Volunteers resume projects after months off due to pandemic

July 23, 2020  Eagle Tribune

ANDOVER — It’s one thing keeping things sanitized indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. Imagine trying to do the same at a construction site with dozens of volunteer workers coming and going from week to week.

That’s just what Habitat for Humanity is managing to do at its construction site on Lupine Road in Andover and another site in Salisbury, where the COVID-19 pandemic has kept large volunteer groups away for about four months.

Recently, corporate groups started coming back to work at the Lupine Road construction site, but not without a lot of preparation, said Habitat’s volunteer coordinator Alexandra “Howie” Howard.

“Everyone is wearing masks, which gets a little hot in this weather,” she said. “We are disinfecting all the tools with bleach solutions. We’ve got hand sanitizers everywhere and require regular hand washing. It took us a couple weeks to get it all in there. It’s been a slow process to make sure everybody is safe.”

The result of the shutdown caused by the pandemic is that the homes are about four months behind schedule. They had been originally scheduled to be ready by early fall, but the first of two duplexes probably won’t be done until late fall. The other probably won’t be ready until early next year, she said.

Fortunately, a crew of five or six of the most experienced workers were able to get a lot done at the site during the pandemic, working more or less on their own and keeping socially distant.

They put the roof on one of the houses to keep it from being exposed to the weather.

“That was our goal, to get the roof on,” she said.

Starting last week, the number of volunteers allowed on site has risen from five or six to 16.

“We are limiting the number of people on site, keeping corporate groups to around eight or 10 people, and matching them with six or seven of the regulars,” she said.

Making things easier, in terms of social distancing, is that a lot of the work is being done outside on exterior portions of the homes, with just a one or two specialists working inside at a time — with the windows open.

“We are trying to get our families into their homes,” she said.

At Lupine Road there are actually three duplexes: two being built by Habitat for Humanity and a third being built by Andover Community Trust.

The south house, Howard said, should be done later this year or early next year. It has two units, top and bottom.

The north house, she said, is two months behind, but should be done in early fall. It is a front-back duplex.

The units have all been sold to families, all of whom have had a role in building the homes, part of the organization’s “sweat equity” policy of having homeowners work on their own properties.

She said the homes, which are three-bedroom and two baths, are selling around $185,000 each. Under the terms of the agreement, the properties must remain permanently affordable.

“We’re picking up the pace and going full-steam ahead,” Howard said.

Carl Russo/Staff Photo Eagle Tribune