Our previous Habitat build in Omaha was a great experience, unfortunately, we were the only Care-a-vanners there. We soon realized that we missed the opportunity of spending time with fun ... and slightly crazy people like us. So, we traveled down Interstate 80 to Kearney, Nebraska. There we found a cute small town, a dedicated group of local volunteers, and as you can see, a fun group of crazy vanners just like us!
Anyone who has traveled down Interstate 80 through Nebraska is familiar with the Archway Monument that rises above the highway. Just off that exit was our "home" for the two weeks ... Kearney RV Park. The owners graciously gave us Habitat volunteers a generous discount. Because the campground was nestled between the corn fields and I-80, the harvesting equipment, migrating geese, and vehicle traffic provided a constant musical hum. But the large, level pull-through sites and the clean shower house and laundry made it a comfy home for our stay.
A paved and well lit path connected the campground to the Archway Monument two miles away.
I spent one of my days off learning about the Great Platte River Road and the groups that traveled through the area on their way West in the 1800s. The Mormon Trail, Oregon Trail, and California 49ers Trail all passed near Fort Kearny. As I walked through the Archway, I was able to experience the trials and triumphs of the pioneers as they worked together to reach new lands and build strong communities.
With advances in forms of transportation, the area saw covered wagons, Pony Express, stagecoach, railroad, and automobile bring pioneers to the area. These rugged trails eventually evolved into the Lincoln Highway in the early 1900s ...
... and into Interstate 80 starting in 1956.
In case you have ever wondered, this is what visitors to the Archway Monument see when you are driving underneath it!
As we got to know and work with the Kearney Habitat for Humanity affiliate, we realized that they share many of the same qualities of those early pioneers as they are attempting to make a better life for members of their community. They have been building affordable housing in Kearney since 1992, but this is the first time that they hosted a Care-a-vanners group. When we saw all the progress made in a short time by the team, all agreed it was a win-win situation.
Beginning with our arrival in Kearney, we experienced midwestern hospitality to the finest degree with a delicious home cooked meal and a chance to meet some of the the leaders for our build. They also treated us to many lunches including the unique Nebraska sandwich ... The Runza.
Despite having only one paid employee, the Kearney Habitat has still managed to accomplish amazing feats using their dedicated and skillful volunteers. In the photo below, Jerry (left) is one of the original organizers and at age 84 is still "in charge" amazing all with his construction and organizational skills. Ken (middle) is the affiliate president as well as skilled painter and donut delivery guy ... Yum!
Rodger and his wife Kay have been Care-a-vanners themselves, and were instrumental in bringing our group to Kearney. We all appreciated their contagious laughs and dedicated natures!
The Kearney affiliate, utilizing the generous donations of their local community, has built 73 homes in their 24 year existence. They are currently working on three more homes that they hope to have complete by early winter. Normally the local volunteers work Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, so the progress can be slow at times. This is where we Care-a-vanners come in.
We arrived at the future neighborhood as the sun rose and worked all morning and afternoon Tuesday through Saturday for the two weeks we were there. During that time amazing milestones were reached including:
Windows caulked sealing up the house against the winter winds that can blow strong across this prairieland.
Driveway cement poured ... Doug was excited to learn the "art" of playing with cement!
Sheets of metal, plywood and drywall were drilled together to form a "safe room" in the house in case of tornados since the houses don't have basements.
Walls painted ... and in some cased re-painted. Taylor, the 11-year-old future occupant of this home, decided after seeing the first coat of the bright purple wall that it was "a little too much", so we lightened it up with a softer plum color.
Ceiling fans hung ... I sensed that the local volunteers appreciated Doug, the electrician, tackling the light fixtures ... as each fixture seemed to have its own unique "issue".
"Breakfast bars" were built and tested out with a good cup of coffee and donuts!
Finishing details were finalized as the future home owners picked out countertops, flooring, carpet, and paint colors.
By the end of our time in Kearney, the progress was evident ... and all were amazed and gratified by the progress of our team. As we gathered for a "farewell" happy hour, we reflected on how much we accomplished, and we celebrated ...
New hope for pioneers today as Habitat continues to help build strong local communities!
Until next time ... look for ways to be pioneers in your community ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!
PS ... While in Kearney we got to enjoy two new "favorites." Suwannee Thai Cuisine made us instant fans with their Mango Chicken and Choo Chee Shrimp!
And the local brewery, Thunderhead, produced many fine styles of beers and a wonderful Jalapeno Hawaiian pizza!
It's going to be hard to beat these two favorites as we continue to head southwest to Colorado Springs ... But if you have any suggestions, we would be happy to check them out! Print this post