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Build-A-Thon Birmingham, Pre-Day 1

By Michele Duley


Author Michele Duley


AmeriCorp volunteers during the opening ceremony and cookout


As a veteran of two previous Build-A-Thons, I came into this one with a lot of preconceived notions of what, exactly, a Build-A-Thon was supposed to look like: Palpable excitement, cheering crowds at opening ceremonies, endless chatter with familiar colleagues who haven’t seen each other in months.

Even though the build this year was regional in nature (and therefore smaller) than those of the past, I still expected more of the same, though perhaps in smaller measure.

What I encountered upon landing once again in Birmingham was quite different, sometimes in completely unexpected and refreshing ways. We slowly (and quietly!) filed into the volunteer center, staking out our new temporary homes ― top bunk or bottom ― slowly filling up the rooms so carefully prepared for our arrival. Playing board games and soccer on the lawn and pockets of old friends playing catch-up on each other’s lives continued throughout the day.

These were not the rowdy, boisterous throngs of AmeriCorps I remembered from the training conference in November, but a more seasoned, reflective and knowing bunch of accomplished young adults. We have all grown throughout this year, and it really showed in the quality and depth of the conversations that took place on the day of our arrival.

For me, the BAT is a kind of capstone experience for AmeriCorps members: a culmination of all skills learned throughout the year, put to the test on an ambitious week-long project designed to impact a local community. It is our chance to show that we can, in fact, be the change we want to see in the world.

Given the reflectiveness and quality of the tone thus far in this Build-a-Thon, I have no doubt that 2011 is going to be a good year for Habitat builds, whether they be national, regional, or in our own backyard.

Michele Duley is currently serving as a third-year AmeriCorps volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake. She previously completed a year as the Youth Empowerment Series Coordinator with HabiJax and a year as a National Direct Member in Family Services with Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City, Missouri. Her current position is concerned with the development of new structures, tracking systems, and resource guides to support the Family Services department of a growing and recently merged affiliate.