Tag Archives: photos

Habitat Build 2008 First Day – Walls Go Up

Saturday, May 10 was the official start of the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity build in 2008.  This is the third article in this series, the first covering the Traditional Dinner on the Slab which includes a slide show of 25 pictures and introduces the future homeowner, Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.   The second article is the first in a series of a sort of Habitat Tutorial, Preparation for Build which covers some of the intense preparation that goes on behind the scenes before the volunteers show up.  I say “sort of” because I am not an expert, but willing to discuss the various Jobs assigned to me and/or learned over the years.  Hopefully most of it is close to right.

This article covers the first day the volunteers show up, and includes a slide show for the entire day with 115 photos, almost all including the volunteers.  My photo is hopefully the only one not included, as I am behind the camera.  To see the slide show of 115 pictures click here or on any picture below!

23 AM

This is the start of work, 8:23 AM.  Safety instructions and a pep talk have already been given by our SPM (Site Project Manager), Jeff Vanderlip.   That’s Jeff in the middle of the site with the orange shirt and big floppy hat.  The various top and bottom plates are still tacked together and strewn hap-hazardly all over the site.

The top and bottom plates are numbered and well marked so it doesn’t matter what order the walls are built or if anyone knows exactly what they are building.  Grab a set, pull it apart, remove the tack nails, lay them about 8 feet apart and start adding studs, T’s, doors and windows.   See the tutorial for good examples.

A good start

A half hour later, the walls are well on their way.  many of them are completed, including the addition of a sill seal foam tape (blue) on the bottom plate.   Some of the build is taking place in the driveway of the house in the background.   Often we take to the street.  To do a good job we do need a flat area so the components line up properly.  

Measure it twice

Measure it twice, cut once!   The gentleman on the left is our “cut man” for the day.  The one on the right is “Pretty Boy” Miller, also known as “9 fingers”.   He is our grand master of carpenters and a super-volunteer.

Getting Copies

The pictures shown here and in the slide show do not have the resolution you can get if you download them from the Flikr site.   Go to the slide show and click on the link at the top left of the slide show to get to the full set at high resolution, or click on any picture in the slide show and then click on View Main Page.  Once there, you can click on the button above the picture “All Sizes”.   It will open in the large size, but you can download any picture in any size free, or can order prints through the site that will be delivered in about an hour to your nearest Target store.  It’s not obvious how to get to the Target option. First put a print in your shopping cart.  When ready for checkout, you can send your prints to Target for printing for about 15 cents per copy or have them mailed to your home. 

In addition, you can go to “Zassle” and have T-shirts, coffee mugs etc. made with your favorite print.  Enjoy.  Below are selected prints but only a small sample of what is available for free download.

First Wall

First Wall

Nicole installs the first wall to go up!  This is always a photo opportunity and can’t be missed.  There are several other shots of this in the slide show.  The time is 9:09 AM, barely 46 minutes after we started!  The all important wall brace is being wrestled into place on the far left.   All the walls are braced by long 2×4’s to hold the walls vertical and to make sure they don’t get pushed over by loose walls stacked against them or a tired soul leaning heavily in the wrong place.  Long stakes are driven into the ground and the brace is poked through the top of a window or doorway, if available, and nailed at each end when the wall is perfectly vertical.

Second Wall

The second wall.  It includes a window unit and a couple of T’s.  This is the back of the house and includes the utility room and a bedroom.   Notice the brace at the left.  Another is being readied off camera for this wall.  There was no window or door in the first wall so the brace is through the wall itself.  The reason for using window and doors for the braces is so that later much of the outside sheathing can proceed without removing the braces.   

Neat Suspenders

Neat Suspenders. 

Time for a break

Time for a break.  Picture windows make good seats.   Don’t worry, I have front views of all these people in the slide show, including this one.  Hmmm, more suspenders.

Time for a break - another view 

OK, these oldtimer’s deserve more respect.  They are both Gray Ghosts and SPM’s as well.  The Gray Ghosts are generally expert carpenters and woodworkers that have retired but like to stay busy helping the Habitat cause move along.  When things don’t go right or don’t get finished, the SPM puts in a request for Gray Ghost help.  They slip in after the volunteers are gone, review the work and fix any problems or complete any incomplete work so that the job stays on schedule.  The volunteers may notice that someone finished the roof or fixed a window or completed a porch and wonder who did it.  The answer is always “a gray ghost”.  Unsung heroes to me.  There is no telling how many houses they have led and how many more they have worked on as ghosts.

