Tabby Weeks stands in front a house on Rice Farm Road that she and a group of volunteers with Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity worked on Saturday. The
Tabby Weeks stands in front a house on Rice Farm Road that she and a group of volunteers with Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity worked on Saturday. The group is trying to finish the work so Weeks and her family can move before Thanksgiving. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)

DUMMERSTON -- A few weeks ago Judith McBean went for a bicycle ride along Rice Farm Road and she thought she would check out the Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity building site that she knew was located along the road.

Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity has been working on the project for more than six years and McBean hoped she would find the family that was going to move in maybe doing lawn chores, or finishing up some trim work on the house.

When she pulled her bike in to the site there was an enormous trench around the house.

The building had no siding and when she looked in the window the rooms were in various states of construction with no flooring, walls that needed painting and wires hanging out of the ceiling.

"I knew the house was here but I didn't know how much they were struggling to finish this," McBean said Saturday while standing on a ladder that was leaning on the house, her clothes splattered with paint. "It definitely needed some new energy so I thought we could maybe step in and try to get things moving again."

McBean made some calls and on Saturday there was a small crew of volunteers scraping inside walls, putting siding on the house and painting the trim.

Now McBean and other members of Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity say they can see the finish line and they hope Tabby Weeks and her family will be able to move into the house before Thanksgiving.

"I think its doable," she said. "Wouldn't it be awesome for them to be home for the holidays?"

McBean said she worked on the Habitat project a few years ago but then she got involved with the renovation project at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, which was just recently finished.

McBean said some of the original people who were involved in the project got discouraged because it was taking so long and she said everyone is frustrated with how long it has taken.

But at the same time, she said, the house is on the site, the roof is on and while there are still some big projects to complete, McBean says there appears to be enthusiasm once again.

"I think right now we have as much energy as we have had in a long time and we want to keep it going," she said. "It has been plodding along for a long time; if we get more people out here to help I think we can get there."

Steve Anderson, treasurer for Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity, said it seemed like a good idea when Entergy Vermont Yankee called the group back in 2007 and said the company wanted to donate a house that it wanted to move away from a Vernon site near the nuclear power plant.

Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity was able to raise money to have the house moved to a large work space in the Book Press Building in Brattleboro.

Anderson said there were structural issues that cropped up and it took a little longer, and became more expensive, than the group had anticipated.

It took more money to move the house out to the site in Dummerston in the summer of 2012, and over that time Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity lost a few key board members.

"At first it sounded like a wonderful deal to have this house given to us but I think we underestimated the problems and expenses it would take to rehab a house," Anderson said. "It's really taken much too long but it looks like things are moving along now."

Anderson said there are also some expensive projects that will need additional funding, such as installing the plumbing, sewer system and wiring.

He said the group still hopes to raise $10,000, though they took out a loan to get the project moving.

Weeks, the woman who wants to move in with her children, has been out working on the house just about every weekend.

She was chosen in August 2011 to move in to the Habitat home.

She said she has been keeping her expectations reasonable over the past few months, though the recent burst of energy is helping her see the end of the long project.

"There has not been a lot of progress and it was getting discouraging for a while," she said. "It's been a really long haul and it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Now there is."

For more information, and to help the project, go to www.bratthabitat.org.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.