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Community Work

NPC crew helping kids hammer at the Building Fair

New Prairie Construction’s core values include a commitment to community involvement. Our volunteer and outreach work include the following:

  • Kids’ Building Fair — Our staff volunteered for the Kids’ Building Fair at the  Orpheum Children’s Science Museum for 15 years. The carpentry activities are a favorite with both children and adults. We have also supervised booths for exploring plastering and tiling.
  • Preservation and Conservation Association — New Prairie is a corporate member of Champaign County’s Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA), and we have won numerous awards for our renovations of historic structures. We contribute to and purchase salvaged items from PACA on a regular basis.
  • Champaign Farmers’ Market — NPCC co-owner Julie Birdwell sits on the Board of The Land Connection, which runs the Farmers’ Market in downtown Champaign. The whole NPCC crew went down one evening to help them set up, assist market-goers, and pack up at the end of the evening. The Market runs Tuesdays from 4-7 pm, May through October, in the parking lot off Neil St. between Washington and Main — be sure to check it out! 
  • McKinley Foundation Window Restoration — The frames on many of the historic arched windows were deteriorating. New Prairie donated their time and materials to strip off the many layers of paint, repair the damaged wood, rejuvenate the frames with linseed oil, reglaze the panes, and prime and repaint. The windows were also very leaky due to failing caulk; we insulated around them with spray foam.
  • Illinois House of Representatives Earth Week Forum 2009 — New Prairie gave presentations on preserving the environment and building a sustainable business.
  • Center for Women in Transition (now Courage Connection) Presby House — Beginning in the fall of 2007, we worked  with the local Presbyterian churches to rehab a home for the Center for Women in Transition in Champaign. Through the work of many volunteers and the leadership of New Prairie, the house was made available as transitional housing in early 2009. It is central Illinois’ first single women’s shelter.
  • Sustainability Seminar Series — Julie Birdwell, New Prairie’s president, is called upon regularly to give talks about sustainable building practices and to share her expertise as a woman in the trades. In 2008, she gave a lecture on straw bale building as part of the U of I’s ISTC’s (Illinois Sustainable Technology Center) Sustainability Seminar Series. To listen to this and other lectures on sustainable building, go to the Sustainability Series.
  • Habitat for Humanity — In 1999 we served as site specialists for Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County’s first women-built home. For the duration of the build, we donated 20% of our weekly labor to the project, teaching and overseeing women volunteers in framing, roofing, window installation, and interior trim work. We are also frequent contributors of materials to Restore, Habitat’s resale shop.
  • A Woman’s Place — In 1998 New Prairie installed playground equipment and built storage bins for A Woman’s Place, now part of Courage Connection.
  • Girl Scout Career Day — In 1997, 1998, and 2008 we represented women working in carpentry for Girl Scout Career Day.
  • Handywomen Classes — New Prairie’s owners, Jill Mulder and Julie Birdwell, have been instructors at Parkland College and Urbana Adult Education (Urbana School District 116), teaching classes for “handywomen” in home maintenance and repair.