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Douglasville teens take charge of a Habitat home build for a veteran

Anna Caputo (from left), Sutton Cadman, Gracie Chaves and Carson Hucks are part of the Alexander High School Habitat for Humanity chapter in Douglasville that is leading their community to raise $90,000 to build a home for a veteran. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Anna Caputo (from left), Sutton Cadman, Gracie Chaves and Carson Hucks are part of the Alexander High School Habitat for Humanity chapter in Douglasville that is leading their community to raise $90,000 to build a home for a veteran. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Who hasn’t had the experience of the neighborhood kid asking for help with a fundraiser for a school trip or a sports team? In Douglas County, students are asking their neighbors to chip in for a new house. Not just any house, but a Habitat Humanity home to be built for a military veteran.

The Habitat for Humanity chapter club at Alexander High School has taken on a house project. Students plan to fund and help build a Habitat home for a local veteran’s neighborhood, and they’ll need to raise $90,000 before a spring build deadline.

If that seems like an impossible goal and a lot of hard work, don’t tell them.

Alexander English teacher and club sponsor, Debbie Rager, said she is “amazed at the determination and tenacity of these students to chip away at their fundraising goal.”

They’ve organized yard sales and raffles, asked for donations and sponsorships, and sold T-shirts. And in the process, they’ve left a lasting impression on the adults.

“They seek opportunities to share their vision, rather than sit and wait and hope fortune smiles their way,” Rager said.

Sophomore Sutton Cadman started the charter this school year with some of his friends and classmates. Sutton said he wanted more community service opportunities in high school and heard from a relative about a Habitat chapter at Walton High School in Cobb County. He thought it would be cool to start one at his school.

After forming their club, students asked the Northwest Georgia Habitat for Humanity if they could take charge of building the fourth house in Veterans Place, a Douglas County neighborhood that will eventually have eight Habitat houses set aside for veterans. It’s one of only two veterans-only Habitat neighborhoods being built in the country.

Once granted permission, students hit the ground running to raise the money needed for building supplies for the 1,800-square-foot house. So far, they’ve collected about one-third of their goal.

Long-time Habitat volunteer Jimmy Haddle of Douglasville has been involved with dozens of home builds over the past two decades. Raising the money is the hardest part, he said, “but these kids have taken the bull by the horns.”

“It’s very unusual for a group of kids this young to do this. They’re learning that it takes plain old hard work getting it done yourself,” said Haddle, who serves as a mentor to the school chapter.

Frank Moran, another Douglasville Habitat volunteer, is helping the students by introducing them to community leaders and giving them a platform to speak. He’s quick to point out that the teens are doing all the work, and that impresses him.

Club officers have spoken to the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, and before church and civic groups. They have written grants, and are planning a golf tournament and a poker night. Parents organized a booster club to provide guidance.

“Sutton and his team have renewed our faith in young people,” Moran said. “It’s more than just raising money, I’ve watched a young man grow, building his confidence as he meets with all these different groups,”

Booster parent Kelly Cadman, Sutton’s mom, said it is a pleasure to see these teens learn how to organize, market, and finance something of this magnitude.

“I know that aside from the impact they will have after this project and projects to come with Habitat, they will take away so much more in character and leadership,” she said.

The homeowner, who has yet to be selected, will be a veteran from Douglas County. The goal is to have the home built by late spring. Alexander students will work on the build, as will other teams from the community. The work is typically completed over nine Saturdays, with hired professionals, like plumbers and electricians, working during the week.

Said Haddle: “A bunch of us are really pulling for these kids; we want them to finish it.”

WHAT INSPIRES ALEXANDER HIGH’S HABITAT CHAPTER?

Sutton Cadman: "I went to an elementary and middle school that were really involved in community services, but when I got to high school there weren't as many opportunities. I thought it would be a great thing to start this and get involved in the community."

Carson Hucks: "I recently built a (Habitat) house, and I really enjoyed it. I was just happy and glad to be there. I've been involved in other community service, and I like it."

Gracie Chaves: "I want to help (the veteran) get a house, a place to have a home and have memories. It feels good to help people."

Teacher Debbie Rager: "A group of kids, many who are not even licensed car drivers, are working as change agents. Am I inspired by them? You better believe it. These kids stand in the gap for those who need help, and this is the message of hope they bring."

HELP US INSPIRE ATLANTA

We recognize a big part of our journalistic mission is to shine a spotlight on wrongdoings and to hold our public officials accountable.

But we also understand the importance of celebrating our region’s moments, milestones and people. That’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with Inspire Atlanta.

Each week, Inspire Atlanta will profile a person that makes metro Atlanta a better place in which to live.

Of course, we can't do this alone: We need your help in finding extraordinary people and identifying inspiring stories across our region. We learned about Habitat for Humanity chapter club at Alexander High School from Kelly Cadman, who said she was impressed to see these teens engage in such productive, meaningful work in their community.

Know someone who inspires you or makes metro Atlanta a better place for others?

Email us at inspireatlanta@ajc.com.

MORE INFORMATION

If you want to donate to the Alexander High School Habitat for Humanity chapter, go to nwmetroatlantahabitat.org/alexander