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PolyHouse will be one of the most memorable experiences in my life.  It has been a long time since I felt so alive from fatigue, and there is an allure of getting to that state of mind.  The class spent the majority of two weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) either working on site, traveling to the site, or sleeping for a few hours after a full day’s worth of work.  Being on site in Nipomo brought back so many memories from my younger days in track practices, where the whole team will run until exhaustion sets in, but we still have to march on physically and mentally.  The project was very impressive, and I’m glad nobody was seriously hurt on site.  PolyHouse magic is above us yet again!

After the reveal, I had a chance to speak with Caleb and casually asked him what he liked most about the place.  He said his favorite was his bedroom.  That alone melted my heart, because having individual space is a big step towards independency.  In the end, I was exhilarated the family liked their new home.  They will be living there in the years to come and it feels great to know they will form many great family moments in that house.  It was exciting to see how all the different projects came together to accomplish the same goal: providing a nurturing home for the Todd family.

PolyHouse also gave me a great opportunity to bond with peers that I only see in lecture environment classes.  This class indirectly lured me to look at myself as an individual and how I will fit in the overall group.  The deluge of magnanimity from the community will warm my heart for many years to come.  I thank all the donors and my classmates in PolyHouse for making this experience possible.

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It was only two short months ago that I was being told by professionals  that the scope of PolyHouse was unrealistic, yet today PolyHouse 2010 stands in the history books as a success.  Through countless man hours of planning, organizing, and hard labor we pulled together to make this the biggest PolyHouse yet.  Even as a member of this team I can hardly believe what we accomplished.  We managed to completely makeover the Todd’s home in a matter of a few weeks and give a very deserving family a new start.

The dedication and charity demonstrated by the donors, contractors, and students toward this project was truly inspiring.  It was not only members of the immediate community who were willing to pull together and help the Todds, but people from across the state and beyond who were willing to help out a family in need based only on their story.  A few short months ago I never would have believed that not only people would demonstrate such great compassion for complete strangers, but how willing they were to do so.  PolyHouse has truly been the life changing experience advertised and given me a newfound faith in community and people.

In the time since we handed back the house to the Todds I have noticed the immediate effects of PolyHouse on my life.  We were told early on
that PolyHouse would require us to step out of our comfort zone in order to accomplish our goal, and since I took that step out I have yet to
step back in.  I have seen immediate changes in the way I now deal with people in everyday life.  For as much as I gave to PolyHouse, I received
so much more in return and will always remember it as a great influence on my life.

-Rick Marcks

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I can’t believe the Journey is over. I would compare PolyHouse to the roller-coaster, Goliath, at Six Flags. At the beginning of the quarter you are presented with this enormous task, and many tell you it can’t be done in the allotted window: the beginning of the roller-coaster as you stare out at the massive slope you are about to climb. In the weeks leading up to construction the anticipation builds representing the climb to the top of the coaster. Finally you reach the peak, construction day, as the you make your descent the along the tracks the car immediately picks up speed and before you know it, you’re at full speed, there is no looking back or second guessing design plans. The ride consists of many sudden jolts in any and all directions, except backwards. There is no retreat.

The construction week’s definitely had their sudden jolts: news that soil was too wet to continue construction on the foundation, random sprinkler lines appearing out of nowhere along with wires, engineering change orders, and so many more. But as you make your way through the weeks and the end is visible the excitement and anticipation of completion grows. Finally, reveal day has come, you have entered the station to unload from the cars, there is cheering, crying, good jobs, and thoughts of “Wow, I can’t believe I just completed/experienced that”, what a wild ride. PolyHouse was a project that I am happy to have experienced and would do again.

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What a project!  What an amazing team!  Can you believe it?  Have you caught your breath yet?  I’ve never felt such a whirlwind of emotions from a single project.   Poly House proves that amazing things can happen when you bring out the best in people to achieve a common goal.  We renewed hope for the most deserving family and achieved the unthinkable with two months of hard work, a little belief, and a lot of luck.

