Sweat equity Volunteers, trusties make repairs to Nelson residence

Sweat equity Volunteers, trusties make repairs to Nelson residence Trusty Robert McLaughlin applies a thick coat of primer to the weathered siding of the Jeff Nelson home Sunday. Workers overcame high temperatures and humidity to make significant improvements to the residence. by David Lias Louie Fostvedt, a Vermillion craftsman who lent his talents to improving the Jeff Nelson residence here last weekend, was reluctant at first to try to name every individual and local company that has become involved in the project.

The list of benefactors to Nelson, who earlier this spring faced possible condemnation of his house because of its poor condition, has grown to the point that it's difficult to recall them all by memory, he said.

"The city took out the trees that were overgrowing on the front," Fostvedt said, adding that Larry Lofgren, Al Engbrecht and Roger Jeck would be trimming more trees and shrubbery.

Loren Fischer provided a discount on a large trash dumpster so workers could more easily remove the refuse from the property.

The most significant contribution to the effort to save Nelson's home came from the labors of 11 state prison trusties from Yankton and local volunteers.

"These people are super," Fostvedt said. "They're construction people, and all you need to do is point them in the right direction and they do a good job."

The significant progress the workers made last weekend was no easy task. The list of improvements needed to be made to the house is daunting.

On top of it all, last weekend's weather was miserable, with high humidity and temperatures in the 90s.

The Vermillion community did its best, however, to help the work crew beat the heat.

"The ladies from Fellowship Church provided treats for our coffee breaks," Fostvedt said. He added that virtually every restaurant in town provided free food and drinks for the men.

Hy-Vee Food Store, Jones' Food Center, Subway, Domino's Pizza, and the Silver Dollar Restaurant were among the many local food and eating establishments that provided nourishment to the workers last weekend.

Late Sunday afternoon, the hungry trusties were happy to see Jon Robertson, manager of the Cherry Street Grille, drive up to the house in his catering van.

On the menu � barbecue ribs, chicken from Whimp's, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and plenty of cold water and soft drinks.

"This weekend we've really been treated well," said Derek Bridges, one of the trusties. "I can't remember when I've eaten this well."

It turns out the work crew needed to keep their energy levels high. The Nelson house proved to be filled with construction challenges.

In some places, for example, the wooden siding was weathered beyond repair. Trusties using a power saw and donated lumber crafted segments of replacement siding to patch the exterior.

Repairs also had to be made to much of the trim surrounding the house's windows.

"It's been interesting," said Kelly Clarkson, a trusty, "because instead of starting from scratch with new products, we've had to rebuild with donated and used materials."

"There have been places where we've had to take out rotten stuff," said trusty James Drury, referring to the condition of the house. "We've used the saw to rip a lot of boards to different sizes. We've also cut sheetrock and we've applied insulation."

While several men were up on the roof hammering down new shingles, Dick Sunde, a Vermillion businessman, and trusty Robert McLaughlin applied caulk and primer to an exterior wall to help seal it from the elements.

Another businessman, Keith Joy, donated the use of his ladders. He also supplied caulk.

Building materials were also donated by Coast to Coast Hardware, Jones' Ace Hardware, Fullerton

ber, Herren-Schempp Building Supply,

and Larry Brady.

The trusties were shuttled back and forth between Yankton and Vermillion by East River Transit.

"I'm getting a little more optimistic," Nelson said, as he watched his house being transformed by the work crew Sunday. "I don't even recognize it."

Early this spring, the city was poised to condemn the house because of its poor condition.

Nelson, who suffers from emphysema, literally begged, however, to be allowed to reside in his home.

Instead of condemning the home, aldermen decided to see if the home could be fixed up. They called on Fostvedt and Sunde, who have been involved for years in building improvements projects in both South Dakota and foreign countries, to inspect the structure.

The house, they determined, wasn't a total loss. I would, however, pose quite a challenge to workers.

Nelson has lived in the house since 1973. The residence is one of the oldest homes in the city, and appears in historical photos of original Vermillion taken before the turn of the century.

"It was originally a very small house," he said. "The kitchen, bathroom, and second floor was added on later."

The work crew will return to Vermillion this weekend to finish painting the house and make other improvements, Sunde said.

Ironically, the great efforts of the workers and the support provided to them by the Vermillion community still isn't enough to finish the improvement project.

"We need money to buy a new tub and shower for the bathroom," Fostvedt said. "We also need to round up a new propane water heater, and we need a 30-inch wide storm door."

A few minutes later, trusties Justin Anderson and Jason Wagner began measuring the Nelson's broken storm door. Soon they were cutting lumber, and repairing the door so there is now one less thing needed to complete the home improvement project.

Citizens interested in making monetary donations to this and other improvement projects in the community may send their contributions to the Vermillion Area Citizen House Repair Fund at First Dakota Bank in Vermillion.

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