RTHS students pitch in to renovate housing units

RANTOUL — Students at Rantoul Township High School are learning the trades, and the Hope Meadows community in Rantoul is benefitting with renovated housing.

Through grants provided via the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs’ office, the high schoolers have been upgrading the 60-year-old Hope Meadows homes that at one time housed Air Force families.

One day recently, under the direction of teacher Pat Button, Jawan Gray and Ryan Wines were mopping a basement floor in preparation of applying epoxy that will not only improve the looks of the floor but will also help prevent leakage.

Wines and Gray are two of several RTHS students who have been working in the Home Maintenance Repair class.

The $13,650 Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund grant through the treasurer’s office expired at the end of June. Button and Hope Meadows Director Hank Gamel are hoping the program receives more grant funding to allow for additional work on Hope Meadows homes.

In one home, the work involved adding extra insulation (thermal-imaging revealed that the original insulation in the walls had settled), interior painting, repairing downstairs cracking, adding drywall, installing two toilets as well as a new sink and counter top.

Safety additions were also added such as slip-proof flooring on stairs. New doors have also been installed in some homes.

“This is a lot bigger than what you would imagine at first with three levels and six bedrooms,” said Button of the house they were working on. “There were multiple coats of paint.”

Wines said what he has learned doing the work is “mostly house-maintenance-type stuff. Like when you own a home, a lot of little things will happen to it like dry walling, replacing insulation.”

Wines added, “On this job you learn how to do a lot of that yourself, ... and you can save some money instead of having somebody else do it.”

Gray said he didn’t know much about home repair and maintenance before he started, but said the work is providing an education.

Both Gray and Wines said they enjoy the work.

When grant funding was originally provided to RTHS, Hope Meadows and Habitat for Humanity, the high school was able to buy a thermal-imaging camera, and Hope Meadows bought an insulation blower, which Gamel said has been used a great deal.

Work by the high school students, however, was limited to just during class, which initially included a great deal of research such as what areas of homes needed the most attention. But they didn’t have time to do the actual work.

The grant through the treasurer’s office allowed for the payment of an education stipend for students to do the work after school and during the summer. Button said he had as many as nine students on the job at one time.

Gamel said the insulation work alone will prove to be beneficial for future occupants.

“These big houses, especially, have two air conditioners and two furnaces. I think it will be a big difference to the costs for the residents,” Gamel said.

Button, a physical education teacher at RTHS, volunteered to take over the home maintenance and repair class  in late April after Grant Kelly, who formerly led the class, left to take a job outside of the school.

Gamel said Button put in nine-hour days to get as much work done as possible. Button said there is plenty more work to do at Hope Meadows.

“I feel like there’s enough work to keep us going for a long time,” Button said.

Gamel said said eight homes have been refurbished, and work is needed on another 50.  

The project further reinforces RTHS’ added emphasis of helping those students who might want to learn a trade.

Gamel said earlier that the training also sends the students through 10-hour OSHA general construction safety training, the cost of which future employers would not have to bear.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com



 

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