District 214 students build tiny homes for homeless veterans

 
 
Updated 4/10/2019 6:23 AM
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  • Rolling Meadows High School Career and Technical Education Division Head Dave Wietrzak, right, helps Hersey High School seniors Em Tchorz, left, and Dawn Monarca, center, build houses for homeless veterans on Friday.

    Rolling Meadows High School Career and Technical Education Division Head Dave Wietrzak, right, helps Hersey High School seniors Em Tchorz, left, and Dawn Monarca, center, build houses for homeless veterans on Friday. Courtesy of District 214

  • Rolling Meadows High School junior Estefani Mejia, from left, helps Hersey High School senior Zoe Axelrod put together the frame of a tiny house intended for a homeless veteran.

    Rolling Meadows High School junior Estefani Mejia, from left, helps Hersey High School senior Zoe Axelrod put together the frame of a tiny house intended for a homeless veteran. Courtesy of District 214

  • Rolling Meadows High School math teacher Brett Olson, left, works with Hersey High School senior Jake Irwin during the construction of walls and roofs for tiny homes on Friday.

    Rolling Meadows High School math teacher Brett Olson, left, works with Hersey High School senior Jake Irwin during the construction of walls and roofs for tiny homes on Friday. Courtesy of District 214

Students from Rolling Meadows and John Hersey high schools spent Friday building homes for veterans more than 800 miles away -- and they didn't even have to leave the classroom.

Dozens of the students donning safety glasses and gripping power tools pieced together walls and roofs that will be shipped to Savannah, Georgia, next month and assembled into 20 tiny homes as part of a new veterans community.

"You're not just building a home here. You're building a community," said Jim Miks, a Hersey English teacher who has led fundraising efforts at the school for five veterans homebuilding projects over the last five years.

The student work crews Friday operated from Rolling Meadows High School's manufacturing lab, where Rolling Meadows students enrolled in a Geometry in Construction course worked alongside Hersey students there for the day. Students at Buffalo Grove High School, in their geometry construction course, have also been framing walls for the homes.

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 plans to send off a semitrailer truck filled with the home sections -- 160 walls and 650 rafters total -- to Georgia on May 1.

After the truck arrives, crews will begin putting the pieces together as part of a planned 72-home residential community for homeless veterans. Called Veterans Village, the site will contain the tiny houses measuring 16 feet by 18 feet, a community center providing job training and counseling, and hydroponics/aquaponics centers where the veterans can farm and get educational certification.

The intention of the project is to develop a transitional community for veterans to get off the street and learn skills to reintegrate into society.

"It is a rebuild. It is a reboot," Miks said. "The best therapy for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is to talk it out with other vets. By living together, they are a support for each other."

The initiative is spearheaded by Savannah, Georgia-based Nine Line Foundation, along with Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless and Georgia Southern University.

Each tiny home costs $16,000 to build. District 214 students are raising money to pay for lumber and shipping costs.

Two local sports bars also will host fundraisers: from 4 to 8 p.m. April 27 at Player's Pub in Prospect Heights and from 2 to 6 p.m. May 5 at The Sports Page in Arlington Heights.

Hersey and other District 214 schools raised some $100,000 to build four regular-sized homes for disabled veterans with the nonprofit A Soldier's Journey Home. That organization and the nonprofit involved in the Georgia veterans community partnered to build a home for a veteran last year.

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