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Seabees Leave Behind Habitat Homes Legacy

Navy construction unit lays foundations for 16 of the low-income houses in Piru before shipping out for the Persian Gulf.

January 21, 2003|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

After laboring in the trenches to help build nearly two dozen affordable homes in Piru, the Navy Seabees are shoving off to prepare for a possible war with Iraq.

Although their presence will be missed at the Habitat for Humanity construction site, the Seabees leave a legacy of goodwill in the tidy homes that make up one of Ventura County's newest neighborhoods.

Seabee units perform base construction and other support tasks for the military.

Part of one unit was deployed to the Mideast in October, Navy spokeswoman Linda Wadley said, and the remainder of the unit's 500 men and women will be joining it soon. The other three units remain in Port Hueneme, but their orders could change.

"This is a time when any military unit would need to be ready," Wadley said.

In Piru, the Seabees have poured nearly every concrete foundation for the 16 houses built so far in the planned 22-home subdivision off California 126, Habitat construction coordinator Elden Sandy said.

The job requires plenty of muscle to push the wet concrete into shape, a task performed handily by the 20 to 30 Seabees who showed up each Saturday, tools in hand and construction know-how at the ready.

"They've been a major contributor to this project," Sandy said.

For at least seven years, Seabees at Naval Base Ventura County have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Sandy said. They work side by side with other community volunteers and the future homeowners, who must contribute at least 500 hours toward construction of their houses.

The slack will be picked up in part by volunteer Albert Luna, a concrete finisher who broke his leg four months ago but has recovered, Sandy said. Luna will oversee foundation work for the remaining houses.

"We're blessed by having Albert coming now that the Seabees can't," Sandy said. "We wish them well and Godspeed getting them home safely."

Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County is a nonprofit Christian organization that strives to eliminate substandard housing and provide safe, clean, affordable shelter. It uses donated land, labor and materials to build homes in partnership with low-income families.

Construction in Piru got underway last year and should be completed this year, Sandy said.

Although the Habitat for Humanity project was not an officially sanctioned Navy activity, Seabees are encouraged to volunteer in their communities, Wadley said.

The Navy base is home to four construction battalions, each with more than 600 men and women.

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