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Habitat for Humanity volunteers assemble shelter repair kits in Newton County
Volunteers fill boxes to send to Puerto Rico. - photo by Darryl Welch

COVINGTON, Ga. – Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity International are working in Newton County for the next few days assembling shelter repair kits for families in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria.

A finished kit includes everything needed to make initial repairs after a storm. - photo by Darryl Welch

Bryan Thomas, director of public and media relations for the organization, said the project will fill 2,000 shelter repair kits for the island.

“We’ll be assembling through the rest of the week here using volunteers from all around the Atlanta metro area,” he said. “These shelter repair kits have tools and supplies to make sort of necessary interim repairs to homes in Puerto Rico.”

Through its Habitat Hammers Back initiative, the organization has pledged to help more than 2,000 families in each of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.  Each kit contains tarps, hammers and nails to make roof repairs and saws for cutting debris, among other things needed.

“It basically has everything you could imagine for that initial sort of repair,” Thomas said.

“This is part of our first phase response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Habitat’s response is always months and years long where we go in and repair and rebuild homes with families.”

Thomas said the situation on the island is still an emergency, with more than 80 percent of the people without power, water and phone lines.

“While the island sort of stabilizes, we’re able to get in with these kits immediately and help out families and then go in for our long-term phase,” he said.

According to Thomas, the plan follows what Habitat did after the earthquake in Haiti in 2005.

Volunteers load supplies into the boxes. - photo by Darryl Welch

“We built shelter repair kits much like this and they were hugely helpful in Haiti,” he said, “In fact when you go to Haiti, you’ll still see some of the supplies and the buckets around in use today.

“These were successful in Haiti in helping those families make those interim repairs, and so we’re expecting they will have the same effect in Puerto Rico.”

Thomas said 40-50 volunteers a day are gathering through Thursday at Li-Way Transfer and Storage on Chamisa Road in Covington to assemble the kits. Today’s volunteers are from Home Depot, GM, Marriott and Travelers Insurance.

Li-Way President and CEO Wayne Pugh said his company has been involved with Habitat for several years.

“We do consolidation for the Habitat program here in Georgia and the southeast,” he said.

Pugh said Covington is one of the two locations for consolidations for Habitat. The other is in Ohio.

“We’ve been involved in Habitat projects going now for three or four years, or so,” he said. ”We do all the consolidations for the home buildings and when they get ready to start building the houses here in a few months, we’ll ship everything to the locations.

“It’s just a great project.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Habitat Hammers Back initiative or would like to donate, visit