In March 2020, Timber Products, with their partner supplier Saroyan Hardwoods, donated materials to the Warrior Village Project in San Marcos, California, an organization that builds homes for homeless veterans with local high school and college students.
The WVP is an organization comprised of volunteers from nonprofits serving veterans, building industry associations, high school and colleges, business and private donors, as well as private citizens. Their mission is to create affordable housing for homeless veterans while training the next generation of trade skill employees.
“When I retired I was looking for something to do to help the community,” said Mark Pilcher, Founder of Warrior Village Project. “I have volunteered in several ways and I wanted to find something to have a big impact to help people.”
Pilcher began to notice several key issues in his surrounding area that spurred him to think beyond his normal volunteer activities.
“I saw several issues in our community such as the shortage of trade skilled workers, high cost of housing, homelessness involving our veterans, and college debt. After a while, I began to think these pieces were connected,” said Pilcher.
The local San Diego Tribune in 2018 wrote, “despite the city’s concerted effort to house and shelter homeless veterans, a report released last week found that their numbers had increased by 24 percent in this past year, reaching 1,312.”
“We’ve decimated vocational education over the last couple generations. By pushing college, we don’t have enough interest in people learning the trades. Without more skilled programs, the industry will suffer,” said Pilcher.
Thus, Pilcher spent over 6 months in 2017 and 2018 speaking to different people and organizations in the San Diego area regarding those topics. He visited local high schools and colleges to learn about their curriculum programs. He also reached out to the Building Industry Association (BIA) of San Diego County to learn about their needs regarding trade skilled labor.
“After speaking with community members, a connection formed between the different issues. I saw there could be a way to provide a solution to address most of these,” Pilcher said.
Pilcher would go on to found the Warrior Village Project in April 2018.
“My father was a veteran so I feel a connection to help those veterans who have fallen on difficult times,” explained Pilcher. “I also want to help the trade skill industry because I’ve always had an interest in construction work. After talking with schools, I thought, why not have students help build the cottages to help their community as well as their own skill set?”
Palomar College and San Marcos High School were the first schools to jump at the opportunity provided by WVP.
“Palomar College embraced the idea wholeheartedly. They not only thought it was a great way to build relationships with the community, but to provide students hands on building experience,” said Pilcher.
At Palomar, Pilcher has been working with the architecture and interior design department to build into the curriculum opportunity for students to design the cottages and build kitchen cabinets.
San Marcos High School also welcomed the vision and added the building of cottages into their class curriculum. Students work with their instructor and other professional builders to construct the cottages.
The cottages are built as two separate 8’- 6” wide by 24’ long modules, transported to their site, and joined on a permanent foundation as a permanent cottage. They are 400 square feet, comparable to a studio apartment. Upon completion, the cottages are inspected and approved by the San Diego County Planning & Development Services (PDS).
The plan is to eventually build 12 cottages to create pocket neighborhoods where veterans can live as a transitional space as they regain their independence. WVP works with Homes for Our Troops, Wounded Warrior Homes, and others to find sites for the cottages as well as veterans to reside in them.
“The pocket neighborhood can promote a greater sense of community for the veterans,” said Pilcher.
The construction of the cottages is paced at the rate of the academic class year and completed on the school grounds. San Marcos High School (SMHS) is the first school to build the first two cottages planned for the 2019-2020 year.
The WVP depends upon generous materials donations, sponsors, and volunteers to build the cottages. The opportunity for Timber to donate materials to WVP came as a suggestion from Saroyan Hardwoods to Randy Lambert, Southwest Territory Sales Manager at Timber Products.
“We have an excellent relationship with Saroyan. They know our materials are top quality and that we are always willing as a company to help our local communities,” said Lambert.
The WVP was searching for plywood to build kitchen cabinets for the two cottages. Timber readily agreed to support and asked Saroyan Hardwoods to provide the 35 pieces of maple hardwood plywood manufactured by Timber for the students to build the cabinets.
“It’s the right thing to do. I see this as a noble cause to help veterans in the local community,” said Randy Lambert, Territory Sales Manager at Timber Products. “This also gives students hands on experience in the building trades which is great.”
Saroyan Hardwoods echoed similar thoughts. Brad Irvine, Branch Manager at Saroyan Hardwoods said, “It’s important to support causes like Warrior Village Project to help our country’s veterans. Not to mention, without company support, projects like this would not be able to happen.”
The kitchen cabinets have been built and await installment in the first cottage. Construction of the first cottage began in fall 2019 by 23 SMHS students and planned to be installed at a Wounded Warrior Homes, Inc residence in Vista, California. The first cottage was near completion when COVID-19 emerged at the beginning of 2020, putting a sudden halt on the project.
“Unfortunately, COVID interrupted the final completion of the first cottage,” said Pilcher. “The kitchen cabinets are built, but need to be installed. The class instructor could do it, but we would like the students to finish out their work. Since classes we stopped and now things are turning virtual, we are not sure how future builds will progress right now.”
Pilcher hopes the cottages will be completed sometime this fall 2020 for their permanent placement.
“Thank you to Timber Products and Saroyan for contributing to our cause! We truly appreciate it,” expressed Pilcher.
To find out more about the Warrior Village Project and how to support, visit their website at: https://warriorvillageproject.com/