It was a gray, drizzly day on Clark Street in Waterville on Tuesday as Roland Rancourt and Mike Grant lay down their tools to take a break from installing kitchen cabinets.

The volunteers are helping to build a one-story Habitat for Humanity house for a single mother with two young girls.

“I’ve worked construction all my life,” said Rancourt, 78, of Fairfield. “My trade was sheet metal, but doing construction work, you work with all the trades. You learn a lot.”

This is far from the first Habitat for Humanity house Rancourt has worked on. In fact, he winters in Myrtle Beach where he has been helping to build homes for 17 years and worked on two Habitat houses featured on the reality television series “Extreme Makeover.”

Grant, 68, of Oakland, is not far behind Rancourt in his volunteer efforts, having worked on Habitat homes 14 years. The 1,200-square-foot Clark Street house in the city’s South End is his fifth such house.

“It’s an opportunity to help people,” he said. “We really approve of the philosophy that it’s a hand up and not a hand out.”

The mom and her two little girls are excited about the house and have been there for every major work project, according to Rancourt and Grant. The girls run errands for the workers and picked out their bedroom colors — fuchsia and lilac.

“It makes you want to commit your time to it,” Grant said.

Rancourt said it is gratifying to volunteer on Habitat homes, and in Myrtle Beach, there are about 115, he said.

“They’re building homes in areas really depressed and falling into disrepair,” he said.

Both Rancourt and Grant are retired from Huhtamaki, a company that Linda Santerre, executive director of Habitat for Humanity and Re-Store Waterville Area, says is a great supporter of Habitat and sent a crew in to help erect the Clark Street house.

“They did foundation to roof in four days,” she said. “It was so appreciated. They brought in staff with construction experience and could swing a hammer. It went up fast. The plant manager was here and the president of the company came in from Kansas.”

In existence since 2001, the local Habitat serves communities including Waterville, Winslow Albion, Belgrade, Benton, China, Clinton, Fairfield, Oakland, Rome, Smithfield, Unity and Vassalboro and has built four other homes. A locally managed affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, it receives all of its funding through donations, fundraising and an annual appeal.

Santerre, 60, who oversees the store on Silver Street downtown, and former Habitat president Dean Dolham, 61, were also on hand at the house Tuesday.

Santerre said Lowe’s is a big supporter of Habitat and teamed up with the organization on a program called “Womens Build Day” that provides women an opportunity to learn how to build a home and safely use power tools and other equipment. The women in the program worked on the Clark Street house, according to Santerre.

Dolham, who works at Sappi and was succeeded about three months ago as Habitat president by Phil Bofia, said the city of Waterville donated the Clark Street property to Habitat and demolished a tiny house there so the new one could be built.

“They were very patient with us,” Dolham said of city officials. “We’ll put it back on the tax rolls.”

Santerre said she hopes the family can move into the house by Thanksgiving, but it depends on whether it is ready.

The Kennebec Valley Board of Realtors, a part of the Maine Realtors Association, also is a big supporter of Habitat, according to Dolham. As they spoke, Dan Patterson, 44, of Farmington, a member of the Kennebec Valley Board, was painting doors in the house.

“I heard about this. They sent out a message to the whole membership of Kennebec Valley,” Patterson said. “I enjoy this. This project I have a particular sort of interest in because I’ve got two girls, too, so it’s just kind of nice to help out.”

The house will be valued at between $60,000 and $65,000 when it is done, and the new owner will pay a mortgage based on that cost, with her payments going toward financing the next Habitat house.

“It isn’t a giveaway,” Dolham said. “She will have a mortgage over 30 years at zero interest. It’s very, very affordable.”

It was heartwarming to talk with these folks, who had no forewarning that I planned to visit the house Tuesday. They are volunteers working under the radar, expecting no praise or recognition.

Dolham and Santerre said Habitat is looking for property to be donated for homes, and volunteer labor always is needed.

“It’s not a long-term commitment,” Dolham said. “It can be two to three hours a day and that’s it. You don’t have to have a skill set — just a willingness to be involved.”

Santerre said anyone wanting to volunteer for Habitat may call the store at 616-0166 and ask for her or Peter, the store manager.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 30 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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