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Guardswoman spends day off tearing down walls, building hope for local families

Lt. Col. Claudia S. Malone, 111th Communications Flight commander, Pa. Air National Guard, removes an electrical conduit box during the demolition phase of a Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County project May 6.  This project will create a 6-family housing unit at the site of the former Pennridge Senior Center, in downtown Perkasie, Pa.

Lt. Col. Claudia S. Malone, 111th Communications Flight commander, Pa. Air National Guard, removes an electrical conduit box during the demolition phase of a Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County project May 6. This project will create a 6-family housing unit at the site of the former Pennridge Senior Center, in downtown Perkasie, Pa.

Lt. Col. Claudia S. Malone, 111th Communications Flight commander, Pa. Air National Guard, helps Jason Rupe, assistant construction director with Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County, remove baseboard heating during the demolition phase of a Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County project May 6.  This project will create a 6-family housing unit at the site of the former Pennridge Senior Center, in downtown Perkasie, Pa.

Lt. Col. Claudia S. Malone, 111th Communications Flight commander, Pa. Air National Guard, helps Jason Rupe, assistant construction director with Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County, remove baseboard heating during the demolition phase of a Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County project May 6. This project will create a 6-family housing unit at the site of the former Pennridge Senior Center, in downtown Perkasie, Pa.

WILLOW GROVE AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- A day off means sleeping in late, going out to lunch or visiting a park but today was anything but peaceful for Lt. Col. Claudia S. Malone, 111th Communications Flight commander, who started her day bright and early, prying baseboard heating and electrical conduit boxes loose in a cloud of dust while drywall came smashing down around her. 

Malone joined six women and Pastor Julie Bergdahl, all from St. Michael's Lutheran Church of Sellersville, Pa. and spent the day swinging hammers, breaking drywall, raking and removing debris as part of an all women team of volunteers helping Habitat of Humanity of Bucks County begin a new building program in Perkasie, Pa. The project is converting the former Pennridge Senior Center, located on Chestnut Street between 8th and 9th Streets in Perkasie, into condominium housing for six families. After a ribbon cutting ceremony, the volunteers began the deconstruction phase. 

Deconstruction is similar to demolition except it involves taking a building carefully apart and salvaging the materials for reuse. Select materials are sold at a low cost to others to help them afford to rebuild their homes instead of ending up in the landfill. This is an enormous benefit to the environment because construction and demolition waste accounts for about 143 million metric tons annually that is for the most part land filled. 

"Falling in line with adaptive reuse and other green initiatives, selected items are taken to ReStore and the remaining materials are separated and recycled," said Mike Fallon, project manager with Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County. "All of the materials we remove from the building are tracked so there is a record of the waste stream."

"This phase will take about 3-4 weeks," said Jason Rupe, assistant construction director with Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County. "At the end of May we'll start building--maybe sooner." 

Pastor Bergdahl heard about the project and instantly wanted to become involved. She told fellow congregants about what was transpiring and the interest spread. Volunteers stepped forward, and the church came up with creative ways to support the project. 

"During Christmas services, the children of the church sold paper angel cutouts for $1," said Bergdahl. "The children raised about $200 and they paid for the first square foot of this project." 

The angels are taped to a wall at the site and serve as a reminder of the commitment made to the project. 

"We have another fundraising event--a dinner on Jun. 14," said Bergdahl. 

Volunteering in your community strengthens the community as a whole--and when a community is doing well, its individuals reap the benefits. 

"It's a great way to provide a home to a family that's having financial difficulties and just needs a little boost," said Malone. "These families volunteer hundreds of hours, sweat equity, on this build and many others. They develop an emotional connection to this home--an emotional investment that gives them a foundation to get their life in order." 

"It's not a handout--it's a hand up and it is empowering," Bergdahl added. "And more importantly, it's in our own community." 

"This is my first time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity," said Malone. She first heard of the project from her pastor. Like others at her church, she immediately signed up for the challenge. 

"It's been fun, especially swinging a hammer and hitting things," Malone said with a smile. 

According to Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County, this homebuilding project is their first adaptive re-use venture. They'll convert the building into six condominium units, two units on three floors, ranging from 950 to 1,020 square feet--meeting ENERGY STAR standards and the Keystone Green Building Initiative. It is Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County's mission to bring individuals, families and communities together to build affordable homes, better lives, stronger families and safer communities through partnerships with people and organizations throughout Bucks County. 

Habitat for Humanity ReStores accept quality used and surplus building materials and home items from building supply stores, contractors, demolition crews and individuals and sell them at a fraction of normal prices. Proceeds help fund future construction projects for Habitat of Humanity. This helps the environment by rechanneling good, usable materials into use. For more information, contact the Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County at: (215) 822-2812 or visit them online: www.habitatbucks.org.