Habitat for Humanity: Real World Building Experience

Affordable housing is needed in the USA. Habitat for Humanity, as an organization, works diligently in making what it can available. But building houses entails construction time and builders, money for building materials, and buyers interested in purchasing a home. Habitat receives monetary donations and grants. Wishful homeowners apply for an opportunity to buy a home through their dollars, attending classes and providing sweat equity. The real challenge is building more homes since the need is so great. 

Habitat for Humanity in Tucson, AZ will have a job training opportunity soon realized at the CHUCK (Connie Hillman Urban Construction Knowledge) Center. I became interested in Habitat’s new direction. It reminded me of NYS’s BOCES programs where young people were taught construction skills: electrical, plumbing, welding, etc. How often have you realized the importance of trade skills when needing to call a plumber or craftsperson to do/help with your own home project? 

The CHUCK Center has a classroom where teaching will provide interns with skills and opportunities to learn how to build affordable housing. A win for the learner who can use the new skills right on Tucson’s Habitat for Humanity housing project. A win for the future homeowner, possibly in a new home sooner because we have more skilled workers building homes in our area. 

The CHUCK Center is a huge space. Some parts of the building process will be accomplished in the warehouse, not in the cold, hot weather or muddy area by the future home. Also, some aspects of the construction can be built and stored in the warehouse, then rolled onto the site when needed.

Additionally, the CHUCK Center will have 2 apartments to house Americorp volunteers and 2 RV spaces for traveling Habitat volunteers. The goal is to have these two aspects accomplished in upcoming months. The warehouse with classroom to be done by February 2023. To have internship opportunities available for young people is truly a gift to this community!

I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. A photo of the place from the outside and another photo of the tables we assembled one day. More work to be accomplished to assemble it all. The CHUCK Center is taking shape and soon to be in action!

Front of Tucson’s CHUCK Center
Classroom desks all assembled by volunteers.

Volunteer Time: Brush With Kindness

Many people volunteer throughout the year with various organizations. Recently I helped “Brush With Kindness”, a program under the umbrella of Habitat for Humanity. Within this program, homeowners apply for and can be selected. Work volunteers complete projects needing to be done outside an individual’s home. Installing gutters or fences or landscaping work are possible projects.

Work volunteers sign-up for shifts for days they wish to help. Mine was Saturday, 7:30am till 1:30pm. Our group of 20 volunteers were tasked with painting and installing rain gutters, and installing and staining a wooden fence. The previous day did have a volunteer group dig post holes for the future fence. They built many, approximately 6 foot, sections of fence for a total 147 feet of fence.

Our work time began. Four of us started painting rain gutters. The homeowner wanted them to match the color of the fascia board. We created a set-up to paint three sides of each gutter. When dry easily flip them and paint the other side … and put on a second coat where needed. Another group was on ladders painting fascia boards. The third group was installing fence sections.

Look at that sky!

And then it began to rain!

Within an hour and half of our start, it began to rain! In all my volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, there has never been rain. Actually monsoon season is when we really have rain here in Tucson, not now! Tarps with telescoping poles were quickly put up over our work areas. The gutters sticking out did get paint washed off and the paint we put on, certainly was not drying. 

Volunteers painting the fascia quit, as we did too, and we all helped with the fence installation. Some of us dug a trench for the fence. Others helped carry and hold fence sections in position as it was determined level and ready for screws. All of this happened while it rained. Fortunately the tarp with telescoping poles could be moved over those working on a section of fence. Everyone had muddy boots, wet clothing and were disappointed we could not accomplish the entire project. However, it was truly amazing all the work we had done!  

All kept working in the rain to get the fence up!

Volunteers will sign up for another time to finish the project. I know the homeowner will be thrilled when it is all done. Unfortunately, I will not see this project through to its finish due to other responsibilities. We all did appreciate the person who came by with hot coffee. I thought it was fantastic how we all worked together in miserable conditions and truly accomplished quite a bit!

If you are interested in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, check out the website and find you local group. In Tucson, besides the home buyer/home building program and “Brush With Kindness”, there is “Habitat for Humanity’s Repair Corps Program”.  Thanks to generous funding from Home Depot, this program focuses on repairs being done for veterans within their home. Finally, you may also donate items to your local Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. Reusable household items and building materials are for sale at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. It also keeps many items out of the local landfill. Selling those items allows Habitat to buy appliances and items needed in the newly built Habitat home. All homes have new products installed. And new homeowners are taught how to care for and fix things in their home. 

Check out Habitat for Humanity for how you can help. Know they will teach you, on-site, how to paint, use a drill or do whatever skill you need help with. Truly wonderful people work for and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity wherever I have been volunteering. Don’t hesitate to volunteer here if you enjoy working with your hands and meeting other people with like interests.

World Habitat Day Happened!

