Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

14 from SMC volunteer for Elkhart County Habitat ‘Women Build’

05/10/2018 - 4pm
SMC women volunteered on a house taking shape in Bristol, Ind.

Southwestern Michigan College contributed 14 students, alumni and faculty to Elkhart County Habitat for Humanity’s “Women Build” April 28, supporting grateful new volunteer coordinator Victoria Knight.

Knight, who graduated with her associate degree in construction trades green technology from SMC on May 5, now continues through Ferris State University to a business administration degree. The Niles resident had been working for Big C Lumber, but left that job to join Goshen-based Habitat April 17.

The 2018 Women Build runs until May 31 to construct a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on County Road 8 in Bristol for Belinda Alonso, her three children and her mother.

Women work in groups of 12-15, four days a week (8 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday) for 20 days, so roughly 250 women are needed to complete the project on time.

“We have high schoolers, corporations and retired people come out,” Knight said. “Ninety-five percent of the volunteers are women. Nationally, it’s Women Build Week. Other builds later in the year have other focuses.”

Knight volunteered for the 2017 Women Build with fellow graduate Carlyn McClelland of Elkhart. While at SMC the women combined for $9,000 in Work Ethic Scholarships from Mike Rowe’s foundation, mikeroweWORKS.

Knight is succeeding the retiring Molly Prime as volunteer coordinator. Ironically, “I interviewed her at a job site for my business class about her background, what she does and how she got this position,” Knight said. “Never did I think, ‘Hey, I want to take your spot one day.’”

While newly-minted SMC graduates McClelland, Ileona Geroux and Shawnee Gunnett are among the volunteers, “Others had never touched a hammer. Business students, art students, SMC alumni like Tori Hunt, who graduated Saturday in human resources from Ferris State. Hannah Horst still takes classes at Ferris in Dowagiac. I played sports with those two in high school. Then I saw Deirdre Kurtis walk up; I remember having her as a biology instructor,” Knight said.

“SMC put up blue sheeting on the outside of the house,” Knight said. “Two-by-fours (green-tipped for interior walls) and two-by-sixes (red-tipped for exterior walls) were already constructed. We also had to put OSB boards in the corners for structural durability when the roof goes on. Fourteen people is enough, but it takes all day and is tiring. The manager had our team start building the porch. Girls who have never touched a power tool in their life get really excited. You could tell they were having fun and want to come back.”

Knight is happy she landed a position that gives her life purpose and enables her “to be on-site watching stuff I learned in class get put together. Next week we should start plumbing, electrical and dry wall. If you find a job you love, it’s not really a job. It’s so much better. Having SMC volunteers helped me adjust to this job and feel comfortable” as Habitat’s youngest employee.

A 2013 Brandywine High School graduate, Knight interned with Barton Malow during the recent University of Notre Dame Crossroads stadium project. In March 2017 Knight also launched her own business, Resferber Restorations. “I get my real estate license next month,” she said.