Debbie Found Her Job

Hmm.  Looks like Debbie found her job!    Debbie is also an SPM and has already completed her house on this same street.  She has lead many houses for her local high school and now that she is retired, continues on.

Everybody's busy

Every body is busy. Except for me, of course.  I put the camera down from time to time to pick up my hammer, but to tell the truth, at my age, I can’t do that much anymore.   I did plaster a few OSB walls with nails pretty well however.  I’m trying to document the progress with the intention of keeping a working tutorial of the build.   Wish me luck.

Board Members

I believe the 5 people nearest the center of this picture are all board members or past members of the Presbyterian Coalition, 6 counting the guy behind the camera.  There are many more on the site today.  Everybody works.

Food on the way

Food on the way.  Hamburgers and Hot Dogs.   Each week a church has volunteered to fix the meal and serve drinks.   The assigned church also provides the opening prayer and the food blessing and often a devotional at lunch time.  First Presbyterian always provides the meal on the first day of build and Macland Presbyterian provides the meal for the last build day.   Often the meals are donated by local restaurants.  For example sometimes Papa John’s will provide free pizza dinners or perhaps Williams Brothers Bar-B-Que or Subway.   Others are home cooked or maybe sandwiches.  It doesn’t matter, we are so hungry you could serve worn out shoe leather and no one would complain.

Insulating the T's

This young lady is cutting insulation into strips to insulate the T’s.  All of the outside walls must be insulated and no exceptions are made for small gaps.  You may be able to see an insulted T in the far wall above her head.  The T’s and corner posts must be insulated now because the OSB sheathing will cover much of it before the day is over.   Another area to be insulated early will be the areas behind the tub enclosure before the tub goes in.   Insulation can be a problem if the various inspections delay us from getting other things done.  So very often a special day is set aside for a midweek day to insulate the walls.  It has to be done after the house is dried in and plumbing and electrical done,  but before the drywall goes up.

Our leader

This is our leader, our SPM.  Jeff Vanderlip, a tireless worker and hard task master.  Always urging us to “have fun” then assigns us the most dreadful tasks.

Terry cutting a window opening

This picture may look a little fuzzy but that is sawdust sprinkling down in front of Terry Barton’s face.  It is particularly fine sawdust because he is using a metal cutting blade to cut a window opening – it was all he could find.  I had a proper blade in my truck as did probably 5 others.   Terry is our finance officer and past president of the Coalition.   He is also a Master Gardner and does genetic family research on the side (or something like that).  Anyway he can tell you if you are related to Napoleon or the guy you thought was a great great grand daddy but you’re not certain.

Checking aleignment

Here the house frame is being straightened and aligned with the aid of a couple of blocks of wood and a tight string.  The block he is holding is positioned behind the string while others move braces inside the wall to bring the wall into perfect alignment.   The technique is to put blocks at each end of the top of the wall, tightly stretch a string between them and adjust the wall to a third block that is moved between the wall and the string.    The walls are virtually complete.

   Special selection

I was asked to capture these two together and just at that moment, one tried to get away.

There are about a hundred more pictures on the slide show and I’ve sort of randomly selected a few representative shots here.  There is another slide show coming up as part of the continuing tutorial if anyone is interested in that.  You would be amazed how many people visited last year’s pictures doing searches on construction such as “Hardi Plank” or “roofing” or “siding” or “framing”.  

Job Well Done

Completed walls

Well, here is the last picture for the  day.   The time is 3:10 PM and everybody is gone, some 7 hours after the official start of the day.   The house is sheathed, openings cut, all the walls are up and perfectly aligned, the porch beam is installed and the house is completely ready for the roof trusses that will go up next Saturday.   Incidentally, the pole at the end of the house is a safety pole to hold the first roof truss as it goes up and prevent it from toppling over.  The pole will remain in place until all the trusses are up and the roof completely braced and stable.   There is a catwalk used for safety purposes installed over the living room that I’ve not shown.  It will be in the tutorial and will come down after the trusses are in.  Safety is much more important than finishing the house.

