A Housewarming

Students learn carpentry, plumbing, and interior finishing as they construct a new house to replace a mobile home that will be demolished. Photo: Thalassa Raasch/MaineCF

A home replacement project in Chesterville supports aging in place—and learning building skills

All winter long, through deepening snow and bitter cold, students at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington have diligently done their homework during class.

They’re building a house.

The school and Western Maine Community Action (WMCA) are collaborating to replace a pre-1976 mobile home with grant support from MaineCF’s Western Mountains Fund and others. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fund, launched with a gift from the late H. King Cummings. Since then, the fund has awarded local nonprofits nearly 400 grants that total $1.7 million.

The home replacement couldn’t come soon enough for the couple in their 60s who raised a family on the rural wooded property in Chesterville. Leaking, mold, and high energy costs loomed large; this winter they relied on a barrel of oil and 10 cords of wood to stay warm.

Their new 21-by-38-foot home, being built next to the existing structure, will be far more energy efficient with a heat pump, wood stove, and electric baseboards. A 1% loan will allow the couple, both former manufacturing workers, an affordable monthly payment that includes insurance and real estate taxes. The old home will be demolished.

Bill Crandall, program manager at WMCA, sees the pilot project as a model to replace more substandard homes, encourage older Mainers to age safely in place – and help a new generation build their future.

The work provides students skills they’ll carry to trade schools and future jobs, says Crandall. It’s a win for the school budget as well, with less demand for shop class materials. The community also has pitched in with discounts and training from local suppliers.

While winter slips into mud season, the Foster Tech teens know they’ll have to work hard to meet a deadline. By June 15 or so – depending on snow days – their class is over.

And July 1 will be moving day.

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