"A world where everyone has a decent place to live..."

November, 2014
Habitat News Tribune
A Message from the Editor
Greetings and best wishes to you all from your humble editor. Happy Thanksgiving and sorry about yet another missed deadline. I have technically been improving, so perhaps December will be the month I get a newsletter out on time. 

In any event, this issue of Habitat News Tribune will be primarily a retrospective of our inaugural A Brush With Kindness season. Please do read on to learn more about our exultant triumphs. 

In non-ABWK news, last month I provided a link to an interview given by our good friend and New Richmond ReStore manager Andy Scheiderer. This month I am pleased to announce that I have a link to an earlier interview given by our very own Dave Engstrom and Susan Capparelli (Executive Director and Development Director, respectively) for River Falls Community Television. Enjoy the show, and keep a lookout for the Dennis Schmidt interview to cap off this stunning trilogy. Look out Lord of the Rings!

Per ardua ad astra.
-John Thompson   
Donate a Vehicle to SCV-Habitat and Help us Build Houses

Schwan's Fundraiser
Help us build homes through Schwan's! For every purchase, Schwan's will donate 20% in support of our campaign. 
Click here for more information 

Board of Directors

Dave Meier



Carol Merriman
Vice President 

Don Richards

Bill Stokes

Joan Bartz

Sarah Bruch

Kelly Cain

Rollie Johnson

Peter Kilde

Heather Logelin

Roger Pavlis 

Joel Skinner

Joe Greatens


Dennis Schmidt:
Project Specialist
A Brush With Kindness
Joel Palmquist:
Construction Manager
Debbie Murtha:
Office Manager
Amy Henry:
Office Assistant
Andy Scheiderer:
ReStore Manager - New Richmond
Vincent Solorio:
Donation Supervisor - New Richmond
Jason Dale:
Pick-Up Coordinator
Brenda Berner:
ReStore Office Assistant - New Richmond

Sarah Rose:
ReStore Manager -River Falls

Paul Ritzinger:
Donation Supervisor - River Falls
John Thompson:
AmeriCorps VISTA/
E-Newsletter Editor
A Brush With Kindness: A Year In Review


On Halloween Day our A Brush With Kindness program wrapped up its inaugural season. It was exceedingly eventful and profitable for all parties involved. Despite our greenhorn status, SCV-Habitat rolled invincibly through our first season like Tarkus through the Iconoclast. Your humble editor was fortunate enough to have been present at all five projects this summer and autumn, so let us now briefly recap each project to better gauge the breadth of our achievements.


First of all, we must begin by honoring the man who made all of this possible, the magnanimous Dennis "Denny" Schmidt. True, a program like A Brush With Kindness cannot succeed without scores of dedicated individuals, but Dennis Schmidt is the man behind it all, ensuring that the materials are procured, the volunteers are safely guided in their work, and the paperwork is properly filled out. Congratulation Denny on a splendid ABWK season.


Project One: The Ashwood Family Band


Molly and Chris Ashwood have already been the subject of a Habitat News Tribune issue, but let us take a moment to revisit this musical family. Chris Ashwood, a legally blind musician and Molly Ashwood, a substitute music teacher, came to SCV-Habitat with a list of improvements to their home in Hudson that they were having difficulty securing the capital for due to the erratic nature of their income. Denny was eager to cut his teeth on his first project, so he deftly solicited the assistance of Home Depot, The River Church, and St. Bridget's Catholic Church, and the project was ready to roll on August 1st. In the insightful words of the rock band America, "the heat was hot" during the Ashwood project, but the plucky volunteers carried on their happy labor undaunted. Upon completion of the project the entire house was painted, decaying fascia board and dormer siding were replaced, rain gutters were installed, a dead tree was felled, a bathroom vent was repaired, and a hole in the siding was patched.  


Project Two: Fred Volkmann 


Fred Volkmann is a retiree and a veteran living in River Falls. The work to be done was relatively modest, but certainly important. The porch and back step needed painting, and the mulch and edging around the house needed replacing. As the project was local and relatively limited in scope, it was decided that in addition to the volunteers from First Congregational United Church of Christ, the SCV-Habitat office staff would roll up their sleeves and put in some work. And put in work we did, the project took just a day and a half, and Fred continued to visit with the office in the subsequent weeks and months. In fact, I recently interviewed Fred about his project, so please read on to get the straight dope on this fascinating man. 

Project Three: Urma Goodman


Our next project sent us all the way to the curious and exotic land of New Richmond. Urma and her daughter Katie had some much needed repairs, but were having trouble financing them. Fortuitously we had been contacted by the UW-River Falls women's basketball team mere weeks before Urma's project was slated to begin. Fortune truly smiled upon us as these ladies completed this project in a mere two and a half days, bolstered by the ranks of the Faith Community Church. When all was said and done the entire house was painted, the front porch was stained, a heavy tarp was installed as a windbreak to keep ice from building up in the breezeway during winter, the garage door was put on track, a new lock set was installed on the rear entry door, two large boulders were removed from the yard, and the driveway was replaced.  

