From the East High Class of '83 . . .

Building Habitat house more fun than class reunion
Jul. 12, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Building a house is more fun than a high school class reunion, said a member of the East Rutherford High School Class of 1983.

Teachers, a minister, a dentist, a principal and a Calvin Klein fashion coordinator from the Class of '83 have been in Hopeview Estates this week in Spindale, working on Habitat for Humanity houses.

Former class president, Forrest White, is the group's leader and the instigator posting a message on Facebook asking classmates to join him at the Habitat construction site this week. 

"I haven't seen him since we walked across the stage 30 years ago," class member Mitchel Hopper said of White. 

But the Facebook call to help build a house in the community was reason enough for Hopper to join the building team.

"This is so much better than a class reunion," said Hopper. "There you just come and say good-bye.Here you can to stay and visit."

The team plans to continue working through Saturday. White said at some time during the four-day project he is hoping to have 15 to 20 classmates helping.

White, who lives in Richmond, Va. and works with Serve Ministries, said he returned home recently after working with a Habitat for Humanity group in South Palm Beach, Fla.

"I lead Habitat teams, six or eight a year," White said.

 When coming home from Florida the thought came to him to get his former East classmates together for the building project. "I thought this would a way to give back to the community," White said.

After posting the suggestion on Facebook, classmates responded and have been in Spindale working on the 68th and 69th Habitat homes.

Joining White on Thursday were Hopper of York, S.C., Jo Oliver of Forest City, Melanie Duncan of Charlotte and Melissa Wilson of Shelby. 

"We've all been successful and we wanted to give back," Hopper said.

Before joining the Serve Ministries, White was a reporter at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and at the Post-Courier in Charleston, S.C. 

Duncan works with Calvin Klein Men's Wear in Charlotte; Hopper teaches school at Lewisville Middle School; Wilson teaches school in Cleveland County and Oliver is the principal at East Rutherford Middle School.

"I believe in the mission of Habitat," White said. "The sweat equity, people coming together to make the house their home, I love this work."

White has worked in the Birmingham, Ala., Habitat community, which is one of the top five in the country.

"They are on the best," he said, adding he would would put Rutherford County's Habitat chapter in high esteem.

Douglas Bailey, Habitat's construction coordinator agreed.

"It's the best," Bailey said, as he joined the group in their building efforts. 

With the exception of White, no other classmates have ever worked on a Habitat house before this week.

"I've never done this," Duncan said. "I do work around the house . . .but not building."

"I have never worked on a Habitat house," Oliver added. "For the first time in my life I laid floor joist yesterday."

She said with a good leader and good directions they were able to do the job.

Habitat volunteer Carl Parton was the group's leader on Wednesday as he instructed them on the floor joists. 

Oliver, Wilson, Tyra Jones, Christine Hull and Dee Dee Griffith-Bright completed the floor joist job.

Wilson said working on the house has taught her there are some things she can do now, she never thought she could.

"This has really been cool," Wilson said.

"It has helped build self-esteem," White added.

Bailey said volunteer Jerry Jones, who died in a car accident just a month ago, would have also helped out this week.

"He would have been here. He was always here in a minute's notice," Bailey said quietly.

White said the Class of '83 has lost several of its classmates to death and the Habitat project was also to honor them.

"We want this to be an annual event," White said. "And maybe someday we can build an entire home here."

Volunteers were be at the location today and Saturday to complete their week's volunteer jobs.

Oliver, who had to return to her job today at East Middle, said the Class of '83 is challenging other classes in Rutherford County to become a part of the Habitat volunteer teams.

"Habitat has been blessed tremendously to have groups that are willing to give of their time so effortlessly," said Executive Director Kim Freeman. "We accomplish so much because of wonderful volunteers like Forrest White and the others from East Rutherford Class reunion of '83."

Freeman agreed with Oliver, asking others to take the challenge the Class of '83 has offered in building homes for low-income families in Rutherford County.