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Families forced from homes for Foxconn plant, help with donations



MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (AP) — The family had moved out of their tri-level house on Highway H — one of many who must leave their homes to make way for Foxconn Technology Group’s future manufacturing campus here — but the dwelling was far from empty.

A team of 10 people, all volunteers, had been working since 8 a.m. to remove the appliances and a sofa the family had chosen to leave behind, remove interior and exterior doors, cabinetry, bathroom sinks and vanities and some good-quality Pella patio doors.

Everything was loaded into a 20-foot-long cargo trailer and destined to be put up for sale at Habitat ReStore to help fund Habitat for Humanity homes; Habitat’s mission is to “bring people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

The Journal Times reports that on Feb. 1, Mount Pleasant officials had announced a partnership with Racine Habitat for Humanity to allow the organization to remove what it can as homes in the future Foxconn area are vacated and those families relocated. Area 1, where the Foxconn manufacturing campus will be built lies between Highway KR and Braun Road and between Interstate 94 and Highway H — although acquisitions are also being made north and east of there.

Jan Roland, president of the Racine Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, said the village was “inundated” with requests from people and businesses that wanted to be the “pickers” in the Foxconn area. Instead of allowing a free-for-all, the Village Board chose Habitat as the recipient organization to salvage usable materials.

“They wanted one responsible organization — one insured organization,” Roland said.

Just then, a volunteer slid a large cabinet that had been detached from its perch in the finished basement across the floor, past Roland.

As each home is vacated, Roland said, Habitat is notified by a Madison real estate group which is working with the village on the Foxconn project.

“And I understand there could be as many as 100 homes,” Roland said. “So, over the next year as these homes become vacant, we’ll be picking material and bringing it to the ReStore facility; we’ve already rented more space in the Kranz building from Jeff Neubauer to make room for it all. There’s going to be a lot of stuff, based on the first four homes that we’ve seen.”

The April 14 crew that spent all morning and into the afternoon at the home in the 5200 block of Highway H consisted of Roland and three other Habitat for Humanity volunteers, four Team Rubicon volunteers plus Pat Adams, regional coordinator for that national organization; and Vern Lightwine of Racine with Team Rubicon.

Lightwine, retired from the U.S. Navy and Harley-Davidson, said he’s been involved with Team Rubicon for six to seven months. Team Rubicon is an international nonprofit disaster-response organization, mainly comprised of military veterans and first responders, that Adams said currently has a roster of about 80,000 volunteers.

“The biggest things I’ve done today is remove cabinetry from down in the basement, cabinetry from the kitchen and a little bit of cabinetry from upstairs,” using power tools and pry bars, Lightwine said. “And a little bit of ‘oomph,’” he added and chuckled.

Habitat’s salvage operations in the Foxconn zone will not just be happening on weekends, Roland said but, rather, throughout the year. In the case of April 14′s jobs, Habitat worked with Team Rubicon which had been wanting to do a joint service project with Habitat.

In most cases, the picks will be done mostly by Habitat’s own volunteers that include local construction firms that have a day or two to spare. “And,” Roland said, “we’re trying to recruit some new volunteers.”

With Habitat’s Foxconn project now underway, the organization is forced to be selective in what it picks from the homes. It doesn’t, for example, take window blinds or curtains.

“Space is the limiting factor,” Roland said, and Habitat only takes the most valuable items.

“Years ago, we would have picked everything because we had more space than we had material,” Roland said. “Now, with 100 homes coming, you can’t load your space up with knick-knacks.”

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