St. Martha opens doors
New Catholic Charities farmerworker housing project in George holds celebration
While there was plenty to be said during the open house for the new St. Martha Place farmworker housing project in George, the highest endorsement came in the form of a giggle.
After the speech-making was over, youngsters Christine Cordovan and Amisadai Ornelas bolted for the courtyard to play on the new facility’s big toy.
The fun they had in their brand-new backyard underscored all of the words said by the 16 people who spoke during the program. Many spoke about the need for safe, affordable housing for farm-working families in Grant County.
“You’ll hear a lot of numbers today,” said John Young, president of Catholic Charities. “The number to be aware of is one. One community, one family and the difference this project will make for one child.”
John Probst, the project manager, said the development was named for St. Martha, because she is the patron saint of hospitality.
County Commissioner Cindy Carter said the project fills a need for affordable farmworker housing in the county.
“As an ag employer, I recognize the importance of ag worker housing. We cannot have our agriculture operations without our ag employees.”
George Mayor Elliot Kooy praised the efforts of Catholic Charities.
“We have about 500 people in George,” Kooy said. “With this project, there is a potential for 200 more. That is a major jump forward in terms of helping to bring more development to George.”
George Elementary School principal Colleen Frerks said many of her students live in substandard housing, which causes stressful situations for them.
“Studies show that when children have stress in their lives, there are chemical changes that happen in their brains that make it more difficult to learn,” Frerks said. “Projects like this can help stabilize their lives.”
Mark Lundgren, of MC Lundgren Construction, also praised the cooperation his firm and the rest of those working on the project received from the City of George, especially from Wallace Bushman, the city’s public works director, who was killed in a work-related accident in August.
“We grew particularly fond of Wallace Bushman,” Lundgren said. “His death is a great loss. He has left an indelible imprint on us. We’ll always remember him and this project.”
Probst said there are 17 families living in the project and by the end of October, all 51 units will be full.
Don French, the onsite manager for the development, said that more than half of the families moving into St. Martha are from the George and Quincy area.
Seventy-five percent of the families living in the project must receive a majority of their income from agricultural work.