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With Habitat, Foxconn-related demolition helping build more homes

By MICHAEL BURKE
The Journal Times

MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (AP) — The owners of a house on Highway H in Racine County had already left— one of many families that are having to move to make way for Foxconn Technology Group’s future manufacturing campus here. But the dwelling was far from empty.

A team of 10 people, all volunteers, had been working since 8 a.m. on April 14 to remove appliances, a sofa, interior and exterior doors, cabinetry, bathroom sinks and vanities, as well as some high-quality Pella patio doors.

Everything was loaded into a 20-foot-long cargo trailer and set aside to be sold at Habitat ReStore to help pay for future Habitat for Humanity projects; Habitat’s mission is to “bring people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

The Journal Times reports that Mount Pleasant officials had announced a partnership in February with Racine Habitat for Humanity allowing the charitable organization to remove what it can as homes in the future Foxconn area are vacated and families moved out. The Foxconn plant is to be built primarily on land lying between Highway KR and Braun Road and Interstate 94 and Highway H — although acquisitions are also being made north and east of there.

Jan Roland, president of the Racine Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, said the village has been “inundated” with requests from people and businesses wanting to be the “pickers” in the Foxconn area. Instead of allowing for a free-for-all, the Village Board decided to have all salvageable materials go to Habitat.

“They wanted one responsible organization — one insured organization,” Roland said.

Hardly had he finished speaking when a volunteer slid across the floor a large cabinet that had been detached from its perch in the finished basement.

Every time a home is vacated, Habitat officials learns of the occurence from a real estate group out of Madison that is working on the Foxconn project, Roland said.

“And I understand there could be as many as 100 homes,” Roland said. “So, over the next year as these homes become vacant, we’ll be picking material and bringing it to the ReStore facility; we’ve already rented more space in the Kranz building from Jeff Neubauer to make room for it all. There’s going to be a lot of stuff, based on the first four homes that we’ve seen.”

The crew that was at the home all of the morning and some of the afternoon of April 14 consisted partly of Roland and three other Habitat for Humanity volunteers. Also there were four volunteers for Team Rubicon, an international nonprofit disaster-response organization composed mainly of military veterans and first responders; Pat Adams, regional coordinator for Team Rubicon; and Vern Lightwine, a Racine resident and another Team Rubicon member.

Lightwine, who’s retired from the U.S. Navy and Harley-Davidson, said he’s been involved in Team Rubicon for a little more than six months. Adams said the organization has a roster of about 80,000 volunteers.

“The biggest things I’ve done today is remove cabinetry from down in the basement, cabinetry from the kitchen and a little bit of cabinetry from upstairs,” using power tools and pry bars, Lightwine said. “And a little bit of ‘oomph,'” he added and chuckled.

Habitat’s salvage operations in the Foxconn zone aren’t limited to weekends. Roland said they’ll be taking place throughout the year.

In most cases, the work will be done by volunteers who are working for Habitat itself.  Representatives of local construction firms will often be among them.

“And,” Roland said, “we’re trying to recruit some new volunteers.”

With work related to the Foxconn project now underway, Habitat is having to be ever more selective about what it picks from the homes. It doesn’t, for example, take window blinds or curtains.

“Space is the limiting factor,” Roland said.

“Years ago, we would have picked everything because we had more space than we had material,” Roland said. “Now, with 100 homes coming, you can’t load your space up with knick-knacks.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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