Over the hill? Really?
Since January 1993, a group of retired gentlemen in the Williamsport area have been quietly volunteering carpentry and construction skills to the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the city.
Calling themselves the 'Over the Hill Gang,' today the crew regularly produces hand-crafted furniture and accessory pieces for sale in ReStore at 540 Lycoming St.
Jenny Thorsen, ReStore's manager, meets with the gang about once a month to decide on a project. The Over the Hill Gang has created kitchen islands, armoires, bathroom storage cabinetry and other solid wood pieces, all crafted of quality maple, cherry or oak.
Most materials are brand new and have been donated to Habitat, Thorsen said. A large donation of cabinet doors that were given to ReStore are used in the design of the furniture pieces. Money generated from sales of the pieces is then available to support the Habitat mission: to help provide decent, affordable housing in the greater Lycoming County area for hard-working families who are in need.
The gang today consists of Sam Hammond and Bob Dayton, both of Loyalsock; Brian Lynch, Armstrong Township; cousins Al and Louis Stanzione, both of Williamsport; and Dean Thomas, Montoursville.
Original members were Ray Wallum, George Heilman and Donald Baier who passed away in recent years. Bob Shandry, original construction manager at Habitat, and Carl Callenbach of Nesbit, are retired from the gang.
While no one in the group admitted to his age, the youngest is 80.
Many of the members began with Habitat in the early years as construction volunteers at Habitat home sites or helped with the renovation at 540 Lycoming St., when ReStore opened for business.
Some also did pick-ups of materials. Lynch recalled that when the gentlemen worked at Habitat sites, they might arrive earlier than the materials were delivered.
Many times, he said, anxious to get started, someone would make a trip to the hardware store, buy the materials needed and get right to work, donating not only skills and time, but also materials to the home project. Lynch admitted with a smile that it was his wife who suggested that he volunteer with Habitat. "I had recently retired from employment and deer season was over," Lynch said
Today Sam Hammond, a master craftsman who headed Hammond Construction for 40 years, hosts the gang in his garage shop, where the men enjoy both the joy of crafting their projects and a long-standing camaraderie that suits them well in their retirement.
"It's obvious by the way these men relate to each other that they love working together. They laugh with each other and have a great time," Ana White, home development coordinator at Habitat said.
"They even tease that women are not allowed in the workshop. So far we have not tested them on that rule. Habitat is so fortunate to benefit from the skills and time that these gentlemen offer both to us and of course to the good families that we are privileged to work with in our area," White said.
"Together they are a mighty team," Thorsen said.
Habitat homes are rehabilitated or built primarily with volunteers using money contributed by supporters, according to Tina McDowell, executive director.
Families must go through a selection process that includes income verification and determination of credit-worthiness and financial responsibility.
Families who qualify for Habitat homes pay their mortgage back over a 30-year period with no interest. They also are required to work 250 hours for each adult in the household as sweat equity, with 100 hours working on their own home.
These are hard-working families with a real need who work with volunteers, not only to build homes, but also to build strong relationships and give back to the communities where they live.
Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity serves Lycoming, Bradford, Tioga and eastern Clinton Counties.
For more information on how to volunteer time or make a donation, visit www.lycominghab itat.org, contact Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity at 540 Lycoming St., Williamsport, PA 17701, or call 322-2515.
Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity can also be found on Facebook.