Rotary Clubs team up for Habitat

Tom KingFarragut, Feature

Knoxville’s six Rotary clubs – including the Rotary Club of Farragut — are joining with Denark Construction Co. and beginning the preliminary work to build a Habitat for Humanity House this fall.

This major project will begin with the well-known “Blitz Day” on Saturday, Oct. 27, and continue on Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 (both Saturdays) with the work focusing on the interior walls, the roof and the vinyl siding.   The schedule calls for work to resume on Dec. 1 with interior painting and Dec. 8 to work on trim and cabinets.

The tentative date for the dedication ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2019.

This all stems from the October 2017 news that Rotary International and Habitat for Humanity have created a partnership to facilitate collaboration between local Rotary clubs and local Habitat for Humanity organizations worldwide, enabling Habitat to extend its volunteer pool by tapping into Rotary’s 1.2 million members in 200 countries and regions.

When Frank Rothermel read the news release about this Rotary-Habitat partnership, it didn’t take him long to get busy.  Rothermel is president of Denark Construction in Knoxville, a past president of the Rotary Club of Knoxville and a past district governor.  He’s also a former president of the board of directors of Knoxville’s Habitat for Humanity.

“I called Kelle Shultz (Habit for Humanity executive director here) and Ed Anderson (President of the Rotary Club of Knoxville) and told them we needed to get together and discuss an idea I have,” Rothermel said.  “So we all met at the December 2017 Habitat breakfast and they took it from there.”

They embraced the idea of the local partnership.  Ed talked with his club about this, then met with the presidents of the other clubs in town – the Rotary Club of Farragut, the Rotary Club of Bearden, North Knox Rotary, the Knoxville Breakfast Club and the Volunteer Rotary Club.  All of the clubs proposed the idea to their clubs and the response was unanimous.

The cost of building a Habitat home is $40,000.  Rothermel and Denark have committed $20,000.  The other $20,000 is coming from the six Rotary clubs, their contributions based on the size of the clubs.  In addition to the money, Rotarians from all of the clubs will be involved as volunteers in the actual build and in activities supporting the project.

Rothermel says he came up through the building trade as a carpenter and loves Habitat.  “I drank the Kool Aid,” he says. “What they do is incredible.”  He says Denark has been involved in building five Habitat houses and also in the construction of 20 houses in one week – the Rutledge Pike subdivision of Easton Meadow.

“I love the international work that Rotary does around the world, but this gives our local Rotarians an opportunity to work and build something right here in our community,” he said.  “Not only our clubs, but our high school interact clubs and their young people would get a lot out of this project.”

Here is what Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko says about this partnership: “Habitat’s aim to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope aligns perfectly with Rotary’s commitment to make positive, lasting change in communities around the world. With Habitat’s expertise and the power of Rotary’s volunteer network, we will help build the foundation for stronger communities.”

“This is really exciting, fabulous, this local partnership because Rotary is so well respected in Knoxville,” said Shultz, who has been the executive director of Habitat here for 24 years. “Rotary has so many leaders, individuals and talents in each club and it’s wonderful for them to want to partner with us and recognize and respect what we do.”

She’s looking to the future as well about how Rotary and Habitat can work together on other projects.  “I think that will develop naturally as we learn more about Rotary and they learn more about our needs,” she added.

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