Click here or on any picture for the slide show and for access to the full sets of pictures for free downloads or for ordering prints.




A Few Street Kids

Wikipedia defines “street children” this way:

Street children or street urchins are homeless children who live on the street – in particular, those that are not taken care of by parents or other adults. Street children live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parks, or on the street itself.

That is in contrast to children that are homeless that are living in shelters or taking refuge with friends or relatives.    Below are a few pictures of street kids taken by various photographers around this country who have posted them under a creative commons license.

Market Street, San Francisco

Photo complements of davitydave Photo taken on Market Street, San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

Haight Street San Francisco

Photo Complements of kristiewells Photo taken on Haight Street San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

kristiewells says this about the photo: “We gave them our leftovers from Pork Store Cafe. I asked if I could take their picture which they said was OK, but they were so happy to be eating, I didn’t want to disturb them to get a better photo. ”

Homeless in Austin Texas
Photo Courtesy of  dground Photo taken on Sixth Street in Austin Texas Creative Commons License  Find it Here

Homeless in Minnesota

Photo from The Epoch Times, Minnesota

They had this to say about the picture and runaway kids:

According to a recent statewide survey of homeless people in Minnesota, conducted by the Wilder Research Center, for most youths, going back to live with their parents is not a viable solution. Their homeless plight started as a result of their parents. Fearing their chemically dependent or physically or sexual abusive parents, many youths would rather endure the life on the streets than return home. Many have already lived in foster care, detention or treatment centers.

Dave Eha, a 21-year-old homeless youth for the last six months said, “For many out here, it isn’t like a choice. You would hear all the time how someone was molested or physically abused. Many of the kids are forced to become homeless or else live in an abusive situation.”

The Wilder Research report found that homeless kids were:

Five times more likely to have been treated for alcohol or drug problems, although homeless youths are half as likely to report current use of alcohol.

More than three times more likely to have been hit by a date or intimate partner.

Three times more likely to have been physically abused

For girls, 20 times more likely to have been pregnant; for boys 10 times more likely to have had a sexual relationship that resulted in pregnancy.

Youth of color are three to four times more prevalent among the homeless.

Come ON folks, these could have been your kids.

Find a way to help.


Complaint alleges surgical incompetance for VA Surgeon

Complaint filed in VA surgery case

Read the full story here

MURRAY, Ky. — A woman whose husband died after gallbladder surgery at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Southern Illinois said she has filed an administrative complaint with the agency after learning her husband’s doctor resigned.

Bob Shank, 50, of Murray died Aug. 10, a day after undergoing surgery at the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“It’s still unbelievable to me,’’ said Katrina Shank, whose complaint alleges surgical incompetence caused her husband’s death. “I sit and I look at his picture and I talk to him every night, but it’s just not the same. I tell him that I love him and I miss him and that I know he’s probably in heaven and already knows all this stuff.’’

Shank’s surgeon, Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez, resigned from the hospital last month, shortly before the hospital suspended inpatient surgeries because of a spike in post-surgical deaths. Veizaga-Mendez was prohibited from practicing in Massachusetts last year after being accused of “grossly’’ substandard care, according to a report this week in the Chicago Tribune.

(Note:  See outline of Massachusetts cases below as found by Oldtimer)

“I don’t know why they even allowed him in the operating room,’’ Shank said.

The hospital, which treats veterans from Southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky, has reassigned or placed on leave four officials at the hospital, including the chief of surgery. Patients requiring surgery are being referred to nearby hospitals, according to a statement Friday by the VA’s Washington, D.C., office.

“The VA is also reviewing these surgical cases to identify cases in which surgical patients may have received care that was not consistent with standards and to determine whether that care may have led to complication or death,’’ the statement said.

Our Heroes don’t deserve surgeons prohibited from practice elsewhere!!!!

   Who is minding the store? 

