Spring break, Air Force style | Colorado cadets forfeit vacation to build Freeland home

Air Force cadet Adam Johnson, 21, saws a board at a Habitat for Humanity of Island County home site last week. He was one of 10 cadets who spent spring break working on the house.  - Justin Burnett / The Record
Air Force cadet Adam Johnson, 21, saws a board at a Habitat for Humanity of Island County home site last week. He was one of 10 cadets who spent spring break working on the house.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

Spring break isn’t always about partying on some faraway tropical beach.

Some things are simply more important, and for 10 students from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, that was helping to build a new home for Liz and Bruce Crouch in Freeland last week. The crew of cadets voluntarily spent their vacation pounding nails and slogging around a rainy construction site on Twin Oakes Lane, knowing full well how other college students across the country were spending their time off. In fact, several argued they were having just as good a time.

“This is fun,” said 21-year-old Sarah Turner, of Woodland Park, Colo.

“You can make memories in Cancun, Mexico ... but this is fun and worthwhile,” echoed Krista Kelly, 22, of Woodland Park, Colo.

The young students were helping to build Habitat for Humanity of Island County’s 38th home — the 14th on the South End — and were participants of Collegiate Challenge, the organization’s year-round alternative break program.

Habitat for Humanity International partners with low-income families to build safe and affordable houses. Families apply through the non-profit group and those chosen receive financial training, homeownership classes and are required to put in 500 sweat-equity hours into building their home.

The Crouch family has lived in the Freeland area for decades, but the past few years have been tough. They lost their home when the economy went south, and Bruce Crouch is disabled and recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, Liz Crouch said.

Qualifying for the new home ­— 1,100 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms — which is next door to her daughter’s house was a big help, but the Air Force cadets who volunteered their time over spring break made the experience extra special.

“We’re just feeling very blessed,” Liz Crouch said. “That they came out during spring break, we’re like, ‘Wow.’ ”

“We couldn’t have asked for a nicer, more productive group of kids,” she added.

Despite the overcast and chilly conditions, the crew was in good spirits and several said choosing to spend their vacation helping a family in need on South Whidbey was an easy choice.

“I knew I wanted to do something worthwhile, but I also knew I wanted to do something cool, so I came to Washington,” said 20-year-old Adam Johnson, a sophomore from Hamilton, Mass.

Others said it was a great opportunity to learn new skills under a professional, in this case the organization’s construction manger Damion Lopez.

“If I was building it myself, it would definitely fall down,” said Turner, with a smile.

The cadets also remarked that the community’s welcome was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Staying in classrooms at Trinity Lutheran Church, the team often came back to an array of tasty desserts and food left by an appreciative public.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us and it’s been wonderful,” Kelly said.

“That made the trip,” Turner agreed.


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