Hammer Time: Project Mercy and Its Volunteers Have Built, Donated 1,600-Plus Homes

Project Mercy has constructed more than 1,600 homes in more than 20 years

NBC Universal, Inc.

The hammering started in a dusty lot in Chula Vista around 9 a.m. It didn’t stop for several hours as dozens of volunteers put together walls, stairs and roofs for six homes.

The homes will eventually be assembled for six families in Tijuana. The volunteers don’t know the families. They’ll likely never meet them, either.

“It touches me deeply," Paula Claussen said. "I have a hard time not crying here."

Claussen is the president and founder of Project Mercy, a nonprofit that has built and handed over the keys to more than 1,600 homes in the last two decades.

“I choke up every time I see a family that has received a house and the massive difference it makes,” Claussen said.

“We take so much for granted,” volunteer Toby Fisher told NBC 7 on Friday. “These aren’t very big homes compared to Americans'. They’re about the size of a good shed, but a family of four is very happy with electricity, safe water.”

“Taking people out of dirt, giving them a solid roof,” Claussen stated.

Claussen said Project Mercy partners with Klemmer and Associates twice a year. Klemmer’s clients from across the country raise money, supplies and volunteer to build parts of the homes.

“To get to make a difference in the lives of other people is the best feeling that I could ask for,” said Klemmer and Associates' vice-president Crystal Zellmer.

Zellmer said the volunteers raised roughly $120,000 in a matter of hours to pay for the supplies and deliveries of the house components.

Once the volunteers completed those components, they were trucked into Mexico, where another team will assemble them into functioning homes on foundations.

“It makes us feel great,” Fisher said. “That’s why you have all these people from all over the country volunteering their time.”

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