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Newhall CHP officers race in Habitat for Humanity project

Locals help build fencing for low-income housing in SFV

Posted: September 19, 2009 8:19 p.m.
Updated: September 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jorge Martinez, far left, Sgt. Laura Mitchell and Officer Julie Plummer work together to build a gate in Pacoima on Saturday. They were three of nearly 25 CHP officials from the Newhall division competing against the Altadena and West Valley divisions to build fencing for a Habitat for Humanity housing tract. CHP ...

Sawdust flew off of electric saws and into the hair of several California Highway Patrol officers from the Newhall division.

The sound of hammers clanking against nails echoed across the construction site as captains, lieutenants, sergeants and officers sprawled across driveways with tools in hand.

They worked quickly and together. One placed the leveler, while another held a wooden plank in place for yet another to hammer in the nail.

Nearly 25 California Highway Patrol officers from the Newhall division competed against the Altadena and West Valley divisions in a race to help build fences for low-income working people in Pacoima on Saturday morning.

“It’s a friendly competition with other areas. We want to do a faster and better job in a friendly way,” said Lt. Ralph Elvira, of Stevenson Ranch. “But most importantly, we’re providing housing for the less fortunate, and hopefully our work will stand for a long time.”

The Gas Company/Law Enforcement Home Building Challenge took place amongst a Habitat for Humanity build-site of 11 single-family homes on Carl Street in Pacoima. The San Fernando-Santa Clarita Valley affiliate builds low-income housing in a supportive neighborhood.

“This means that it provides on-site, training in life skills to families that enable them to become self-sufficient, even more productive members of the community than would otherwise be possible,” said Wayne Colmer, board chairman-elect for Habitat.

“This is a first-of-its kind model for Habitat’s across the country.”

The Gas Company put up a $2,500 grant to Habitat for Humanity in honor of Highway Patrol and their work. The company donated the grant in the winning team’s name.

But in the end, two divisions had to share the honor because results ended in a tie between the Newhall and West Valley divisions, said Donna Deutchman, chief executive officer of Habitat.

“West Valley built more linear fencing but Newhall beat everybody in the gate building and gate hanging part of the competition.”
CHP Newhall hung five gates, she said.

More than 100 Highway Patrol officers, split into the three division teams, raced each other to build as many linear feet of fence, as well as build and hang gates, as possible.

In less than five hours, CHP officers accomplished what would typically take five days to complete, said Tim Hayes, the superintendent of the site.  

Captain Mark Odle, commander of the Newhall office, said the challenge was in “having a bunch of volunteers come together who don’t really have construction experience.”

But what they do have is “a lot of heart,” said Odle, who has never built a fence before.

“Somebody’s going to live here so we want to make sure they’re appreciative and proud of our work here,” Elvira said.
But giving quality work, doesn’t mean there was no room for friendly banter and keeping an eye on the competition.

“We know we’re going to win so it doesn’t matter how quickly and better they do it,” Elvira said.
As the teams worked, a couple of the families — who are set to move in to their homes in November — met and thanked the officers.

“This comes out of a desire to help the community,” said Lt. Cassie Trout, of Santa Clarita. “We were just introduced to two of the families, which made it worthwhile and meaningful.”

Helping to build housing for low-income families is one way CHP can fulfill their mission, said CHP Chief Warren Stanley, of the Southern Division.

“Safety, service and security is our mission,” said Stanley. “This is the service part.”

Habitat for Humanity’s Web site is


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