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Heat, humidity doesn't stop construction of Habitat home in Mississippi Dunes development

More than 20 Renewal by Andersen employees, retired and current, and several Augustana Lutheran Church volunteers worked through the heat last week to install a roof on a Habitat for Humanity home. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 3
More than 20 current and retired Renewal by Andersen employees braved three of the hottest days of the summer last to install a roof over a town home in Mississippi Dunes. The build is part of a three-year Habitat for Humanity project. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 3
Robie Gudyangen, employee at Renewal by Andersen, readies a board for drilling last week in the interior of a home being built by Habitat for Humanity. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 3

With temperatures in the high 90s last week, Habitat for Humanity volunteers learned a whole new meaning of the phrase sweat equity.

Since breaking ground in May, more than 20 area businesses, churches and volunteer groups have strapped on tool belts, donned bright orange hard hats and walked scaffolding to construct the first Habitat for Humanity homes in Cottage Grove.

Most recently, employees from Renewal by Andersen in Cottage Grove ditched their offices for three days of labor intensive construction work last week, installing a roof on two attached town homes being built in the Mississippi Dunes development. Along with help from members from Augustana Lutheran Church, sheathing and roof trusses were installed.

Since becoming involved in the company-wide build more than 18 years ago, Susan Roeder, who is the Andersen Corporate Foundation's vice president, said the company has been part of more than 50 builds in the Twin Cities area.

"Being in the housing industry, it's something wonderful to know how your products help others and be able to install them yourself," she said. "It's a pay-it-forward mentality."

With the window company located roughly one mile from the Habitat for Humanity build site, Roeder said it was an easy choice to partner with the nonprofit.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity site supervisor Erik Johnson, who has been part of more than 30 builds in the six years he has been with the organization, said bringing a functional home to a new community is what the organization is all about.

"It's always wonderful to be able to expand to a new community," he said. "It's a blessing for these families that get to move into a new home and it benefits the community as well. Folks get these homes and work in the area and also give back to other local builds."

Families that qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home are required to put several hundred hours of sweat equity into their home and other volunteer builds, a key provision that keeps the nonprofit alive.

Working alongside his employees was Renewal by Andersen President Paul Delahunt, who said partnering with Habitat for Humanity fosters both a team-oriented work environment and gets his workers giving back to their community.

"It's something that we've been part of for years and it's an important company cause to be involved with," Delahunt said, adding that even retired Andersen employees are still involved with builds.

Churches, businesses helping on project

Throughout the next several months, area congregation members of Rose of Sharon Lutheran Church, All Saints Lutheran Church, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and the Cottage Grove Area Women in Business group will finish exterior work, "hopefully before the first snowfall," Johnson said.

"This is a big project for us," said Matt Haugen, communications manager for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. "With a project like this, which is building several town homes, it takes a lot of work. There is so much opportunity for volunteerism with this."

Since starting the project in May, members of Wells Fargo have spent more than eight weeks at the build site, Haugen said, adding help from members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Faith Builders, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Thrivent Financial, Shepherd of the Valley in Apple Valley, and Interfaith Builders, among others.

The attached townhome is one of three that will be built in the Mississippi Dunes development during the next three years.

With families already matched to nearly all of the Habitat for Humanity homes, Johnson said the end product makes working in intense heat worth it.

"It's a really good feeling to be able to hand over that set of keys to the deserving homeowner," he said. "That's the best part."