City of St. Paul employees volunteer to help build Habitat house in Frogtown

City employees (L to R) Laura Haynssen, Barb Morin, Nora Riemenschneider and AFSCME member K.C. Blees pause for a photo on the scaffolding at the Habitat construction site in Frogtown.

City employees (L to R) Laura Haynssen, Barb Morin, Nora Riemenschneider and AFSCME member K.C. Blees pause for a photo on the scaffolding at the Habitat construction site in Frogtown.

City of St. Paul employees serve the public every day at work. But this summer, some are using their vacation time to give back to the community as well.

In a coordinated effort among the city’s agencies and departments, city staffers are adopting six daylong volunteer shifts on a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Frogtown. They’re helping build a single-family home on a previously vacant lot at 632 Edmund Ave.

Ricardo Cervantes, director of the Department of Safety and Inspections, coordinates the city’s participation in the Habitat build. He said the volunteer effort is a growing event for the city, which increased its commitment from five days last year to six this year.

“Nobody’s getting paid to be here,” Cervantes said. “Yet the number of people willing to volunteer continues to grow. We set a goal of getting as many departments to participate as we can, and this year we’re probably getting close to 95 percent.”

Construction at the Frogtown site began in June, and volunteers – roughly 15 to 18 per day – will be on hand five days per week for roughly 10 to 12 weeks, site supervisor McKinsie Clyde said. The City of St. Paul teamed with Travelers Insurance and Securian Financial to fill most shifts at the site this summer.

Along with North Minneapolis, Frogtown is an “area of emphasis” for Habitat in the Twin Cities. Clyde can point to other homes in the neighborhood Habitat has built or refurbished.

“This area was really hard hit by the foreclosure crisis,” she said. “The worst of it is over now in most places, but this is where we have need in our community.”

Working as an electrical inspector, IBEW Local 110 member Dan Moynihan has been inside plenty of low-income properties across the city.

“You see how people have to try to get by, and if I can help, I’m going to when I can,” Moynihan said. “We’re always trying to improve our housing stock here. This is an exciting program to be a part of.”

Habitat vets potential owners, requiring applicants to complete a class in home ownership and put in 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” on the construction site. The three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot house on Edmund Avenue will be sold to a family of five, with two adult immigrants from Ethiopia. The tentative closing date is in December.

How are members of your union giving back?

We know union members across the Twin Cities are giving back to their communities. Help us give them the recognition they deserve! Send story tips to mmoore@stpaulunions.org.

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