Octavia Moore said it’s a surreal experience to see her future home being built from the ground up.
She was part of the Habitat for Humanity crew that poured the foundation back in April and helped raise the first wall. The exterior of the house is practically complete, and on July 13 she was part of a crew beginning to paint the drywall.
The marine veteran was starting to see things come together, but she’s not the only one. Moore’s home is part of a multi-home build on a 1.07-acre plot of land near Pleasant Hill Road and Ronald Reagan Parkway in Lilburn.
“To meet others going through the same process has been awesome,” Moore said.
On Saturday, there were three houses under construction. Grace Cirino’s home was being constructed next door to Moore’s while Abigail Valdez was helping volunteers saw wood two doors down. They’ve already become fast friends.
“I kind of feel like we’re unique,” Valdez said. “That’s what brought us together, this experience and the fact that we’re one right after another. We’re in a group chat, man.”
There are also plots for two more homes on the same street. Volunteers said one project was set to start in late July and another in August.
Unique to Moore’s project is her veteran background and the volunteers leading the project. Moore served for five-and-a-half years in the Marines, including tours aboard a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea and another in Iraq. She’s a native of Maryland and a chef and owner of her own catering company, Soul Fresh Creations.
Maureen Davis is the project leader for Haight Davis & Associates, a consulting engineering firm based in Lawrenceville. She is a 17-year U.S. Army veteran.
Davis decided that a build to assist a fellow female veteran would be a worthwhile project for the firm. While her firm specializes in fixing construction jobs that have gone south, she was able to troubleshoot problems like adding a retaining wall in the side yard before they became a larger issue.
But Davis’ skills as a military engineer, she said, make her well-equipped for keeping projects such as this summer’s Lilburn home build on a tight schedule with the ability to efficiently problem solve.
“A lot of our work was bringing this up to a certain point where you could get tanks in, rebuilding roads enough so you could mobilize,” Davis said. “It’s the same sort of thing, but it’s in the civilian world.”
Davis has worked closely with 27-year U.S. Army veteran Gigi Scott, an Alabama resident who represents Team Rubicon. The coalition of volunteer veterans is best known for its efforts in delivering relief following natural disasters. Scott has been on disaster scenes in Alabama after tornadoes and hurricanes helping organize supply deliveries, debris removal and community cleanup.
Her job July 13, though, was painting. Team Rubicon partners with Habitat for Humanity on some veteran builds, Scott said.
“We know how to mobilize fast. We know how to set up construction fast,” Scott said. “This is kind of the opposite — kind of balancing the scale.”
More than 120 Habitat for Humanity affiliates have taken part in the organization’s Veteran Build initiative, according to the nonprofit’s website. With a waiting list of volunteers that can climb to more than 350 people, the organization doesn’t usually have trouble organizing volunteers, even for projects of this size.
“There’s always an opportunity,” volunteer coordinator Christina Greenwood said. “We don’t necessarily run short of volunteers, which is good and makes you feel like you have some love in the world because people want to give back.”
Most projects take about 14 weeks to build. While there have been a few setbacks with weather — rain and heat — the homes are still on schedule to be finished in August.
Cirino’s build was overseen by volunteers with the project’s sponsor, Publix, while Valdez’s home was being handled by assembled local volunteers. Aside from some construction experience beyond do-it-yourself techniques, the three future neighbors said they’ve developed lifelong friendships.
“A lot of time you don’t know your neighbors to that extent,” Moore said. “This is building a relationship and, even when our houses are built, we’ll be able to eat together and do holidays together, do life together.”