Austin Bevins swung at a pipe with a sledgehammer over and over again. The goal was to push it toward the alley, where it would connect with another pipe. Installing a new main sewer line is one of many projects that was underway at home in Melbeta on Saturday, as volunteers and members of Habitat for Humanity worked to make it livable.

It was exhausting work, but it was “for a good cause,” said TJ Batt, who helped steady the pipe as Bevins swung.

Both men are employees at Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating. The company is donating supplies and labor to repair the plumbing inside and outside of the home, which will eventually be occupied by a woman who is a disabled veteran and single mother, and her teenager.

“We feel it’s good to give back to the community that gives so much to us,” said Bill Schlaepfer, who owns the company, said.

He said besides the company’s donation, his employees were also volunteering their time.

Volunteers from numerous churches, organizations and businesses have spent time working at the home for the last four weeks. Larry McCaslin, construction manager at Habitat, said he hopes to have the project done by Nov. 1.

The majority of Habitat projects involve building from the ground up, but occasionally they buy and rehab homes. The Melbeta home was purchased by the organization in January, with the aim to fix up the home until it was in like-new condition.

“That way she can live with minimal anticipated upkeep and maintenance,” McCaslin said.

He said the home was in “pretty good” shape when it was purchased, although it had some flaws.

“The plumbing was bad,” McCaslin said. “There was no heat or AC, there was bad flooring and the doors and windows were bad.”

Several businesses in addition to Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating have donated supplies and time to the project.

McCaslin said the woman who will eventually live in the house has also put in a significant amount of time on the project and is grateful to have help. McCaslin described her current housing situation as substandard.

“I think it means the world to her,” McCaslin said. “She’s had a rough life and this is going to be safe, affordable housing.”

More volunteers will be needed to get the project done. Those who’d like to get involved can contact McCaslin at 631-0875, Jim Kozal at 631-7411 or Becky Estrada at 641-1348.

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Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

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