The Home That Wine Country Built

Chapter 4 – Drywall, Interior and Exterior Paint

The house is framed, the roof is on, so it’s time to come inside and get to work on drywall and painting. For insight into that next step we talked with Al Bartsch, former Habitat construction manager, member of the MacHabitat Construction Committee, and now consultant to current Construction Manager KB Boutwell.

Question: “What are the challenges and joys of hanging drywall?”

Answer: “The challenges are, it’s hard work and when done correctly, requires precision. The joy is, we don’t do it.”

Wait, what?

To be clear, Al said Habitat volunteers used to hang drywall, but the initial effort required too much re-work. More importantly, dryall is heavy and volunteers are often older. (By contrast Al said, “You should see the arms on the pros!”) The combination of physical difficulty and the need for quality work makes it safer and more expedient to hire professional drywallers.

Painting, of course, is another matter; volunteers do both the interior and exterior. As for colors, interiors showcase individual tastes, while exteriors conform to a preapproved palette that gives the neighborhood a cohesive and inviting look.

An electrical engineer by training, Al found himself a Habitat volunteer back in the ‘80s in Michigan. He said he was inspired by Jimmy Carter’s involvement. Upon moving to McMinnville, he continued to swing a hammer but soon became involved in construction management.

When asked about his motivation for volunteering over such a long time period, Al pointed to seeing unhoused folks on the street. By way of illustration, he recounted the parable of the starfish:

“It’s like the two friends who walked along the beach and found a starfish washed onto shore. One fellow picked up it and waded into the water to put it back. The friend said, ‘What’s the point? There’s too many to make a difference.’ The first fellow smiled and said, ‘It made a difference to that one.”

We wondered if that’s how Al sees the Habitat mission. And if so, is there one moment that stand out as a capsule of the Habitat’s goals?

“Probably not one event,” he said, “but certainly the dedications are the most moving.” But then, after a moment’s reflection, he went on. “I remember one dedication around Christmas. Grocery Outlet had stocked the shelves and refrigerator with food. They bought a tree and had gifts underneath for the children. When the parents and kids saw that, well, there wasn’t a dry eye.”

Al, and Habitat, are working to help one family at a time.  As he says, “If everyone would just do something …”

Do you want to see more work by Adrian Chitty? Visit his website!