In 1985, the United Nations designated the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day. It’s a day set aside to remind us we have the power and responsibility to shape the future of cities and towns. The 2022 theme: “Mind the Gap. Leave No One and Place Behind.” The growing inequalities and vulnerabilities exasperated by Covid, climate and conflict continue to be global concerns. What can we do about any of it?

We can join our local Habitat for Humanity organization and see what projects we can help with for a day or on a regular basis. I always choose to help with the home construction projects. I love seeing new homes being built, meeting the future owners who with their sweat equity in the work will eventually be able to live in a house we are building… and where they can call it home!

Tucson, AZ’s Habitat for Humanity actually had 4 days set aside for World Habitat Day. We are so excited to be building a number of houses, future homes, with hopes families can be in them before the holidays. As a result, many volunteers worked each of the days with special treats provided for breakfast and lunch too since this was part of the World Habitat celebration! It was wonderful seeing many people organized into groups and working at the tasks needing to be done. I was priming the front wall of the house and learned how to put plastic on windows and doors so no paint went on them! I must admit though, I had plenty of paint on myself by the time I was done; no worries though as it all washes off.

Tucson volunteers at work.

I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in other areas of Arizona and years ago in New York State. In 2019 I volunteered for a week, north of Krakow, Poland. I have always wondered how the facility we helped renovate is doing for the young people who were to live there.

Attending the celebration ceremony when the new home owner gets their front door key is wonderful. We hear the challenges; everyone has a story. We see the gratefulness; the sweat equity paid off and they know all the work done by volunteers. Tears come to our eyes because we know that for this person/family it has been a couple year’s journey now complete. They have a place to finally call home!

Support your local Habitat for Humanity … even a monetary donation helps if you cannot get out to volunteer on site. By the way, you do not need to be a builder to work at a home site. They will teach you whatever needs to be done or you may choose another project that fits your skill set better. Come on out, we can use your help!

Use Your Head & Carry Medical Info.

We wear head protection in various places. For me, I wear a hard hat on location while volunteering at Habitat for Humanity and a bike helmet while riding my bicycle. Most times I am on my own riding or working with people who do not know me very well so it is important to have medical information easily available to them if I cannot provide it myself. Recently I became aware of the “Medical Information Carrier System”, MICS, available at www.idformyhelmet.com

You write your medical information on the data form they provide, fold it up and insert it in their carrier (a small neon plastic piece you attach inside your protective hat/helmet). For others to know you have this information available, in case of medical emergency, you apply a MICS reflective decal on the outside left rear of your protective hat/helmet.

Now you are ready to have help available for you, if needed. Also, it is good practice to look on the left rear outside of helmets now…encourage others to get the medical information carrier system and/or to begin creating for yourself a first aid responder’s habit. Be safe!

Easy way to carry medical info in your helmet.
Easy way to carry medical info in your helmet.

Reflective Decal placed on left rear of helmet...is the standard.
Reflective Decal placed on left rear of helmet…is the standard.

Today’s My Dad’s Birthday, but….

My Dad's hammer represents much to me.
My Dad’s hammer represents much to me.

It’s his birthday today….I will not get to celebrate it as I had done in the past; he died a few months ago. Each new year celebration had been my reminder that his birthday was approaching. I was always grateful for the longevity gene in this family and would then wonder what an 80+ year old person needs/wants for a birthday gift. Would it be a Chicken Soup book, chewable dark chocolate, a historical novel? I would send a card and sometimes a gift, but would always have a phone conversation with him on his birthday. It usually involved what’s the latest there with him and here with me, and my latest home building/maintenance questions?

When younger, my family traveled with the wood-paneled station wagon pulling a trailer. There were skills gained during those adventures that translated to much of my success while camping, backpacking or traveling the world and needing to know how to feel comfortable in new situations. Even though my Dad taught Industrial Arts to male students, because that was the day when only boys had that class, my Dad taught his 4 girls how to use a saw, hammer, screwdriver, etc and it was no surprise to me to see my siblings all have a strong science background.

My Dad helped me with every apartment and house repair, even showing up at times to lend a hand with the actual job or providing me insight to solve concerns. We once put a bay window into an Adirondack shack I owned and built an outhouse there! We painted rooms at a rental property, and gutted and rebuilt an entire kitchen at another house. (Although when I left for work one day, I returned home to discover every exterior window with repainted shutters, RED ones! He was convinced they sold the house.)

I will miss his conversations and help as I currently work on a new home construction. Of course he would say, there would be little to do with new construction! Yet he had discovered that would not be true, since we did have a project list for him at our last new home.

This year I dedicate all volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity to my Dad. I have his hammer, his work ethic, and his joy and love of creating something constructive with and for other people, no matter who they are. While I will always miss my Dad, this can be a good year! My heart will be with his hammer and we will work as one. Build on!