Submitted by Stephen Dodwell
For the past ten years, I have worked for Habitat for Humanity, building houses in San Antonio. The experience has enriched me in that I now know how to build a house and can handle many of my own household repairs and help my friends and relatives. More importantly, I have had the experience of seeing people who have never lived in a house move into a Habitat house and become a home owner.
On Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of each week, I work as part of a week-day crew (4-9 folks) under the supervision of a site manager. The tools and materials are on site when the crew arrives, and we complete tasks, such as framing; putting insulation and siding on the exterior; installing windows and doors; and finishing interior and exterior trim. Habitat has contractors do foundation, plumbing, electrical, sheet rock, and roof work. Job sites are very organized, which means in a single work day much progress is made.
San Antonio has one of the most active Habitat programs in the country (55 houses a year), and we construct entire subdivisions of houses. The one I am working on now will have 125 houses. I have worked in four different subdivisions and have seen many people become homeowners. Through a “sweat equity” program, future homeowners contribute 300 hours of work in Habitat houses, sometimes their future house or other houses. One relative or friend can donate hours to the future homeowner’s sweat equity. Because most of the future homeowners work during the week, I do not see them during my weekday work; however, Habitat hosts events in which homeowners are introduced. I find it very gratifying to hear the stories of the new homeowners, many of whom have lived in apartments and never in a house. To see the smile of a child who will get her first bedroom is very gratifying.
Large groups (as many as 200) work as volunteers on weekends, painting exteriors, cleaning up sites, and putting the finishing touches on houses. If you want to volunteer on a weekend or weekday, phone Habitat for Humanity and register. Then come on out to a site. You don’t need tools, although some volunteers do bring their own tools. No particular skill is needed; you will be assigned tasks and taught how to do them. Before you know it, you will realize you know how to build a house. That’s a great feeling.
Another way you can contribute to Habitat is by donating your cabinets, counter tops, doors, etc. when you are renovating your home. Phone Habitat, and they will send a crew to your home to carefully remove and reclaim your items, which will be sent to a warehouse or a salesroom and sold to the public. Proceeds benefit the Habitat for Humanity program.
I am eager to talk about my work as a Habitat volunteer, so stop me at church, and I will help you connect with the program. https://www.habitatsa.org/