Building momentum

Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.

Marcus Larson/News-Register

Marcus Larson/News-Register — Students from Linfield’s Habitat Club help clean up unusable donations from the holding area of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in McMinnville.

By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer
March 17, 2016


For a lot of people, throwing away piles of debris would just be throwing away piles of debris. Not for Tristan Dahl.

She’s an anthropology major at Linfield College. For her, helping pitch rain-soaked pieces of wood and metal into a Dumpster on a blustery Saturday morning is field work.

She joined a dozen or so other students in the Linfield Habitat Club, behind the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Southeast First Street, on March 12. As they tossed away the unusable bits and pieces people donated to Habitat, she ran across what looked like a table with the words “Crabtree & Evelyn” printed on the side.

Dahl’s imagination reeled. What could it be? Crabtree & Evelyn. It sounded so chichi.

She concluded that it was probably a winery that fell on hard times. The owners probably broke up their old tables and donated them to Habitat.

A quick Google search revealed the truth.

Dahl was right about the chichi part. Crabtree & Evelyn is a London-based retailer that offers upscale hand soaps, body lotions and home fragrances. The nearest Crabtree & Evelyn outlet used to be at Washington Square Mall in Beaverton, but it has gone out of business.

Of course, that presented another mystery. How did a table from a mall in Beaverton find its way 30 miles south to McMinnville? After all, Beaverton’s Habitat outlet is only five miles down the road.

While not exactly the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, such mysteries tantalize the 20-year-old budding anthropologist.

“We call this trash, but it’s someone’s life story,” Dahl said. “I look at these things and wonder where they came from. What are the stories behind them?”

She held up an old wooden plank. “I mean, what the heck was this used for?”

Becky Rice, 18, also helped load the Dumpster. She was slightly less enthusiastic about working in the pouring rain, and did not eye the debris quite so philosophically. “Every time I hand you something, you act like I’m going to beat you with it,” Dahl told her.

It could just be that Rice, splattered with mud, found the work fulfilling but not very comfortable.

“I smell like a slug,” she said. “I’m going to smell like this for a week.”

Nonetheless, she kept plugging away.

This was not her first Habitat experience. “Last time, we were building a fence, and our hands were so numb that we couldn’t feel the drill,” she said.

Jaye Cromwell, community outreach coordinator for Habitat locally, said the Linfield Habitat Club is one of the oldest established campus units still operating. Student groups have a tendency to ebb and flow, and Linfield Habitat ebbed to almost nothing before freshman David Flores, 19, brought it back to life in the fall.

“Students plan to meet about three times a year, but we’re hoping they’ll get together more often as the club builds momentum,” Cromwell said.

Sounds great, Dahl said. “If we could do once a month at the construction site and once a month at the ReStore, that would be awesome,” she said.

Cleaning up the debris behind the First Street store was the students’ second meeting this year.

The first involved building the aforementioned fence that left their hands numb on Northeast Tilbury Street. The fence was part of a housing project in Habitat’s Aspire development.

Students were scheduled to work at the development. But incessant rain forced a move to the store.

Habitat sometimes accumulates donations it can’t really use, Cromwell said. Rather than discourage donors, it accepts the donations anyway, and they tend to pile up.

“This represents about five years of accumulation for us,” Cromwell said of the abandoned building material and appliances behind the store.

Despite the discomfort, Rice said she loves working for Habitat. As a health education and nursing major, she said, she welcomes the opportunity to help people.

She may continue to work with Habitat after she graduates, she added. “It depends on where I live and what I’m doing.”

Dahl said she definitely wants to continue with Habitat.

“You feel good,” she said. “You get to meet the homeowners. You get to work with other people and work interactively.

“I don’t really care where I work, at the building site or the ReStore. The people who work for this nonprofit are just amazing.”

Habitat for Humanity was founded in Georgia in 1976. Its volunteers build houses for people who can’t afford to buy one on their own.

The Linfield students weren’t alone in helping the agency. While they cleared debris, 21-year-old Dakota Dyke was helping frame a home on Tilbury Street for new owner Francisco Garcia.

As part of the requirements for receiving a Habitat home, Garcia must work side-by-side with volunteers on the construction. And Garcia has been putting in an amazing amount of time, said construction manager Pete Derania.

The community feels like home, Garcia said.

“I’ve been living in McMinnville for 15 years,” he said. “I met my wife at McMinnville High School,” he said, and they are raising children 3, 7 and 11.

He said they all appreciate the work done by the Linfield students and Dyke, who is volunteering through the Learn to Construct vocational program. The aim is to train young people who had a rough time in mainstream education.

“I wasn’t the best in school,” Dyke said. “I like this hands-on stuff.”

This is the program’s first project in Yamhill County, and Derania said it’s been rewarding for everyone involved. He noted, “One of the best things you can do for people is train them in job skills, for criminy sake.”