PC custom builder takes skills to Haiti
When Craig Mogel, owner of Germania Construction in Park City, raised $20,000 to take a team of Germania home builders to Haiti last winter and build a house, he didn’t know what to expect. The veteran custom home builder says it was "a real eye-opener."
"Basic home-building skills like stacking cinder block and squaring up a building were unknown to them down there. They actually used picks and shovels to excavate the site," he says.
It was a labor of love for Mogel and his skilled team, who worked sunup to sundown for six days straight to build a home for a Haitian single mother and her five children. The project was sponsored and co-funded by Worldwide Village, a nonprofit Haitian charitable organization.
Mogel credits Jessica Jentzsch, who works for Germania, with the idea for the project. "She came to me and said, ‘We need to do this.’ I said, ‘Show me the numbers and we’ll figure it out.’ That’s what we did.
It was an improbable adventure for Mogel, an ex-ski bum and dedicated "Deadhead" who rolled into town back in 1991. "I’d been living and working in Breckenridge, Colorado, managing a ski shop." he recounts. "The owners sent me to Park City as a perk for doing a good job. I went back, gave my notice, loaded up my VW bus and moved here."
Mogel, who grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, was introduced to skiing as a high school senior. "My best friend took me skiing for the first time at Ski Roundup, about 800 vertical feet of pure ice. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. After that, all I wanted to do was ski.
"That’s one thing about me. Whatever I’m passionate about, I throw myself into completely. And I usually get pretty good at whatever it is." The ‘whatever’ list grew to include whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, kite-boarding and mountain biking. Mogel was also a dedicated follower of the Grateful Dead and has fond memories of selling burritos in the parking lot at "Dead" concerts all over the West.
"Park City was a lot different back then. It was near the end of the real ski-bum era, when a guy could still survive working a little here and there, scarfing up grocery store demos and occasionally eating out. Spaghetti night at Cicero’s was just $2."
Mogel was an accomplished ski tuner and worked at several ski shops in town. In the early 1990s he began working in construction during the summers.
"That lifestyle worked for me until about 1997, when I realized I needed to grow up and get a real job. I went to Gary Cole, owner of Cole Sport, and made a pitch for a job his store. Gary created a managerial position for me and I think I did real well for those guys. Gary probably doesn’t know this, but he was a real mentor to me. His coaching was invaluable. I admired him for his management style and the way he interacted with his employees. That was a model for me when I started Germania, my own construction company."
Mogel, who holds a degree in economics from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, says he never expected to make a living in carpentry or construction. "I always liked working with my hands, but I thought that’s not was college graduates do. Then a friend reminded me that Jesus was a carpenter. I’m not particularly religious, but that really hit home. I figured if that was OK with him, I guess it’s OK with me too.’"
He created Germania Construction while still working at Cole Sport. "I tried to balance both jobs for a year or two and wound up defaulting to construction. "It’s been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I absolutely love building homes and have great passion about the whole creative aspect of it."
Today, Mogel is recognized as one of the premier custom home builders in the area. "I love building homes with the Germania team and I have to be careful not to get too involved in our projects. I get emotionally attached and take a lot of pride in how our finished products look."
Off the job, Mogel is active in the community as a mentor to young men in the Park City area through the ManKind Project (MKP), a national mentoring program based on the writings of Robert Bly. "I’ve always been a seeker," he says. "There’s a part of me that has always felt there’s more to life than just outward appearances and possessions. I try to always keep an eye on who I really am. That’s what grounds me and I want to share that with other men in the project."
Mogel has a new love in his life, Heather De Manigold. "We met on a blind date a year ago and we’ve been going strong ever since," he grins. "Her love of the outdoors and passion for adventure fits mine to a tee. We also have very similar spiritual beliefs and outlooks on life." They plan to marry in the spring of 2014.
Mogel estimates the cost to build the Haitian home at about $18,000. "For what it costs to build one custom home in The Colonies or Deer Valley, I could build over 100 houses in Haiti. That kind of puts things in perspective," he says.
He says the dedication ceremony for the new house was very emotional. "Jessica made a welcome mat for the single mother and presented it her. Everyone was crying. Imagine a crew of big, burly construction dudes bawling their eyes out. It was pretty cool."
Mogel plans to return to Haiti with his crew next year and build another house.
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at email@example.com
Favorite things to do: Ski, mountain bike, kite surf, fly fish
Favorite foods: Mexican and sushi
Favorite authors/reading: Robert Bly, books on archetypes and myth.
Favorite performers/music: Grateful Dead, reggae and "jam" bands.
Bucket List: Combine a service project in coastal Africa or India with a kite surfing trip; Kite surf off the coast of Peru.
Animal companions: Mr. Milo, an 11-year-old Lab/shepherd/wolf mix; Miss Puddin’ Poop, a two-year-old shorthair/pointer/border collie mix. Both came from rescue shelters.
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