By Steve ElliottJune 18, 2010
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Amidst the sounds of grinding power tools and pounding hammers, a group of future physician assistants opened their hearts June 5, giving time and sweat to help build a house for a low-income family.
Working with Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio, Inc., approximately 30 members of the local Interservice Physician Assistant Student Society laced up work boots and donned hard hats at a south side San Antonio location.
"It feels wonderful to see my house going up. I am so ready to move in," said Tamra Grant, the home's eventual owner. "I've put in 250 hours in sweat equity so far, helping on other people's houses. It's all been worth it.
"I've been renting an apartment on the northwest side of San Antonio, but this house will be a lot more affordable. And it will be mine."
"I think it's awesome the homeowner is out here helping build her own house," said 1st Lt. Nichole Williamson, who is coming over from the personnel field to be a PA. "It does build a sense of community when you have a group of strangers helping you."
"The IPASS has had a history of doing community service projects from long before I came to the program," said 1st Lt. Adhana McCarthy, who was a captain as a signal officer and did a rating reduction so she could go to the PA program.
"We've worked at the soup kitchen at St. Vincent de Paul, done a clothing and canned food drive, worked in community gardens with Green Spaces Alliances and also volunteered at Faith Family Clinic, a free clinic that serves the underinsured."
The Soldiers, Airmen, reserve, National Guard and active duty members, kept a frenetic pace throughout the day, surpassing their expectations and those of Habitat Construction Leader Cassandra D. Van Huss.
"This group has been awesome," said Van Huss.
"We're learning about teamwork, unity and giving back to the community," said co-coordinator Staff Sgt. Brian P. Neurohr, formerly a medic and X-ray technician in the Iowa National Guard and now on active duty for training.
"I did a lot of information technology and telecommunications stuff before," McCarthy said. "But I wanted to go from fixing machines to fixing people."
"I wanted to get into the medical field and support Soldiers who are fighting overseas," said 1st Lt. Philip Castaneda, who is former Infantry. "I figured PA is the way to go."
"This year has been so rough and you're so focused on yourself," said Staff Sgt. Larwda Ogawa, another former medic.
"Everyone is learning skills they had no idea they could do, like working with power tools or squaring walls," McCarty said. "It's important for us to take a break from our studies and see what challenges others have to face. It provides perspective." "When you can have a community like that, it makes you feel good inside."
"I was so excited when I saw what a big group I had to come work on my house," Grant said. "I just want to say thank you to all of them and I appreciate it so much."
"This is the best and most rewarding job anyone could ever have. I love it," Van Huss said. "What's great about Habitat is that you really get to know your neighbors."