Massachusetts Cases:

(as found at VA Watchdog.org and also found here Chicago Tribune)

Surgeon left trail of fatal errors

Doctor in Downstate death was barred in Massachusetts

| Tribune staff reporter

A review of malpractice suits against Veizaga-Mendez and of cases investigated by Massachusetts authorities paints a disturbing picture of a surgeon who repeatedly made life-threatening errors but still was allowed to operate.A May 2006 report by a peer reviewer spelled out in chilling detail surgical mistakes, errors in judgment, and delays in diagnosis and treatment.Reviewing the case of a 58-year-old man who died after undergoing a procedure to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, the report concluded “the standard of care was grossly unmet in this case.”

It found that a surgical error committed by Veizaga-Mendez caused a stitch to dislodge and leak fluid from the man’s esophagus, resulting in a massive blood infection and respiratory failure. The patient died six weeks later.

 “This case is remarkable for multiple errors,” the report said.

The family of that patient, Jeronimo Coronado, sued Veizaga-Mendez in a Massachusetts district court in 2003. A settlement was reached before the case went to trial.

“I have been doing this work for 26 years and he is among the very worst that I have ever run into,” said Rhode Island malpractice attorney Bennett J. Bergman, who represented the family. “Sometimes doctors are careless and make errors, but in my opinion this went way beyond that. I felt the man was dangerous.”

In a case not included in the state authorities’ report, a jury awarded $652,000 to a Massachusetts man and his wife after Veizaga-Mendez placed two sutures from a hernia repair directly into his bladder. For almost four years, the man “suffered from blood in his urine, knee-buckling pain every time he moved his bowels or urinated, and couldn’t work or have relations with his wife,” said Byron Taylor, the Massachusetts attorney who represented him.

Other errors noted in the state report include misdiagnoses that led to the wrong surgical procedure being performed, prolonged delays in diagnosing post-surgical complications and the use of improper surgical methods.Patients were described as requiring lengthy hospitalizations, unnecessary surgeries and prolonged pain. Some faced the possibility of future surgeries that should have been unnecessary.

In one case, Veizaga-Mendez had planned to treat and discharge a critically ill patient instead of performing surgery. After another physician intervened, Veizaga-Mendez operated, but his errors led to fever, blood infection, pneumonia and a heart attack, according to the investigator.

The report on the seven cases concluded: “I find that the most significant and repeating issue of the involved surgeon is a lack of judgment. … Many of these complications could have been avoided by sound judgment and adherence to surgical fundamentals. … This should be addressed to prevent injuries to future patients.”
Air Force veteran Robert Shank, 50, was unaware of his surgeon’s troubling past as he waited on the operating table at the VA in Marion last month. His mind, his wife said, was focused on hunting and fishing and spending time with his six children and four grandchildren.“We told each other we loved each other. It was just like any day,” a sobbing Katrina Shank recalled.

“It was supposed to be so simple.

All these cases and the VA says “keep on going –  Only the best for our Heroes!”


Habitat Build – August 10, 11 – Decoration Day!

Hoorah!   The house is all decorated and ready for Joi Billingsley to move in.   This house was built by the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity with the help of eight Presbyterian churches in Cobb County, Georgia.  I believe this is our 22d house in Cobb.

There are a total of 16 articles here outlining the building of this house from the slab to finish, including dedication and decoration.   With that there are 11 slide shows.   We still have a few fund=raising efforts to accomplish this year to help pay for next year’s build.   In addition to this house, we are financing the building of 6 houses in Kenya this year.   You can click here to select the 16 articles and slide shows all in one place.

Joi's new home 

Pretty as it is from the outside, wait until you see what Georgia Home Staging did for Joi inside! 

If you came in late, Joi lost all her furniture to thieves that broke into her storage locker one weekend while she was working on her new home (sweat equity).   Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging had already offered to stage (decorate and arrange) her house, and decided to help find donations to refunish it.   A member of Macland Presbyteran  Church donated and arranged for the bulk of the furnature, including decorations, lamps and artwork.   Other donations of money and goods poured in. 

With the help of donations, including a whole household of furnishings, Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging, Margret Kendall, and others from Macland Presbyterian Church finished staging and dicorating Joi’s new home.  Everything new all around. 

Link to photo

Margret on the left and Pat adjust a picture in the guest bedroom.

