COLUMBIA, SC — George Cauthen gazed up at his would-be opponents Friday morning and savored the not-so-ironic encounter.
The attorney with Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough was adding an exterior wall to the Habitat Home that’s taking frame in downtown Columbia, while some others worked on the roofing overhead.
“There are some plaintiffs’ lawyers here, and we’re a defense firm, so it’s nice to be working together,” Cauthen said.
Since Monday, members of the local legal community have been building the shell of the house in the parking lot at 1010 Lady St. More than 125 local attorneys and about a dozen law firms have joined the effort of the Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity and Richland County Bar Association
The work is part of BUILDable Hours Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that organizes law firms to commit financial and physical resources to build homes for deserving families through local Habitat for Humanity affiliates.
The Richland County Bar Association decided to sponsor the program last year as its pro bono service project for 2013. The effort has raised more than $35,000, or about half the cost to build a Habitat home.
For Cauthen, it’s the latest in a long line of Habitat efforts he has devoted himself to the past 30 years.
“We want people to know that lawyers do things other than litigate,” Cauthen said of the build site just a few blocks from his downtown offices. “I can look out of my window and watch the progress.”
On Monday, the house will be moved to its permanent home in the Chapin area and the remaining work completed. But Habitat executive director Roy Kramer said its downtown presence has been important in increasing the agency’s visibility.
“We are hoping that all of the traffic coming in and out of the Vista will help educate the public on our mission,” Kramer said.
“A parking lot build is always a highly visible build,” he said. “It’s downtown for everybody to see. It’s raises everybody’s visibility. If they can’t come to the build site, we’ll bring it to them.”
Jerry Reardon of Lee Eadon law firm has been taking part in his first Habitat build this week after responding to a call for volunteers on the S.C. Bar’s web site with his law partner Brett Owens.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Reardon, whose office also is just a couple blocks away. “You hear some much about what’s going on in Oklahoma. We thought this was also a good way to give back locally.”
Reardon said he’s added a new dimension to his skill set this week and has gained a new appreciation for the work of many of his clients in the construction business.
“I’m roofing a house,” he said. “I’ve never done that before.”
Since 1985, Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity has served more than 250 families in Richland and Lexington counties. And in the past few years, more than 50 law firms and businesses, in 12 cities across the country, have participated in Habitat for Humanity builds through the Buildable Hours program.