BENTON TOWNSHIP — Gail Lowry usually has to draw houses, not build them.

The latter was the case earlier this week as Lowery was joined by several other volunteers from the Association of Licensed Architects to help Harbor Habitat for Humanity continue building the Sand Creek Development in Benton Township.

“It’s a good experience to actually swing a hammer,” Lowry said. “They put out a call to volunteers, and it’s always been one of those things on my bucket list.”

Lowry has been a member of the ALA for six years. She and several Illinois colleagues ventured to the Benton Township neighborhood Wednesday to put in some work.

The crew focused on cabinets and countertops, exterior sheeting, adding blue board for insulation and nailing plywood in place.

“It’s the camaraderie,” Lowry said. “Doing your nailing patterns side-by-side with other architects and volunteers has been my favorite part.”

Harbor Habitat’s Sand Creek Development is no stranger to such buildout events.

Volunteers and homeowners began working on site at Sand Creek in 2017. The site previously held a “pass the hammer” ceremony a year and a half ago, when owners of the first house were chosen.

More than 20 businesses and organizations have pitched in to help over the past few years.

With Whirlpool Corp. revisiting the Sand Creek Development several times, it has also gotten help from American Electric Power, Cressy & Everett Real Estate and Chemical Bank.

Benton Township officials donated the property to the charitable organization in 2017.

“We were actually out of buildable land and I reached out to various contacts, one of which was Benton Charter Township,” said Erin Hudson, executive director of Harbor Habitat. “They had some land that had been donated to them. When I spoke to them about what we were trying to do and that we were out of land, they showed me several options.”

Hudson said they jumped at the chance to build in the area.

The site will be home to five houses in the community, with room for a potential sixth home. However, Hudson said that extra house might be too expensive based on what the layout would be.

The original plan for the development was for there to be two four-bedroom and four three-bedrooms in the soon-to-be Habitat community. Now it is expected to include a five-bedroom house on the property.

One house, a four-bedroom, is completed and has a family. A five- and three-bedroom home are about 90 percent complete, Hudson said.

Michelle Rumsa, a St. Joseph architect and president of the ALA’s Southwest Michigan chapter, said they chose to partner with Habitat because of the nature of the association’s industry that its members are a part of.

Among the volunteers onsite this past week, two contingents of architects and civil engineers – from Michigan and Illinois – worked on the development.

“We fully believe in what they’re doing,” Rumsa said. “We love their mission. They also provide supervision. As architects we do a lot of design work, but our expertise is not in building construction. They are.”

Contact:, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski