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May 14, 2007 11:02 AM CDT

Touching Lives Through Habitat for Humanity


The Habitat for Humanity project included 18 separate two-story units, including a pair of two-family structures. Photo by Darrell McMillian.
The Habitat for Humanity project included 18 separate two-story units, including a pair of two-family structures. Photo by Darrell McMillian.

When Habitat for Humanity officials approached the Masonry Institute of St. Louis (MISL) for help with their Jeff-Vander-Lou project last year, they came to the right place. Habitat was going to build 20 new homes on the city's north side and they wanted to include brick fronts on the units to match those in the surrounding neighborhood. To do that, they needed the assistance of the masonry industry.

"As soon as we learned of Habitat's need, we went to our mason contractors and suppliers," said Darrell McMillian, P.E., MISL executive director. "They're the key to the construction of a project like this."

The first step was to put the request before the union mason contractors who would be asked to donate the labor - an expensive proposition for the bricklaying companies. "A contractor has to give up maybe two days for a crew and equipment," said David Gillick, executive director of the Mason Contractors Association of St. Louis. Gillick announced the request at his association's next meeting and received the response he anticipated. "We've got a very good group of guys." Gillick said, "They stepped up."

John Jahnsen of Jahnsen Masonry Contractor, who volunteered a crew, was typical in his reaction. "My company does a lot of work in St. Louis," he said. "I thought this would be a good way to give something back to the city."

The project included 18 separate two-story units, including a pair of two-family structures. Heitkamp Masonry and John J. Smith Masonry Co. volunteered to brick the two-family units. The single-family units were handled by ABC Masonry, Brinker Contracting Co., Caswell Brickwork, Fred L. Davis Co., E.C. Landers Brickwork, Frisch Masonry, Grant Contracting Co., Marlin Heck Brick Contracting Co., Jahnsen Masonry Contractor, JDS Masonry, Lampkin Masonry, Leonard Masonry, L&L Brick Cantracting, Doug Nichols Masonry, Spencer Brickwork, and Swansan Masonry. All these firms employ members of Bricklayers' Union Local No. 1 of Missouri.

With the labor commitments falling into place, it was time to seek out the masonry building materials - bricks, mortar, anchors, etc. Again, the industry was generous in its response. "I think the Habitat for Humanity program is an excellent way to help the underprivileged and the less fortunate," said Jason Rainey of the Simpson Materials Co., who provided the mortar. "Because our company is an integral part of the masonry industry, we saw this as an opportunity to help pay back the community."

Vince Irwin, whose Irwin Products donated the special wall ties that were required by the project's specifications, greed. "I think [the donations] say a lot about the masonry industry in this town and what it has to offer," he said. "Just look at all the suppliers who pitched in with brick, mortar and all the other materials. Everybody came together and worked as a team."

In addition to Simpson Materials Co. and Irwin Products, masonry suppliers who contributed to the project's success included Kirchner Block & Brick, Buchheit Supply, Earthworks, Enloe Enterprise, Missouri Brick & Supply, Raineri Construction Products, and Richards Brick Co.

Tnrough the years, the masonry community has donated a significant amount of time and equipment to make St. Louis a better place to live and work. As the Habitat for Humanity project demonstrates, today that commitment is as strong as ever.

About the Author

Darrell McMillian is the Technical Director at the Masonry Institute of St. Louis.


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