Project Four: Gwen Wittmer


Gwen is a cancer survivor who lives way out in Downing, Wisconsin. She has a trailer home that needed a new paint job with an attached porch that had seen its fair share of better days and needed to be replaced with a deck. This would be our farthest trek yet, all the way into the mystical land of Dunn County. But never ones to let boarders get in the way of the common good, Dennis and I made the harrowing sojourn across county lines to join volunteers from Thrivent Financial, the Lions Club, and Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The last two days of the project that I was fortunate enough to be present for were without a doubt the coldest on record for this season of ABWK. But we slogged on like Napoleon's army through Russia, the key difference in metaphor being that our small army of volunteers emerged victorious in the three day battle for Gwen's new deck. Also I would hazard to bet that we were quite a bit more chipper than Napoleon's army. In any event, the war has not yet been fully won, as we are slated to install two new awnings this winter and build a new back stoop in the spring. 


Bonus project: Grace Termott


Shortly after our first ABWK season officially ended Denny was contacted by Grace Termott, an elderly woman in River Falls. Grace wanted to know if we could help her make a safety improvement to her enclosed porch. Grace had been using a makeshift step that was neither secure nor wide enough to safely accommodate her walker. Denny, being the lionhearted chap that he is, leapt at the opportunity to help someone in need, despite the ABWK season being technically over. Thus, Dennis and I embarked to the Eco Village and set about the joyful work of fashioning a safe mechanism of egress out of Eco Village scrap lumber. Dennis and I are an unstoppable duo, like Lennon and McCartney (if you're a Baby Boomer), or Murtaugh and Riggs (if you're a Gen Xer), or Rizer and Bean (if you're a Millennial), and thus the new step was constructed in a mere afternoon. We installed Grace's step immediately after its construction, and the look on Grace's face when we informed her that this was a pro bono project, well, if only you could have seen it, dear reader, that look of relief and gratitude sums up the ABWK season far better than any of my words ever could.        


Thank you to Dennis Schmidt, all of our phenomenal volunteers, our fantastic church groups, Thrivent Financial, Home Depot, Fitzgerald Lawn Care, Century 21 Realty, UW-River Falls, the SCV-Habitat staff, and everyone else who has had a hand in making our first season of ABWK a smashing success. Great work everyone. 


Also thank you to the Ashwoods, Fred Volkmann, Urma Goodman, Gwen Wittmer, Grace Termott, and all of their friends and family who helped with ABWK. Everyone was exceptionally accommodating, pleasant, and neighborly throughout the entire process, and it brings us a profound sense of elation that we were able to be of service to such fine folks.  

Ashwoods Before
Ashwoods After
Fred Before
Fred After
Urma Before
Urma After (but before the steps were stained)
Gwen Before
Gwen After
An Interview with Fred Volkmann
Fred Volkmann is, as aforementioned, the second of our A Brush With Kindness projects. The loquacious and bonhomous veteran is constantly upbeat and pleasant to interact with, thus it was my great pleasure to sit down with Fred and talk with him about his ABWK project. 

Fred's story begins with a simple, incontrovertible fact: some home maintenance is rendered difficult for Fred due to knee replacement surgery. It is this fact that brought Fred into our office last summer. Having read about A Brush With Kindness in a church bulletin, Fred decided to find out more about our fledgling program. It was a unique experience for Fred, as he had made these kind of home improvements himself throughout his entire life, but the vicissitudes of fate can complicate matters for anybody. So Fred stopped by our office one summer day, and he quickly became a friendly fixture around the Habitat office thereafter. It wasn't long after that that the paperwork had been taken care of, the volunteers had been assembled, and the materials were procured. The painting and landscaping went swimmingly, the volunteers were enthusiastic, and Fred was more than eager to dive into the work when possible. Overall, Fred is quite pleased with the project - his vision came into being in a mere day and a half filled with camaraderie and rewarding work for all. Since his project Fred has been preaching the virtues of our program to friends and acquaintances, and he remains a welcome presence around the Habitat office.       
Fred's home after ABWK
Homeowner Association Formation
November marked the beginning of a momentous step for our Eco Village: the formation of the Homeowner Association. Our current and future Eco Village homeowner partners have created an organization that will allow them to make important decisions regarding the future of their community through democratic discourse. The Eco Village HOA has already elected officers and has made tremendous strides in organizational capacity. Having attended their meetings I can objectively report that the organization is passionate and committed, and I believe that the culture of community, mutual respect, and cooperation that they have cultivated will continue to flourish throughout the years. Congratulations to everyone involved for the fantastic progress.
Eco Village
Smashing Pumpkins
Last month bore witness to the official grand opening of our River Falls ReStore, and proving the old adage that many hands make light work our ReStore had a menagerie of individuals offer their assistance. One such instance of assistance came from Bill Anderson and the UW-River Falls Crop and Soil Club. Bill is a retired professor at UW-River Falls who is still active with the Crop and Soil Club, and Bill and the club offered an intriguing donation for our ReStore. We receive an eclectic mix of donations at our ReStores, but perhaps never one quite like this before. You see, dear reader, the Crop and Soil Club has a symbiotic relationship with a YMCA camp, Camp St. Croix. The club grows pumpkins to be sold to the camp at cost. But this year the Crop and Soil Club found themselves with an interesting dilemma, they had grown a veritable cornucopia of pumpkins - far more than what Camp St. Croix needed. So the surplus was gifted to a number of nonprofits - ReStore being among them. In all, our ReStore received around 80 pumpkins which were given away to children and families at the Grand Opening. It was a terrific gesture on behalf of the Crop and Soil Club, and Bill believes that the relationship between the club and our ReStore has just begun. So thank you to Bill Anderson and the UW-RF Crop and Soil Club for your generosity and superbly grown pumpkins.

St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity
116 E. Elm Street
River Falls, WI 54022