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Building a community as well as homes

By Josh O'Leary , Iowa City Press Citizen

1526 days ago   Article ID# 601164
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Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity

IOWA CITY, IOWA (Iowa City Press Citizen) - Von Miller doesn't live on Aster Avenue, but residents here treat him as though he's their next-door neighbor.

They'll stop to chat with the longtime Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity volunteer when he's working and have even brought lunch out to him and others on his construction crew.

Having helped erect nearly a dozen homes in his 15 years with the group along Aster Avenue, Whispering Prairie Avenue, Indigo Court and Coneflower Court, Miller has played a big role in building this southeast Iowa City neighborhood from the ground up.

"I think it's kind of neat to say, 'Yeah I did that,' or I look at the siding of a house and go, 'Oh no, I didn't do that one,'" he jokes.

Miller was among the volunteers working on a house at 2512 Aster Drive on Saturday, the latest Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity home to take shape in the area. When complete, Oumar and Fatou Diallo and their four children -- refugees of Guinea, Africa -- will call the address home.

The local Habitat chapter has built more than 60 houses since its founding in 1992, and Miller has had a hand in many of those.

Working alongside the families and getting to know the people who will take the keys to the house once it's complete is the most rewarding part for Miller, a retired worker for the U.S. Geological Survey who often puts in 20 to 30 hours a week building Habitat homes.

"I enjoy seeing the little kids' joy when they first come into a house, and they go find their room," Miller said. "When they come in and it's all sticks like this one, they just can't fathom what it's going to look like."

Just last week, Habitat dedicated a home at 2458 Aster Ave., two doors down from the current project. Motasim Ali and Entisar Jafar, a Sudanese couple who has lived in the U.S. for five years, will soon move into that house.

"The dedications are always pretty moving," said Patrick Hughes, a site manager for the local Habitat chapter. "There's a whole little community of Habitat families in this neighborhood in particular."

On Saturday, Miller and Hughes hung and framed doors inside the 1,400 square foot house, which will have four bedrooms. The house is expected to be complete in a little more than a month.

Brian Gullickson, a volunteer with AmeriCorps who has been working on Habitat homes all summer, helped cut and hang sheets of insulation in the garage.

"It's been rewarding to work with the families and get to know them," Gullickson said. "They have a lot of interesting stories."

Copyright 2014 Iowa City Press Citizen   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1526 days ago   Article ID# 601164

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