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Helping Habitat Humanity

Volunteers donate cabinets to charity.

Verifying the old axiom, "what's past is prologue," soldiers from the 249th Engineer Battalion at Fort Belvoir volunteered to spend Saturday morning, Feb. 24 removing kitchen cabinetry from homes scheduled for demolition to make it available to Habitat for Humanity.

The cabinetry was in units located in the now vacant Fairfax Village which is scheduled to be replaced under Belvoir's Residential Community Initiative (RCI). It is creating modern townhouse villages throughout the post.

Demolition of the 1950s quarters is part of the Army-wide housing privatization/partnership program. At Belvoir that partnership is with Clark Builders and Pinnacle Property Management.

Rather than being destined for a specific Habitat project the extricated cabinetry will go to HH's Restore at 7700 Richmond Highway. "We restore various items donated to us and then place it on the showroom floor for sale at 50 to 90 percent off the value. The money we receive goes to help us build new home for people in need," said Herbert Campbell, store manager.

"We get donations from private individuals, contractors, and others such as Fort Belvoir. Our aim is to keep contractors and builders from throwing away good items. Donations are also tax deductible," Campbell said.

KNOWN AS Prime Power, the Engineer Battalion provides electric power solutions to U.S. Department of Defense operations world wide. "I've been working with Habitat for about 15 years, so when I saw that these units were going to be demolished I called Habitat and asked if they wanted the cabinetry," said Master Sgt. Christopher Woolley, 249th, Corps of Engineers, leader of the reclamation effort. "They jumped at the chance to get this material."

"We hope to strip 10 kitchens today. Then we'll see if the project can grow there," he said.

"Clark is in full support of this project. We would much rather see this material go for a good cause than end up on the junk pile," said Mike Shenkle, site superintendent, Clark Realty Builders, L.L.C.

Starting at approximately 9 a.m., 10 soldiers in civilian dress rolled into the now fenced off former housing complex to begin the deconstruction. Out came cabinets and other items that were loaded onto a Habitat truck.

Most of the cabinets were in excellent condition. Other items, such as sinks, toilets and small appliances were also salvaged during Saturday's extrication, according to Donald Dees, public affairs officer, Fort Belvoir.

In preparation for the Army volunteers, Shenkle had spray painted two large H's on an outside wall of each unit to be dismantled. "This originally started with just a few homes. Now its spreading and, hopefully, will be even more valuable to Habitat," Woolley said.

Known as Belvoir community volunteers, the soldiers donate their labor and Clark/Pinnacle donates all the materials. Thus far Belvoir's RCI program has completed 723 new homes out of the base's 2,070 enlisted and officer quarters inventory.

Those completed 723 homes are located in four new village complexes. RCI also recently dedicated a new town center and Welcome Center as part of the overall program. Three more villages are presently underway, according to Dees.