First Corporate ‘Habitat For Humanity’ House Ready For Family In Nelsonville

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Melinda King and her family were given the keys to their new Nelsonville home on Tuesday. The Habitat for Humanity House on Elizabeth Street was the result of the hard work and funds contributed by employees of Rocky Brands and other community volunteers.

Ground was broken for the first ever corporate-sponsored Habitat house in June and the project was expected to be complete in November. However, soaring temperatures over the summer, torrential rains in the fall and heavy snowfall this winter delayed construction.

The project was funded by the Rocky Community Improvement Fund, which is comprised of donations from employees at Rocky Brands. Not only did the employees contribute money for the house, but they also provided much of the labor.

Of the 2,200 hours spent on the three-bedroom house, 1,200 were contributed by 110 Rocky employees. David Sharp, CEO of Rocky, said that employees were given the opportunity to work on the project on Thursdays if they agreed to spend a day at the office on Saturdays.

The Rocky Community Improvement Fund was createdthree years ago with the mission to enhance the quality of life for the people of Nelsonville and the surrounding communities. It has distributed more than $150,000 into the community since its inception, according to Sharp.

“There is such a compelling need in Nelsonville and the region for good, new, energy-efficient, affordable housing,” Sharp said. “As long as there is a need by Habitat for Humanity, you can count on our help.” Kenneth Oehlers, executive director of the Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio, said that the Elizabeth Street house is the first corporate-sponsored build in Athens County. However, the home was the 52nd for the organization and the 15th to be built in Nelsonville.

“It truly takes a community in order to build a community,” Oehlers said. “And that’s what you have in Nelsonville. Nelsonville is on its way up and we are proud to be part of the housing solution here in Nelsonville.”

King and her two sons — Levi, 10, and Mark, 8 — plan to move into their new home in the coming weeks. The family currently resides in Albany. King said that her sons have cousins that live in Nelsonville, just down the street.

In addition to the Rocky employees and other volunteers, King was also required to put “sweat equity” into her new home. She, like many of the volunteers, had no prior construction experience.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” she said. Levi added that he also helped with the hammering.

Cody Rutter, site supervisor for the Habitat project, provided much of the training for the volunteers. He said that energy efficient appliances were incorporated into the home to help keep the electric bill affordable.

On Tuesday, he said the house hadn’t yet been insulated, but noted that the electric bill for the house over the past two months was only $160 with the heater running non-stop. He said that bill will likely be cut in half once insulation is put in place by Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action.

In addition to the weather delaying construction, Rutter said the steep grade of the lot in which the house was built also posed some great challenges. A retaining wall and sidewalk had to be constructed on the property as well.

Sarah Milligan, director of the Rocky Community Improvement Fund, said that about half of the Rocky employees that volunteered were hourly workers, while the other half were salary employees. She said that entry-level workers volunteered alongside senior vice presidents with the company.

Rocky employees Doreen and Dave Degenhardt of Lancaster spent between 20 and 30 hours working on the Elizabeth Street project. Neither had ever worked with Habitat before. They also had their daughter Allyse, 26, helping on weekends.

“We spent a lot of Saturdays here,” Dave Degenhardt said.

“It was not only fun, but we learned a lot at the same time,” Doreen Degenhardt said, noting that she learned how to frame a wall. She said her favorite part of the project was deciding how to lay out the kitchen.

The Degenhardts said that the project also provided a great bonding experience with their co-workers.

“We got to know our co-workers in a whole new light,” Dave Degenhardt said.

The couple said they would definitely be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on future projects.

“It was very rewarding,” Doreen Degendhardt said.

Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio is always looking for volunteers. For information, call 592-0032 ext. 102 or visit