By Cam Tait
If you have visited the Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity this week, you will feel a tremendous sense of community. So it was most appropriate to have members of the Edmonton Oil Kings staff, who are propelled by countless community contributions, sharing their time with the project on Tuesday.
Oil Kings Assistant Coach Ryan Marsh, Athletic Therapist Brian Cheeseman, Video Coach Jory Stuparyk, Assistant Equipment Manager Les Fragle were on site. The Oil Kings contingent was part of the 125 Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) employees, players and Alumni who are volunteering their time for this week’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
They started Tuesday morning, just after 8:30 AM, building (pardon the pun) on the 6,136 volunteer hours shared Monday. The project will see the construction of 150 homes across Canada, from footings to shingles – 74 of those homes being built in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. The homes are then turned over to families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to own their own homes. Owners work on their own home, investing — the phrase of the week — sweat equity.
It’s one of the components that makes Habitat for Humanity so engaging.
“Meeting the home owner was a highlight,” said Brian Cheeseman.
“We got to put a face to what this great cause is about. I got to see just how thankful he was for our help today as a group.”
Cheeseman was fortunate to witness the “incredible experience” the homeowner had while working on his future house. Owners get to see, right before their eyes, a swelling of support not only from local volunteers, but from folks around the globe who came to Edmonton to help build.
“It must be an amazing feeling for the new home owner. You could see it on his face,” Cheeseman said. “I don’t think he stopped smiling the whole day.”
“It kind of made everything very real. It was a real personal touch to have him working alongside us today.”
Cheeseman said the enthusiasm began seconds after volunteers finished their pancake and sausage breakfast. Future homeowners lined the path the volunteers walked to get to the job sites and applauded as everyone went by. “Everyone was so upbeat,” he said, adding it was the perfect way to start the day. “It was nice to share the day with fellow OEG employees who we may not get to cross paths with on a regular basis…to spend the day giving back with them and getting to know them and vice versa.”
Like Cheeseman, Ryan Marsh is a rookie for a Habitat worksite, but it’s far more than he imagined.
“The amount of people that were there,” Marsh answered when quizzed for a memorable moment from the day. Volunteers numbered close to 1,000. “When you walk onsite, the amount of people that were there for the project and how well run and organized it was is astonishing.”
And the spirit and energy was high, he added, with people revved up for a full, honest day’s work.
“Everyone is willing to help wherever they can and everyone works as a team to get things done. From my standpoint and our standpoint as an organization, I thought it was great to mix with people from the company that you may work with but not see much on a day-to-day basis. That was great to be able to work with them.”
Then, of course, there was the work, breaking for lunch and then ending the day around 4:30 PM. Marsh was pleased people could participate, whatever their level of experience.
“I would not call myself handy. I learned a lot from my dad as I worked with him over the years,” said Marsh. “The day was basic construction stuff, nothing too fancy. Just the fact that we were able to come in and use materials that were already pre-made was great. It was easier for people who were not super handy as well. It was really a seamless project that was really well set up.”
Cheeseman said that while he picked up a few tips of the trade, he was gifted a greater lesson. “If nothing else it makes you appreciate what you have in life. I know there was a bunch of us making the comment ‘Wow, I am going to really look at my own home differently today and the effort that goes into building it.”
Cheeseman admitted he knew very little about Habitat for Humanity before Tuesday. That has changed.