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Groundbreaking ceremony held for Habitat for Humanity construction

by Anakin Bush | April 1, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Anakin Bush/Fulton Sun People who are key to the construction of a house for an Afghan family of 14 break ground on Thursday. This house will be the largest the River City Habitat for Humanity has ever built, and is the only one they will build outside of Cole County.

River City Habitat for Humanity held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for a home that will be built for a local family of 14 from Afghanistan.

The Habitat, located in Jefferson City, usually only build Habitat homes in Cole County.

Susan Cook-Williams, executive director at River City Habitat for Humanity, said the organization can only build outside of Cole County once in the organization's lifetime.

The organization was founded in 1992, and has built or renovated over 128 homes in Jefferson City since then.

She said the group chose this project once they heard of Sheen Gul Safi's story. He is the father of the family who will live in the Habitat house.

Gul Safi spent over 20 years fighting alongside American soldiers.

"Once we heard about Sheen Gul's story and the service he has done for our country, and just the difficulty that their family would have trying to find housing on a long term basis, we were just compelled to act," Cook-Williams said. "This was the one shot that we wanted to take to build outside of our area and help them."

She said the Habitat hopes to receive the building permit in the next week or two, and then construction will begin.

Linda Baysinger serves as the volunteer coordinator for the construction. She said there are only three or four contractors working on construction, and the rest is entirely volunteer based.

She said the process of finding volunteers is still ongoing, because the schedule for work days has not been finalized yet.

"We've already got 50, 60 people that are signed up to volunteer," Baysinger said.

The hope is for the house to be finished by early 2024, she said.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, several people key to the project broke ground at the site with a shovel. Joan Berry Morris, member of the Fulton Afghan Resettlement Committee, was one person who broke ground.

She said the committee has been working on this project for about a year and a half. The Afghan family arrived in October of 2021 and has been renting since then, Morris said.

"It's kind of hard to find a rental for a family of 14, so now we are doing the Habitat house," Morris.

She added that it means everything to the committee that the Habitat stepped in to help.

"We could not have done this without Habitat," Morris said. "Their territory is Cole County, and the fact that they were willing to come outside that territory and work with us is just phenomenal."

She said it is wonderful to see the community support for the construction. She added that it is not just people from Callaway County supporting it, as people from Columbia, Jefferson City and St. Louis are also helping.

This house will be the largest built by the Habitat, director of construction Mark Frey said.

He said the house will be a ranch style house with six bedrooms.

Fulton Mayor Lowe Cannell was another person who broke ground on Thursday. He said it was bittersweet for this to be one of his last acts as Mayor before the upcoming election.

"I love this job, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. But to be part of something like this is wonderful... and to have Fulton be a representative to welcoming an Afghan family is wonderful and says a lot about our community," Cannell said.

Gul Safi thanked everyone for the support his family has received in Fulton.

"Thank you very much for the warm receptions and for all the services," Gul Safi said.

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