‘Raise The Roof’ volunteers help build townhomes in Santa Rosa

About 40 volunteers turned out Sunday for the workday organized by the Jewish Community Federation in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.|

Sam Rose, a Santa Rosa chiropractor, is accustomed to treating patients in a comfortable office and working with clean hands.

On Sunday morning, he was sweating through his blue T-shirt, emblazoned with the motto “Building Community Together,” while pushing wheelbarrows full of gravel around a construction site on West Steele Lane.

“It’s just grunt labor,” he said. “We just do what they tell us. We’re tired from the neck down.”

Rose was one of about 40 volunteers who turned out for “Raise The Roof,” a workday organized by the Jewish Community Federation, an advocacy and social services group, in collaboration with the homebuilding nonprofit Habitat for Humanity.

It was the third weekend day on the job for the federation, with most of the volunteers rising early to drive up to Santa Rosa from the San Francisco Peninsula.

Roxane Cohen, program officer with the federation, said the volunteers who left home as early as 6:45 a.m. “wanted to get dirt under their fingernails.”

“This feels like our backyard,” she said, explaining that Jewish values require action. “You don’t stand on the sidelines. There’s a community that needs help; we want to be there.”

Volunteers are constructing three townhomes across the street from Hilliard Comstock Northwest Community Park. The project is not a wildfire rebuilding effort, but it’s a “hair’s breadth away” from the devastated Coffey Park area, said Carol Appel with the Jewish Concierge of Sonoma County.

The completed townhomes will be occupied by families that put in 500 hours of labor - called “sweat equity" - and become mortgage-holding landowners. Habitat for Humanity holds down the construction costs by recruiting volunteer workers.

The organization is “ramping up to meet demand” for housing in the wake of the wildfires, said Rick Oberdorfer, director of construction, who was at Sunday’s workday.

Habitat for Humanity also is building 10 modular cottages on the Fountaingrove campus of medical device maker Medtronic that will ultimately become granny units on lots with single-family homes.

Sonoma County natives Amy and Paul Dodson are the happy owners of a home rehabilitated by Habitat for Humanity in front the townhomes. With four bedrooms, it accommodates the couple and their seven children, ages 11 months to 14 years, with a front room large enough for Paul to play catch with two of the boys.

“It’s perfect,” Amy Dodson said. Without it, they would have had to move out of the county or the state, she said. “The equity’s already going up.”

Volunteering is “synonymous with Judaism,” Rachel Leibman said while taking a lunch break in the park. She drove up from San Francisco to help with the construction project.

“I feel that everyone can write a check, but not everyone can pour concrete,” she said, referring to the chore she shared with Evan Ludwig, another San Franciscan.

The two have been dating since they met during a Jewish Community Federation volunteer workday in August.

“Volunteering has a special place in our hearts,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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