Members of the local building community come together
for the fourth time to create a home in just one week.
A home on the Cape: that is the dream of so many. The dream takes root with families who excitedly anticipate two weeks every summer in a familiar rental. It blooms in full color with retirees who envision creating a family legacy for generations to come. And the dream is all too real for so many everyday Cape Codders who invest their efforts into the local community. These are people who have such a great appreciation for the region that their commitment to live here and raise their families here outweighs more sensible options on the other side of the bridge. Yet, the reality of finding affordable housing solutions—housing that also allows them to invest in what has historically become Americans’ greatest source of personal wealth—is an increasingly difficult scenario.
This past September, the Cape’s local building organization, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Cape Cod (HBRACC), came together and joined forces to successfully build a home for one deserving family in just one week under the Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod’s Blitz Build program. It was the fourth time the organization has executed the phenomenal efforts that are impressive enough before considering the feat is accomplished in just five short (in reality long) days. But, the efforts behind the frenzied week of activity are a result of a year’s investment of time, energy, resources and vision by a dedicated group of local professionals. A committee of nearly twenty individuals from Habitat and HBRACC meet regularly to coordinate, plan and execute the myriad of details involved in building a home in one week, and largely donated in terms of materials and labor. HBRACC’s Executive Officer, Chris Flanagan says, “I’m fairly new in my position at HBRACC, but from the beginning, the scope of what the committee is undertaking has been completely amazing to me. Each and every member donated so much time and energy to this endeavor, not to mention the endorsement of their respective companies that allowed them to make this commitment. I think people would be surprised to see how much work went into the planning and preparation of such a worthy project.”
Meet some of the Cape Cod Blitz Build Committee members that volunteered their time, energy and expertise to successfully build a home for a deserving family in one week.
Principal, A.P. Kimball Construction
Kimball, who is the current President of the HBRACC Board, has been involved since the beginning. “Vicki Goldsmith, the executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod, made a presentation at a monthly HBRACC meeting in 2012, and she laid out the concept of a Blitz Build to see if she could generate interest from either an individual or various members—most Blitz Builds around the country are sponsored by a singular company. In this case, it was clear that the membership could really make a difference, particularly if we all worked together,” Kimball reflects. “Without the commitment of time, personnel and donations obtained from the businesses in the local building industry, these four Blitz Builds could never have happened.” Kimball has also served on the Habitat Board of Directors for five years and recognizes the valuable contribution the Habitat organization provides to the community. “Its impact on the housing situation is unique since they offer home ownership, instead of just rent subsidies like other programs. As a result, they are enabling the recipients to really participate in the dream of home ownership and contribution to a community.”
Account Manager, Mid-Cape Home Centers
Miner, who volunteered in 2017 during the last Blitz, served as the Committee Chair this time. “Committee Chair is really about helping with the organization of the build, supporting sub-committees, as well as the months of preparation that lead up to the final week,” she explains. “What was key was having people on board that have done this in prior years. Like learning a trade, it goes more smoothly if you have mentors guiding you, the process is less daunting and far more understandable.” Miner cites perseverance as one of the committee’s greatest strengths. “All of the participants—particularly those that come back build after build—have busy schedules and a livelihood to protect. So, getting people to commit to meetings that span a year and then one intensive week requires determination to meet the demands of the end goal.”
Project Manager, Cape Associates
“Peter Kimball asked me to serve as Project Manager for this Blitz Build. I absolutely said yes,” Ducott says. “I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew it was a great opportunity.” Despite the mammoth challenge at hand, by all accounts Ducott successfully managed the project without any significant pitfalls. “I never really felt overwhelmed, or at least when it seemed like that might be the case, I always knew I had resources that I could turn to in order to solve a problem or overcome the challenge at hand.” Ducott, who works for Cape Associates, an established building company on the Cape, is used to dealing with demands and obstacles when fulfilling homeowners’ dreams, but with the Blitz Build, the challenges of organizing scores of businesses, hundreds of volunteers and an unimaginable timeline, she found strengths and capabilities she never knew she possessed.
Principal, White Wood Kitchens
O’Rourke, who volunteered for the first Blitz Build in 2013 and served as committee chair for the second in 2015 and as project manager in 2017 and 2019, is a welcome sight for many who have become part of the Blitz. Always armed with a smile, an undeterrable attitude, and a contact list full of people willing to cash her favors, O’Rourke easily represents the heart of the project, even going as far as donating a kitchen from her own company. She says the housing situation on the Cape affects her as well as her company very personally, “Most of my staff live and work on the Cape, but most of them can’t afford to buy a home here. They are building people’s dreams, but their own is out of reach.” O’Rourke recognizes the far-reaching impact of creating communities for the local work force when she says, “Building homes for Habitat is a direct extension of the service we, as trade professionals, already do on the Cape; we are perpetuating pride of home ownership.” The collaborative atmosphere of the project, that replaces an otherwise competitive vibe continually amazes O’Rourke. “I think one of the most exciting parts about the build is having all of these competitors all in one place, working side-by-side. The person in charge of plastering might need to bring in five other plasterers from companies other than his own just to get the job done. It’s a very small community and we are ordinarily a very competitive industry, but for one week, everyone works together.”
Outside Sales, Shepley Wood Products
Jalbert has been involved with three Blitz Builds, but this was his first time serving as a committee member. “Habitat is a great partner of Shepley’s, and we help them out with all of the homes they build, but the Blitz Build is definitely different,” Jalbert says. Jalbert, a native Cape Codder and second-generation member of the Cape building industry, is also a Habitat board member and personally understands the challenges for first-time homeowners on the Cape. “Having grown up on the Cape and then returning after college, I wasn’t sure I would be able to stay and raise a family here,” he says. “My wife and I lived with my parents for a few years in order to save, and ultimately, we were lucky enough to find a home we could afford. But, we recognize that we are very lucky.” Jalbert also notes the invaluable contribution Shepley’s valued partners are able to make to the Blitz due to their business history.
Marketing Director, Mid-Cape Home Centers
Tasked with coordinating the social media for the Blitz Build, Pieschel says that her efforts spawned unexpected benefits for the project. “Our social media started out as a way to bring awareness to the generous sponsors and thank them for their participation leading up to the Blitz,” Pieschel explains. “During Blitz week, we were able to post videos to show the rapid transformation, but we also found the immediate power of social media could solve problems we encountered. For example, a call-out for help or a product would be fulfilled very quickly.” Mid-Cape Home Centers was also unique in that they didn’t leverage support from their vendor partners, instead, Mid-Cape themselves made a sizable donation including the lumber needs for the project, delivery of unwieldy items and of course, the labor donation from people like Pieschel and Committee Chair Linda Miner.
Outside Sales, Pella Windows and Doors
This was Florence’s first experience with Blitz as he served on the committee. His position at Pella Windows provides a strong relationship with builders across the Cape, so he was tasked with coordinating the donated labor for the intensive week of building. “It was great that my company allowed me to dedicate the time and energy to the committee. The builders were amazing to donate the time of their employees,” he says. Florence, also reflects that the collaboration is a completely unexpected benefit. “I was amazed at how everyone involved was wholly committed to this project,” he says. “We were all working toward the same end for this one goal. It was pretty amazing.”
One year, scores of meetings, miles of spreadsheets, hundreds of requests for donations, countless volunteers, five long days and at the very end, one grateful family.
To learn more about the Cape Cod Blitz Build, visit blitzbuildcapecod.com and follow Habitat for Humanity and the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod on instagram @habitatforhumanity and @capecodbuilder
For coverage of previous Blitz’s check out other Cape Cod Life articles here!