With the help of roughly two dozen volunteers who spent their Saturday morning wielding paintbrushes and pulling up carpet, Hope Village is starting to take shape.
As part of the United Way of Jackson County's 21st annual Day of Caring volunteer event, about 22 volunteers who work at Harry & David helped Rogue Retreat paint the exterior of two structures and pull carpet to transform them into the Welcome Center and Community Center for the village of tiny duplexes.
Volunteers trickled in from outside United Way as well, among them Sue Martin of Medford, who saw the volunteer event on Rogue Retreat's Facebook page and brought her teenage son and his friend to help. She called Rogue Retreat's Hope Village, which will provide 14 duplex homes to selected homeless people, "such a great cause."
"People need homes," Martin said. "It's not just a dream, it's going to be reality."
Another volunteer from outside United Way was Chris Glen, who will live in one of the tiny duplexes once it's completed. Glen currently sleeps near the former Larson's building in downtown Medford, he said.
"It's peaceful," Glen said with paint on his face outside the welcome center, adding that he "can't wait" to live in Hope Village.
Glen said he's been homeless for two years.
"At first it sucked, but after a while you get used to it," Glen said.
The bulk of the elbow grease Saturday came from the 14 Harry & David employees who helped at the site. More than 350 United Way volunteers helped at 12 sites around Jackson and Josephine counties, according to United Way of Jackson County Executive Director Dee Anne Everson.
Among Harry & David volunteers was human resources manager Lourdes Alvarez, who said she's helped every year for the past 13 years.
"It's exciting to be here and help," Alvarez said.
For Sandra Dee, the event is an opportunity to "broaden our work family" by getting to know people in other departments, such as Ava Elliott. Dee joked that she and Elliott were the "paint specialists" on site. Elliott said the event is an opportunity to match faces with the names of coworkers they typically interact with only via email.
Rogue Retreat Executive Director Chad McComas joked that they were building a "gated community" because fencing will surround the village, making the Welcome Center the only way in or out. Though the shelters will be placed on city-owned property, the buildings where volunteers worked had been most recently used for a business that repaired fire extinguishers called Fire Fighter, which a neighboring property owner leased to Rogue Retreat.
McComas said the village won't attract homeless people who don't live there because there's "nothing there" for them. The shed-like duplex homes will lack heating or electricity, "but they're safe," McComas said.
The property on which the homes will be placed was finally professionally leveled and finished with gravel Friday, after wet weather made the ground too soft throughout the winter, according to McComas.
The tiny homes will be assembled in a volunteer event two weeks from now, McComas said. "The Big Build" will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 3, at Hope Village, 728 W. McAndrews Road. For further information call 541-499-0880.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.