MARION — Despite John A. Logan College Construction Management Technologies program being in summer recess, work continues on one of their latest projects;`the building of a Habitat for Humanity house on North Washington Street.

The relationship between the JALC program and Habitat stretches back 17 years. During that time, instructors Mike DeMattei, who recently retired from JALC, and Greg Walker have overseen the construction of 32 Habitat for Humanity homes within the college’s district.

DeMattei and Walker get the architectural plans for the houses from Habitat, as well as the majority of the lumber they use. Then they work with Habitat to construct a house on land donated to Habitat by the city the home is built in.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Deon Colp, president of Williamson County Habitat for Humanity, said.

Students from JALC's Construction Management program assemble a Habitat for Humanity House in Marion. Deon Colp for Habitat for Humanity

“The city ends up with a new built home that pays taxes to the community where there once was a vacant lot, a deserving family gets an affordable home, and students get hands-on experience,” he said.

Colp said his organization has a wonderful relationship with Home Depot, Stotlar Lumber in Marion and Southside Lumber in Herrin, all of which donate building materials to the organization.

While the work and materials for the foundation are usually donated by a local masonry company, the frames and trusses for all the houses are built on campus at JALC.

Once assembled, the students take the frames and trusses down in sections and transport them to the building site. At the site, a daily crew comprised of 15 to 20 students joins the sections, raises the trusses, and does all the other work necessary to finish a house.

DeMattei said the program has 40 to 50 students at any given time, but to have them all at the building site would be impractical. However, in the workshop at the college, that level of personnel allows the program to finish all the framing work in record time. 

Deon Colp (left), president of Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County, speaks with Mike DeMattei and Greg Walker of the John A. Logan College Applied Technology and Construction Management program in the latest home the organization is building in Marion. The Southern File Photo

“Mike’s classes generally spend four hours per week for four weeks and have a finished product ready to transport,” Walker said. “In those classes it’s all hands on deck. That’s what allows us to be so efficient.”

Walker said that many of the students in the program will go into management positions, so building these houses may be the last time they wear a tool belt professionally.

“They may not always admit it, but these projects make a huge impact on the student’s lives as well. It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives."

JALC graduate Hanna Jenkins worked with classmates to help construct another home on South Holland Street in Marion in 2005.

“It’s such a great feeling to know that while learning we were also doing something good for someone,” she said.

DeMattei said one of the things that is great about their program is the mix of non-traditional to traditional students.

“Nontraditional students are there for a very specific reason and bring a great level of focus to what they are doing. To have a bunch of seasoned workers alongside a bunch of younger people really keeps a great balance in the classes.”

Walker said the program is very accessible to a nontraditional student and the program has many people retraining from other fields.

“In the completion of a construction management degree, many of our students have the opportunity to work on as many as four houses. These students take great pride in putting that on their resumes when they graduate. “

When complete, this particular three-bedroom, two-bath, house will be home to a single mom and her three teenage sons, the oldest of which has been regularly helping the construction crews.

“Each family must contribute at least 200 hours of ‘sweat equity’ work to the project to qualify for the home,” Colp said.

Additionally, the families make monthly payments on a 20- to 25-year interest-free home loan they are given by the organization.

Colp said the vast majority of those families would never have been able to afford to own a home of their own any other way.


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