Habitat buzz grows with each pair of hands

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Aside from a truck or two parked out front, the house at 738 Smith St., looks a bit vacant at 8:10 a.m. Saturday.

Like most constructions sites, the front yard isn&8217;t as much of a yard as it is a patch of sand.

The granular carpet of sand looks deceptively solid until the weight of a boot carrying a middle-aged frame strikes down.

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Stepping up the front steps and into the house, still no signs of life.

Then a noise stirs in a back room. Walking down the hall a stranger (who turns out to be Luther Cain, a wiz with a table saw, a measuring tape and a pencil). Introductions are made and a muffled, yet familiar, voice sends out a greeting from within an unfinished closet.

The voice belongs to Andrew Calvit, a legendary giving soul who blesses the community each day.

Calvit works for Atmos Energy by day, but any minute he&8217;s not at work, he&8217;s working for other causes, including the Natchez chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

From total silence, the sounds rattling through the house begin to grow from just a few conversations and directions to a cacophony of sounds, each new volunteer who arrives picks up another tool and the sounds grow.

At the height of the noise, approximately a dozen or so volunteers are working in several rooms. All of those hands are greatly needed and appreciated.

In the kitchen, a table saw shrieks to life as Cain creates a set of custom cabinets, which, even unfinished, easily surpass the store-bought variety.

In the laundry room, an electric drill occasionally interrupts the slow noise of drywall being sanded. The men installing the house&8217;s electrical system used the drill to bring the supply wires into the breaker box.

In another room, joint compound is slathered onto drywall seams and into nail holes. Walls in another room are being wiped down before a coat of primer is applied.

All of these hands and the sounds their work produces are necessary because building a house is a considerable undertaking. Doing it with volunteer labor is downright baffling.

While some of the volunteer workers come just for a group outing or perhaps just to work on the house that will house a friend, co-worker or relative.

But a small handful is there almost every week and that group has been involved in helping provide new housing through Habitat for years.

Calvit is currently the president of the local Habitat chapter. He and a handful of other regular volunteers including Stanford &8220;Buddy&8221; Rayne and Duncan McFarlane spend hundreds and hundreds of hours each year helping provide affordable housing for low-income residents.

The current construction project is the ninth house for the Natchez chapter of Habitat since it was formed in 1991.

Habitat house owners help in the building process by providing &8220;sweat equity&8221; and then by paying for the remainder of the house with a no-profit, zero-interest loan.

Habitat volunteers say they almost always could use more of two things: volunteer labor and money.

To volunteer call 601-446-6061 or e-mail


To contribute money to Habitat, send it to: Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 100, Natchez MS 39121.

For the regulars who devote much of their time, hearts and sweat to the project, the reason is simple: it&8217;s a labor of love.

&8220;I just wake up every morning and try to help people,&8221; Calvit said.

And before 8:10 a.m. Saturday morning, he and other volunteers were well on their way.

Kevin Cooper

is associate publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or