I am forever grateful for the dozens of people who worked tirelessly to make Poly House a once in a lifetime experience.  The construction team consisted of the hardest working students I have ever met.  Steve Chauvet and Rick Brown must be psychics because the patience and determination they displayed throughout the project makes me wonder how they knew all along that we would achieve the impossible.  Wally Fellman of Fellman Contracting, Mitch Gary of Mitch Gary Construction, and Paul De Alejandro are amongst the finest people I have ever met; superbly skilled and generous craftsmen who made real sacrifices to make Poly House a complete success.  As requested Poly House will be making a generous contribution to Wally’s “Karma Bank.”  Cal Poly Nutrition faculty member Peggy Papathakis is an unsung hero for putting together a project team to remodel the Todd family’s eating habits into a healthy lifestyle that could make a greater impact on Caleb’s life than anything we could have built for him.  Landscape architect Michael Knight of Michael Knight Designs provided much needed artistic flair and elbow grease as he was on site for more twelve+ hour days than any other volunteer.

The days on end we spent at the Poly House site feel like an instant compared to the week it has been since we gave the Todd family their home back.  The memories of making a real difference in the community and the life lessons I carried away from this project will always be fondly remembered.

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PolyHouse.  A word that I will always remember.  To some it might mean stress.  To others it might mean hard labor.  So many things can be summed up in that one word.  Before I walked into the Technological Project Management classroom for the first time at the beginning of this quarter, if anyone had asked me if I’d ever heard of PolyHouse before, I would have replied by saying that it was just the name of some class at Cal Poly.  Now that we have reached the end, I have come to realize all of the different meanings that this word truly carries.


  1. A real-world large-scale project
  2. A calling to step out of one’s comfort zone
  3. A three-month teambuilding event
  4. A building block for a future career
  5. An unforgettable opportunity to give to others

Looking back over the course of this past quarter, I have realized so many things.  I have seen both my strengths and weaknesses come pouring out, as myself and the rest of my classmates were put face to face with one of the largest projects in which most of us had ever taken part.  In the end, setting aside the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears that our team put into this project, I look back at a successful mission that not only gave a deserving family a higher quality of life but a mission that also taught each and every one of us something about ourselves which we will never forget.  Those two items alone made PolyHouse 2010 worth every ounce of my time, money, and effort.

So, in the future, if anyone ever asks me if I’ve heard of a class called PolyHouse, I’ll just smile and ask them if they are ready for one of the longest stories they have ever heard.


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When I first enrolled in this class, I knew it was going to be a lot of work. All of us are students, most graduate standing, and I sometimes forgot that I was a student. As part of logistics, I didn’t see how important our group was until the work weekends. We had to make sure all the tools needed were ready, buy missing tools, keep things organized, and not to mention, feed hungry students who had been working all day. It was definitely frustrating at times, but when frustration peaked, I could only think about how no one was forced to be in this class. Yes, it might be required for some in the major, but there were others who did not have to take it. And, even if some were forced to take the class, everyone was working hard and trying to make a difference in the lives of the Todd family.

Liz mentioned something in class before the start of the final work weekend that really stuck a cord with me. The Todd’s wanted biblical scriptures written on the floor as a blessing. But, how could we bless a home when there are troubles or frustrations between the people helping rebuild the home? I think this was the pivotal point when we all knew we had to put whatever differences aside and provide the Todd’s with a new home.

During the last work weekend, Liz and the Todd’s pastor started writing these scriptures inside the house. Thinking of all the tribulations this family has had to endure throughout the years and knowing that their faith is still strong, was really inspirational to me. I sometimes complain about little things, when there are others who are going through so much more and yet never once complain. If there is anyone who can renew someone’s faith in God, it would be the Todd family. They remind me of the story of Job; he was a wealthy man who lost everything: his wife, his kids, his riches, and his home. Yet never once did he complain, and not once did his faith falter. In the end, God blessed him for his unwavering faith. I’m sure that the Todd’s will have the same happy ending.

