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Cushwa lends skills to Habitat for Humanity

March 13, 2002|BY ANDREA ROWLAND

Dick Cushwa retired last May, finished building a home near Williamsport, and was ready to go back to work within six months.

After working as a civil engineer for 37 years, "I was bored," said Cushwa, 60.

Officials at Habitat for Humanity of Washington County were happy to put Cushwa to work. In January, he started working as Habitat's part-time construction manager.

Friend Doris Nipps, volunteer coordinator for Habitat, approached Cushwa about the job. He had the knowledge, time and willingness to work for part-time pay, he said.

"It's a chance to do something to help people who are deserving," Cushwa said. "I'm not doing this for the money."

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He has a wealth of building experience and the patience it takes to work with volunteers, said Habitat Executive Director Sherry L. Brown.

"Dick's a godsend," she said. "He's a self-motivator who works well with volunteers."

Cushwa is responsible for evaluating home sites chosen by Habitat's site acquisition committee, making sure homes are built to Habitat's specifications, obtaining permits, arranging inspections, and organizing volunteer crews to clear land selected for Habitat homes and build those houses.

He will help secure building materials and make sure those materials are on-site when needed, he said.

It's not an office job.

"I wouldn't do it if it was," Cushwa said.

He's already been spending time at the York Road property on which crews from local Lions Clubs will build the next Habitat home - the first of five planned for this year. The Lions Club International Foundation donated $25,000 for the project, and local Lions Clubs have pledged $12,500 plus labor, Brown said.

Construction should start in April, she said.

A registered surveyor, Cushwa helped stake out the property. He hauled lumber and concrete mix to the site. He took debris to the dump. When construction starts, he will provide volunteer crew leaders with on-site assistance as needed, he said.

Cushwa's engineering background makes him a perfect fit for the construction manager job, Brown said.

A Clear Spring native, Cushwa earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland before going to work for Potomac Edison. Parent company Allegheny Power merged Potomac Edison and two other utility companies in 1996.

Cushwa did "a lit bit of everything" - including building project supervision, land acquisition, drafting, surveying and mapping - during his 37 years with the company, he said.

He has already capitalized on his computerized drafting experience by using the Auto Cad software on his home computer to modify house plans for the Habitat home on York Road, Cushwa said.

That home will be the Washington County chapter's first with handicap accessibility.

After acclimating himself to his job duties during his first six weeks with Habitat, Cushwa said, he is ready for the construction process to begin.

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