They made me promise not  to use this photo, so don’t tell them about this site.  The rest of the photo’s below came from Pat’s camera.  There are a lot more shots from both of us in the slideshow below.

 Link to finished LR

Finished Living Room, Kitchen, Dining Room  (Yes that is a Barcolounger)

Master Bedroom

Joi’s Master Bedroom

Link to group photo

Margret, Joi, Pat enjoying a chance to sit down in Joi’s new home.   I’ve never seen Joi not smiling.  See – even Margret and Pat are catching it!

Click here or on any picture for the slideshow



North Dakota Veteran’s Home under Demolition Threat

This is a real sad situation, but there is hope. 

Bob Thorberg is a veteran that may soon be homeless without a lot of help.  He owns and lives in a house in Mandan, N.D. which has fallen into serious disrepair through lack of funds and through his inability to take care of it due to illness.   The City has issued demolition orders, but… wait! There is help!  The North Dakota Patriot Guard has ridden in to help.   You may associate these fine people with the groups of men and women that attend military funerals at the invitation of the family to act as a honor guard and protector.  Now they have a HOTH – Help on the Homefront organization with a mission to help veterans in need.

HOTH on Bob's roofSo far they have convinced the city to give them a few days.   They have also mustered volunteers for labor and collected donations and done some major cleanup around the property, inside and out – picture at the left.  They have enlisted the aid of professional volunteers and paid labor for electrical, plumbing, and heating.   They are collecting funds for materials and labor where volunteers are not suitable.   They have perhaps half of what they need.   And, they seem to only have a few days to get the rest.

I’ve read the city’s meeting notes on this issue, read the news articles and looked at the local TV station’s video – this is indeed a worthy cause.  If you can help out with a donation, you will possibly keep one more worthy veteran, a warrior on hard times, from going homeless.   His living conditions are poor now, but if he loses this home, it could mean a cardboard box or doorway somewhere.  The Patriot Guard HOTH is providing crisis intervention here.  They are simply asking for help.

I’ve asked the city for a comment.  We need to reserve judgment until we hear from them as it seems they are cooperating by giving more time.  Right now this is not political, it is simply concerned citizens and a concerned veterans advocate organization driven by a need to do the right thing for a veterern in need.   Below is the Patriot Guard’s Mission Statement and letter requesting help.


Mission Statement

Our other mission is HELP ON THE HOMEFRONT. It is the intention of the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) to assist the Veteran’s community by taking a proactive role in the lives of our Veterans and the societies they protect and defend. The PGR wishes to serve all heroes, not only the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice but also those whose lives have been forever changed by the actions and events of his service to the United States of America. The physical condition of some of these Veterans often creates overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Often, they will struggle with issues interfering with sense of pride, accomplishment, and personal satisfaction. For most life will never be the same. It is our intention and vision to secure a place in our communities that will continue to honor and assist these heroes with the dignity and respect they deserve. They are true American heroes who must overcome their disabilities. They are our friends, family members and neighbors; it is an honor to be in their confidence. This confidence must not be taken lightly. We should visit and befriend these Veterans. We should be waiting with open arms to help them. Finally, we must maintain this sacred trust we develop for as long as these Veterans need us, up to and including a lifetime if the need exists. PGR’s Help On The Homefront means a great deal of comfort and success to the Veterans who are now faced with living a very different life than the rest of us. It is our hope that any PGR who cannot make honor missions due to work commitments, financial reasons, or family duty may find in this program, an avenue to support our Veterans and their families at a time when they most it. It is with the support of our ever-growing membership, Government coordination, and the mutual support and respect of other organizations, that the PGR Help On The Homefront program is a success.

Statement of the Problem – Veteran in Trouble


The North Dakota Patriot Guard’s (HOTH) program is on a mission, and we need your help.

Robert Thorberg is soon to be 68 years old. He is a veteran of the US Army. He is alone and disabled. He is in the process of being forced out of his home. He seems to have been forgotten. He needs us.

Mr. Thorberg enlisted in the US Army in 1956. He received orders for his 4th tour of duty to go to Nuremberg, Germany. While serving in Germany he was in a car accident where his legs where severely injured. This ended his military career in 1974 two years short of full retirement.