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Wow, what an experience! As a class, I think that Poly House pushed us to the very edge of our limits, both physically and emotionally, and forced us to tread new ground in discovering what we are all truly capable of. Although the project frequently felt as though it would take a miracle to pull off, everyone in the class seemed like they had the family in mind as they worked around the clock putting their full heart behind the work that they were doing.
I must say that I am very impressed with everyone in the class, previous to this I had only had the experience of interacting with most of the people within the context of the class room. I had known most people in this class to be good students, it was refreshing to see everyone take the same hard-working approach to the intensive physical labor that this project necessitated. I honestly believe that everyone did everything they could to make the final product one that we could all be proud of, and in this respect, I believe that we were hugely successful.
I would like to extend another resounding thank you to all of our sponsor and contractors who were able to help us out. Thank you for putting up with my blank stares as I tried to comprehend just what needed to get done in order to finish the house. I know that this project would not have been as successful as it was without your help, and there truly is no way to thank you enough.

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It’s hard to believe the project has finally come to a close.  Just three weeks ago, we started out with a clean slate and only two weeks ago we poured the foundation.  Even in the last few hours before the reveal, the kitchen, for example, looked nothing like a kitchen.  Everything was chaotic and everyone was rushing to get the house cleaned up.  Within the last hour, the kitchen transformed from a messy construction site into actually resembling kitchen functionality.

I have some experience in the construction industry and this has been an amazing experience for me even.  Normally the time frame isn’t so small and the atmosphere is really relaxed.  It’s incredibly different in this setting and makes everyone step up to the plate to simply get the project done.

All in all, I think Poly House 2010 turned out to be very successful.  For me, it was a growing opportunity to branch outside of my comfort zone and be more vocal.  I came into the project as the quiet one that just went along with everything.  I am now coming out of the project as a much more vocal person and I’m not as nervous to approach people, especially when it comes to business relations.  I’m still not especially crazy about asking for donations since I don’t like pestering people, but I’m more confident about my ability to do just that when the situation arises.  And more often than not, people are very willing to help out when they can.

I would like to personally say thank you to all of the contractors and workers who came out to donate time to the project.  There is no way we would have been able to accomplish such a huge scope without the dedication of every single person who helped.

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I heard Polyhouse was a lot of work, but its impact on my life exceeded my expectations. Growing up in the city, I wasn’t used to the kindness, generosity, empathy, and warm-hearted spirit I saw reflected in the many new people I met through Polyhouse. I knew this course changed a deserving family’s life, but I wasn’t expecting it to have the impact it had on mine or my classmates’.

