BEAUREGARD, Alabama — Ahh, there’s nothing quite like fall in Alabama. And, today, October 1, was definitely nothing like fall in Alabama is supposed to be. In fact, it was an awful lot like summer in Alabama — or on the equator.
When the 2019 Millard Fuller Legacy Build was scheduled months ago for the second full week of fall, no one expected that volunteers would be building in record heat. Work began Monday with a record high of 96 followed by a record high of 96 on Tuesday. The rest of the week calls for more record highs, culminating with Friday’s dedication day with a forecast high of — you guessed it — a record 96 degrees. Average high temperatures for this time of year in this area run about 17 degrees below that.
This week is Karla Saalfrank-Manes’ second service trip with The Fuller Center for Housing — her first was in April when she worked with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders doing hurricane relief in New Bern, North Carolina. While North Carolina can get hot, too, the temperatures were seasonable during that week.
“It wasn’t too bad — it was a lot cooler than it is here,” said the Andrews, Indiana, resident. “Now I have ice in my bandana, and I’ve been pouring water on my head. It’s been very hot, and I’m not used to the hot weather.”
The brutal heat is a topic of conversation every evening when she gets together with fellow travelers from St. John Lutheran Church of Columbia City, Indiana. However, she said that serving in these conditions gives them a sort of sweaty badge of courage.
“It’s something to talk about and brag about (having fought through),” she said with a laugh.
Mike Walda and Terence Johnston each hails from Michigan — each, coincidentally, from Harbor Springs, Michigan, to be exact. They met for the first time upon arriving in Beauregard for this build. By Monday afternoon, they realized they had more in common than just their city of residence — they also had a low tolerance for the heat.
“It’s 57 and raining,” Johnston said of the weather in Harbor Springs on Monday as Walda chimed in that there had been a frost warning for their home. “I wasn’t ready because we’ve had such cool weather up North. We already are in the low 40s at night and 50s and 60s for maximums, so we just went into our winter phase. Coming here, my blood is too thick for this. I just ran out of gas — completely.”
“I ran out of gas and turned on the air-conditioning in my truck and sat in my truck for about 30 minutes,” Walda said.
Some volunteers, though, hail from hotter climates, including Haiti’s Geral Joseph, who shrugged off the heat and noted that it was probably hotter in his home country (although it was actually a few degrees cooler in his community of Pignon, Haiti). The Orlando-area team led by Apopka’s A.J. Jewell, one of this build’s house captains, also thought little of the heat — even after working on the roof of a home they are building for the Deupree family. Asked if he was bothered by the heat, Jewell’s response was delivered with his trademark succinctness:
“Nah, not really,” he said. “And it’s dry. The humidity is low. This is a breeze here.”
“It’s the same as Orlando,” added teammate Samantha Zaino. “And we’ve got a little breeze.”
Of course, even when temperatures are much lower, you cannot have a blitz build without a lot of sweat. To President David Snell, sweaty volunteers are uplifting spiritually.
“I think people are doing all right,” Snell said. “But you know — it’s a Biblical issue. God told Adam, ‘By the sweat of your brow …’ so this is all very Biblical and we’re sweating by our brow, and, by golly, we’re getting houses built. We’re a Biblical organization, so it’s only fitting that we follow His counsel and sweat.”
Asked if the Bible had any passages related to sunburn — another common theme at this year’s build — he thought for a moment.
“I’m going to have to check on that,” he said with a smile. “Let me go back and look.”