Bob returned to US where he worked as a diesel mechanic and later owned a landscaping business until his legs got so bad he was unable to continue physical work of any kind. He had a hip replaced in 1994. He went into retail sales of landscaping supplies before fully retiring on disability and social security.

Bob’s parents previously owned the home. Over the last few years he has been unable to keep up with repairs on the home and he has been alone, without help. Living paycheck to paycheck he has been unable to hire help or even purchase supplies needed to make the repairs. One year ago he was contacted by the city and told that his neighbors were complaining about the condition of his home. He lives in a neighborhood where the homes are old, but most of them are restored and beautiful. Bob has beautiful homes on either side and across the street. Bob’s home is structurally sound, including the foundation, but needs repairs varying from a front porch taken down, siding, some new windows, finish sheet rocking and flooring inside. His only “family” is his 3 dogs (soon to be 2), and he has a difficult time to bend and pick up their waste. This created an odor that upset the neighbors. The dog kennel has now been moved away from the neighbor’s windows

In the last year Mr. Thorberg has managed to save up a little money and have the main structure’s shingling done, he has sheet rocked and insulated over ¾ of the house. He has also found someone to pick up the dog waste. However, the $2000 for materials he has to finish the work and his speed at which he is able too complete has not been enough to satisfy the city. The city commission voted to evict Bob and demolish his home. Keep in mind that Bob would still have his mortgage to pay after losing his home to the city’s hasty decision and lack of due process. 

The local Patriot Guard Riders seen this in the newspaper, met Bob, checked into his military background, and decided we must help this man. The city has said they will not pursue eviction and demolition for social and political reasons, giving us some time to assist Bob. The PGR is clear on the fact that we are not interested in getting involved in any scuffle with the city or getting into politics of any kind, but we want to help this veteran. That is our one and only mission.  

Bob has contacted other agencies for help but has been put on waiting lists and told that they are out of money for the year. He said he was taught to not trust anyone by the military and therefore now doesn’t trust his government or the Vet’s Administration. He has since agreed to go for disability reassessment at the Fargo VA hospital. We are going to take him to Fargo for an assessment at the Vet’s hospital. It’s a 200 miles trip one way and without help he has been unable to make the trip but with our assistance he is willing to go.

When flexing and doing range of motion with his knees, Bob can only bend both of his knees to about 80 degrees. His knees need replacement but he says he is afraid because he has been put under 4 times already and he worries about what he would be like after the next time.

The more time we (HOTH group) spend with Bob, the more we are getting to know him, and the more we are confident we are doing to right thing by reaching out to help him.  The other day when we returned his military ID we found him helping a neighbor lady with her electric lawn mower wheel. He was not kneeling; he was bending over to work on it turned on its side. The neighbor lady thanked us for helping Bob.

His income is Social Security of $666 and Military Disability just $464, in all about $1130. With this income he is able to live month to month but does not have much left over to save or put into any projects on his home. He lives paycheck to paycheck.

The PGR Help On The Homefront program in North Dakota would like to come to his aid. The HOTH group has gotten volunteers, donations of tools, time, talent, and even a little bit of money, but not enough. If you would consider supporting the North Dakota Patriot Guard Help On The Homefront program either by volunteering your time and labor, donating supplies, money, discount purchases from your business, a gift card, a coupon, etc. we will be able to turn this man’s life around.  We absolutely cannot turn our back on this man. He is the poster child for what HOTH is about. He is a veteran, alone, on a limited income, disabled, and on the verge of being homeless. He needs us, and we need to answer his call for help.

Please contact us if you are able to assist us in anyway.

Tarra Hartl, Help On The Homefront Coordinator   tarra@ndpatriotguard.org 

Rick Colling, Thorberg Project Lead  rcolling@bis.midco.net

To donate money via check: Make check payable to NORTH DAKOTA PATRIOT GUARD and email Tarra to get the mailing address.  

(Oldtimer:  She can also tell you how to set up and use paypal – the information is protected and I could not copy it – please contact Tarra).

Oldtimer’s note:  Please donate now.  This is a very time sensitive operation and the city is demanding that progress be shown within the 30 day window of opportunity.  That window is closing, so they need help now – today!