Everyday of working on Polyhouse introduced me to a new life lesson. I’ve compiled a few that I can remember below.
Course-work related lessons
  • Project management is tough! Handling so many people, materials, and needs were overwhelming! I am awed by how admirably the PMs and team leads handled it under pressure. Somehow they managed to do it, props to Jon B., Mike, Jamie, Shane, Nick, Eric and Kaitlin!
  • I can see how all of what I learned in previous group projects applied to this course. We had the huge class, and sub teams within the class that had to function within and among teams. Having these skills made our groups run more smoothly, as people were using teamwork to reach a shared goal instead of being held back by conflicting group interests. It was an exemplification of Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” motto.
Practical stuff I learned through Polyhouse
  • What construction tools are!
    • I’ve never touched a sledgehammer, circular saw, rototiller, or any of those fancy gadgets, but working on logistics with Doug gave me a lot of insight into the world of construction. It was fascinating and eye opening to realize things I’d never thought about before–like how outdoor wood needed a different type of screw than indoor wood.
  • How to drive a truck (and get it stuck in the dirt)
    • I drove a truck for the first time during Polyhouse! It was all going smoothly, but as I was backing up the mulch into the yard I got the truck stuck. I definitely will not be driving over piles of dirt anymore. Our class is grateful to have Cassidy so willing to lend her classmates the use of it even though we got it in a pickle here and there. I just wanted to emphasize how unselfish my classmates were, including but not limited to Eric and Tracy, in trusting us with their vehicles or volunteering it for Polyhouse.
  • How to make due
    • We were in dire need of wheelbarrows, and we were losing them fast. As soon as we bought one another would break. But great problem solvers like our veteran volunteer Alden fixed two wheelbarrows using ingenious methods that saved us money and time. A wheelbarrow’s wheel punctured? Just take the good wheel of another broken wheelbarrow. Lost the nut to a wheelbarrow? Make your own wheel fastener with a drill bit.
  • How to attach a hitch
    • More truck stuff!! Rick and Alden showed me how to back up into a hitch (it’s good to use another person to guide you!) and attach it.
  • How to save your fingers/thumb from the hammer
    • Did you know that you should keep your hand down the hammer’s arm the same length of the actual item you are hammering? In my instance I was hammering a stake down and our contractor Rick was kind enough to teach me that I could get my fingers badly injured if I didn’t keep my digits a safe ways from the actual hammer head. Thank you Rick!
Personal stuff
  • It’s ok to let guys do the manly work!
    • There are just some things guys are more useful at besides holding their ladies’ purses. When Michelle told me how Kyle ripped two square feet of dirt from the ground so easily, we more or less accepted our fate of working on smaller projects that didn’t require feeling inferior to the male musculature.
  • Perseverance
    • When I saw my classmate Dan working so hard even though I imagined his lobster red sunburn was painful, I never saw him complain or give up. He always dragged his body back to work and was always happy to lend a hand.
  • Persistence
    • The construction team is the most accomplished group in Polyhouse. Even though their scope seemed impossible to get done in a few weeks, they found ways to complete it and never let anything block their way to giving the Todds a better home. I admire how relentless Jen was in finding donors, and for setting aside time generating contacts for teams outside of her own group. Working with Jamie, I saw how she pushed her team to never give up. Her stamina and determination was inspirational.
  • Generosity
    • Our class could not accomplish anything without the donors–whether it was with their invaluable skills, materials, or time. The care that our donors had for their fellow community members is something I will always remember about my Cal Poly experience. The altruism the community had for this wonderful family was amazing. The Todds were practically strangers to them, yet everyone was willing to offer their help. Knowing that so many people believed in our cause and supported us the whole way through was an endless source of comfort when times got tough and gave me a lot of optimism for the future. Thank you!

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I knew that Poly House was going to be a lot of work but I didn’t know it was going to be this much work!!!  If someone would have told me how hard I was going to work, but still find a way to have one of the best times of my life, I would have called them a liar.  But here I am, one week after the Poly House madness, and I’m no worse for the wear.  I learned a lot about how to deal with many personality types, and above all, how much a team working together towards a common goal can accomplish in a very short amount of time.  Our team members, volunteers, and contractors, busted their humps this year, and Poly House teams in the future are going to have a hard time setting the bar any higher.

I simply cannot believe the overwhelming amount of support we received for Poly House.  I am so proud to be a part of this community.  This experience has inspired me, and will certainly influence my choices in the future.  I had a certain sense of pride when I was out and about, finding donors, selling pancake breakfast tickets, explaining to my friends and family why I can’t make it to different events.  I missed my Mom’s surprise 50th birthday party at a Padres game, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I was missing it for the right reason.  Afterward, I received confirmation from my Mom that I did the right thing, just to be sure.  Best of all, was the feeling that we did a very positive thing for a deserving family with one very special kid.  I hope Caleb’s life is filled with happiness, and perhaps now will be a little easier.

I send my very best wishes to the Todd family, and send my sincerest thanks everyone who helped with this project.  We made quite the army.

Jonathan Bailey

Program Manager

Poly House 2010

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