Drappo said.

Ms. Morgan said agency board members also thank volunteers for their time and continued passion by offering free lunch during construction. A family recently moved into 1130 Superior St., which was just completed this summer. The next build has already begun at 123 E. Lynde St.

“The foundation will be poured this fall,” she said. “We have radiant heat. The plumbing and heating system are all in the concrete.”

The Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity will again utilize Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services carpentry students to build prefabricated walls throughout the winter, which shrinks build time. In the spring, there will be a blitz build weekend, with a goal of getting the entire house framed in just two days.

Ms. Morgan said the agency has yet to select a family for the one-story, three-bedroom house. Many people on the potential partner family list need a four-bedroom house, or larger, she said. Partner families must also volunteer their time, in the form of sweat equity, to help build their home.

To apply to become a partner family, or to become a volunteer, people may visit www.tiahabitat.org.

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