Clinton, S.C. – When Prisma Health volunteers began preparing on Thursday to paint primer over the sheetrock in the newest Habitat for Humanity home in Clinton, they saw notes of edification and praise written on walls in each room.
“Thank you Lord for this bedroom,” one message read. “Philippians 4:4. I will rejoice!”
“We almost hated to have to paint over them,” said Lynn Reeves, the manager of visitor and volunteer services at Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital.
Joel Evans, president of the Laurens County Habitat for Humanity affiliate, said this Prisma group is the first large volunteer group since the pandemic. The timing was perfect because the crew of regular volunteers who build the home was ready to begin painting, and a large group can typically get all the primer and most of the paint up in one day.
The soon-to-be homeowner, Tracy Anderson, said she had inked the messages on the sheetrock of her home to help keep her eyes focused on the blessing of the entire journey. The last year and a half working toward this moment has not been easy, she said, but expressing her thanks to God for getting her this far in the process is the least she could do. Knowing they’d be covered in primer and paint, she wrote scriptures and reminders of God’s blessing in every room.
“Mr. Joel told me they were coming but I didn’t expect so many to be here helping,” Anderson said of the Prisma Health volunteers.
“They have been so sweet,” Anderson said, “and this is all a little surreal.”
Anderson credits her teenage daughter with encouraging her to try and see if they could achieve home ownership. They had been through some rough rental situations and every home she tried to purchase was sold before she could make the needed arrangements. She applied with Habitat for Humanity of Laurens County and was approved in August 2021.
Prisma Health now reaches from the Upstate to the Midlands, and leadership had already committed to give more than $80,000 to Habitat for Humanity of South Carolina this year. But last Thursday’s work day marked the first volunteer partnership with Prisma Health. While most of the volunteers in Clinton were from Prisma Health-Laurens County Hospital, hundreds of employees from the region volunteered to assist during the multi-site work day in eight Habitat locations across six counties.
Such work is important, said Laurens County Hospital CEO Justin Benfield, because Prisma’s mission goes beyond healthcare.
“While we treat our patients at hospitals or offices and care sites, we still have a community that extends beyond the hospital walls,” Benfield said. “When we said we’re going to do this, we got such an overwhelming response we created a wait list. This is the largest ever multi-site event and it gives us the opportunity to be partner with our communities.”
The plans are to continue with other Prisma Health Partnership Days in the future, and it’s just the type of assistance that Habitat for Humanity chapter in Laurens County needs.
Almost all of the work on Habitat houses in Laurens County are done by about a dozen volunteers with home-building skills.
“We can use any volunteers at any skill level,” Evans said. “None of us were skilled carpenters when we started but we’ve learned as we went along.”
Like most of the 10 or 12 regular workers, Evans was still employed and not skilled with carpentry when he began volunteering with Habitat 25 years ago. He and others have continued, and a few younger volunteers have joined in.
“We work until noon or one in the afternoon every Thursday and Saturday, but it’s totally volunteer, so I say our motto is, ‘Work when you can, leave when you have to,’” Evans said. “Basically we have all learned over the years as we worked, and if someone comes in with little experience, I put them with someone who has experience.”
The primary building season for one house a year runs from early fall through spring. He expects to finish Anderson’s home in April but he welcomes volunteers at any time of the year.
Evans said the Laurens County group is one of the few Habitat for Humanity affiliates with no paid staff, so other volunteers he’d love to have are those who could help with fundraising or social media and internet presence.
“Our youngest regular volunteers are in their 50s or 60s so we’d love to have some younger people join us,” Evans said, admitting they’ve been contracting out the shingling.
“I’m 77 so I have done it but I probably don’t need to be on the roof,” he said, laughing. “But it’s not just carpenters that we need; we can use anyone.”
The labor is free and the homeowner puts in 200 hours of sweat equity and covers the cost of land, supplies and subcontracted work such as plumbing. Supplies are purchased as needed. It’s a no-interest loan which is important for assisting with home ownership.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Evans at 864-923-1194, and financial donations can be sent to PO Box 184, Laurens, SC 29360.
This story was first published on page 1, Wednesday, March 2 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.