Show You Care: Volunteers build to honor late civil rights leader

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- As many as 250 volunteers may wind up working on a new Habitat home in Cedar Rapids. It’s a home intended as a tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And the project itself is making a bit of history due to its location.

Volunteers take a break outside the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity home in the 2nd & 3rd Avenue Historic District.

Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity brings together lots of volunteers for lots of projects.

But the new construction at 1638 3rd Ave, S. E. rates a couple of “firsts.”

It’s the first new home built in the city’s 2nd & 3rd Ave. Historic District in more than 60 years.

And it’s also the first time the local habitat group has honored the late civil rights leader who died 50 years ago with a housing project.

Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, says the project called “The Beloved Community” also reflects Dr. King’s vision of access and equality for all.

“It sounds like lofty ideals, but what habitat does it puts it into practice in a really tangible way,” Capps said.

Work on the new home began last month and should wrap up with a dedication in October.

For a weekend painting push, both inside and out, habitat recruited volunteers from nearby Coe College and six churches that have a connection to the neighborhood.

First Congregational United Methodist, First Lutheran, First Presbyterian, Immaculate Conception Catholic and St. Paul’s United Methodist and Westminster Presbyterian are churches located in the area. Many are within walking distance of the new habitat home.

Heather Hayes, the senior pastor at First Presbyterian, says all the churches have done projects on their own before. But the opportunity for all the churches to work together on a big project was too good to pass up.

“It was a no-brainer. We’ve been thinking of ways to give back to the community we’re all a part of and the fact it’s the first build that’s happened here on so many years is really exciting,” she said.

Organizers say in addition to remembering Dr. King, the newest habitat home in Cedar Rapids also pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968.

Habitat leaders say at least two dozen other home projects around the country this year are going up in recognition of King.