Normally residents in South Webster are used to seeing Dr. John Oehler wearing a stethoscope, not a toolbelt.
But that’s just what the physician at SOMC Family Practice has been wearing when helping out at Habitat for Humanity’s project site in the village. “I’m considered unskilled and I have a hammer, some safety glasses and gloves,” he said good-naturedly. “I told them the tool belt was just for show.”
Many volunteers from all over the area have been working since mid-October on the construction of a home for a deserving family in the community, spearheaded by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. South Webster’s Christ United Methodist Church, of which Dr. Oehler is a member, has been working with Habitat on the project.
“I’ve nailed up some wall plates, run some electrical wiring, placed some insulation and done some floor stabilization,” he said. “I use a hammer because they didn’t trust me with the nail gun.” He has high praise for the group of volunteers and discounts his own participation as minimal and not worth mentioning.
“They are really a good group of volunteers,” he said. “All the labor is volunteer and a lot of the materials are donated. It’s humbling to see what it really takes to build a house.”
Dr. Oehler has volunteered on three occasions at the site, which is on Essman-Sugar Camp Road, less than two blocks from his office on Jackson Street in the village. Terese Jones, a nurse on Dr. Oehler’s staff, has fixed several huge meals for the crews of volunteers as well.
Receiving regular email updates from church pastor Tom Charles, Dr. Oehler says he’s amazed at how efficient and successful the project has been.
“When the carpenters’ union went out there I was really humbled,” he says.
“They worked almost non-stop and got so much work done in a single day it was amazing. The biggest thing is having skilled people out there who can tell people like me what to do, because you can have the will but without the know-how, it doesn’t help.”
Noticing that he was physically sore after working several hours on the site, Dr. Oehler has greater appreciation than ever for the hard work of carpenters and craftsmen on a job site.
“I’m trying to learn what I can so maybe someday I will be able to build a house myself,” he says. “But I really just like being here to help.” Local Habitat co-president Paul White says there have been 10-12 people on the site working every day, with tremendous support from area businesses, the village offices, and local craftsmen.
The medical community has been represented by several volunteers on the project. In addition to Dr. Oehler, retired physician Tom Swope and his wife, Esther, have been working with Vicki Heiskell for the project helping arrange meals through local restaurants. Rita Haider, wife of local retired physician Shabbir Haider, is co-president of the local Habitat for Humanity. The four-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home is expected to be completed by the end of the year or very early in 2008.
“If nothing else, we’re just trying to acknowledge there are needs in every community,” White says. “I’m thrilled with people like John, who are willing to come out and lay whatever professional perceptions they might have aside and do any task at hand.”
Anyone interested in helping with local Habitat for Humanity projects is encouraged to visit the local website sponsored by Dawgbyte Productions, www.sciotohabitat.org.