The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 16, 2013

Care-A-Vanners make habit of helping Habitat

Traveling volunteers building local houses

MANKATO — Rob and Ronni Silver have been on the road most of the past 15 years. The native New Yorkers call their motor home "home" as they travel throughout the country helping construct others' dwellings.

The Silvers are among the group of RV Care-A-Vanners volunteers who arrived in Mankato this week to don hard hats, wear heavy gloves and provide eight pairs of helping hands to construct four new residences in west Mankato.

When all the tidy houses with two-car garages are completed next spring, the families for whom they were built will move in. But what do the Care-A-Vanners get back from their two-week experience here?

"Oh, my gosh, you can't put a price tag on it," said Ronni Silver. "It's so satisfying. Your feel warm inside knowing you have helped someone. It's worth it just to see the looks on the faces of the new homeowners."

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry dedicated to building affordable homes with and for families in need.

The RV Care-A-Vanners program is coordinated through Habitat headquarters in Americus, Ga. Volunteers who travel in recreational vehicles are matched with local Habitat affiliates in need of volunteer support. Care-A-Van volunteers have been converging at Habitat sites in the Mankato area for about 10 years.

Care-A-Vanners pay their own travel expenses to get to and from the organized Habitat building projects. The city has waived lodging fees for the volunteers while they camp at Land of Memories, and local restaurants and churches have been providing their meals.

Each day on the project at Mound Avenue and Rogers Street begins with devotions before the volunteers pick up their hammers and start on a building, said Julie Schmillen, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota.

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