There’s a slew of new construction projects west of South Russell Street this winter, but it would be tough to find one with more heart than the little roofing job on Idaho Street.
Dennis Daneke’s carpentry class at Missoula College has spent mornings this week on top of Mary Helen Steinert’s trailer house.
The project helps teach his eight second-year students how to put down asphalt shingles, “so it’s kind of a win-win deal,” Daneke said.
While they get hands-on training, Steinert is a grateful disabled senior who’s getting her leaky roof fixed.
But perhaps the biggest winner is the unlikely maestro of a project that’s been years in the making.
As inspector for the Missoula Housing Authority, Norm Verworn had to red-tag Steinert’s home three years ago.
“What had happened was she had a contractor come and put an addition on her trailer house and he didn’t secure it right underneath,” Verworn said Wednesday. “Over the years, the addition was slowly pulling away on the top from the house, which created a pretty good leak.”
Steinert, who uses a wheelchair, owns the trailer but rents lot space with the assistance of MHA, which focuses on affordable housing in Missoula.
Verworn knew it would cost more to fix the roof than Steinert could afford.
“So in order to keep us from forcing her to move away, I thought it was a better deal to see if we could get volunteer work to repair the roof and keep her in there,” he said.
Trouble was, that was about the time the economy tanked. Lumber yards he approached for materials weren’t in position to help out.
“Nobody was really donating anything then. But I did get a money donation from Boyce Lumber, and I got the ridge cap from Home Depot,” he said.
Beaudette Consulting Engineers scoped out the project on its own dime. Missoula College also donated flashing and other items when Daneke’s class wholeheartedly came on board. Some of the students worked on a student-built house last year, and they’re working on what they call the Big Old Shed project in Target Range.
“I talked to them last fall to see what the interest was, and they wanted to do this first,” Daneke said. “They wanted to get in and get Mary Helen taken care of.”
It all took time, and meanwhile Steinert’s roof kept leaking. The crew this week has been a sight to behold.
Don Beckler, Cliff Danforth, Jay Gregory, Ethan Kliewer, Ashton Mecham, Mike Miesen, Josh Montgomery and Rich Williamson should be finished by lunchtime Thursday.
“She’s just thrilled about it, to finally get the problem taken care of,” Daneke said. “We’re still looking to get the inside taken care of. Since she’s had water for some time, I’m sure there’s mold up in the ceiling.”
But Steinert’s house will be able pass inspection, which leaves the inspector relieved and gratified. It’s an older trailer but it’s “really nice inside,” Verworn said. “And it was finished with a real nice addition.”
He’s never done something like this before, and he probably won’t again.
“The stress level – I don’t think I could handle it,” Verworn said with a sigh. “But I just couldn’t see putting her out in the street.”