Shingle-minded volunteers repair roofs in San Jose
SAN JOSE, California — Neighborhood by neighborhood, roof by roof, Habitat volunteers fanned out Thursday across a swath of San Jose to build new roofs on several homes. Laying shingles can be taxing work — especially in the South and the Midwest in the summer — but on a crisp fall day in northern California, with temperatures in the low 70s, not many sweats were broken.
“It’s a blessing from God that this program came into our lives,” said Tris Fiaui, a security guard for the Santa Clara school system. He and his wife have seven daughters, ages 1 through 20.
“This roof was a disaster waiting to happen,” he continued. “I love my kids to death. But I couldn’t do anything about the roof because I couldn’t afford it. With Habitat, it’s done: a brand new roof for me and my family.”
Leading the charge of the roof brigade was a group of construction veterans, 16 staffers from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles who spent the week in San Jose working on six houses. “Our motto for Habitat Greater L.A. is ‘We can’t meet our expectations if we don’t exceed yours,’” Steve Sferrino, the affiliate’s vice president of construction and real estate, said as he climbed down a ladder leaning against the garage of Mary Alanis.
Alanis lives in the 60-year-old house with her husband, Larry; her mother; and two adult children, one of whom has cerebral palsy. Larry has his own cleaning service, and Mary is unemployed, so when they learned their roof was badly rotted in spots, they could not afford to repair it. Mary was surprised to learn that Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley does renovations for families in need who qualify.
“I knew Habitat built new houses; I just didn’t know we could benefit from it,” she said. “All the volunteers have been so much fun, they’ve been really good to us.”
— Phil Kloer
Parking attendants in Denver have a lot to think about
DENVER, Colorado — When most people think of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, they think of swinging a hammer, hanging siding or pouring cement.
But it takes all sorts of labor to put on a successful Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
Somebody has to serve lunch. Somebody has to register volunteers. And somebody has to keep an eye on the parking lot.
This week in Denver, that somebody has been Michele Matisse, a 51-year-old breast cancer survivor who’s quick with a joke. She greets volunteers and staff each morning with a smile and waves them toward a parking space.
Her assignment, she admits, is “pretty boring, but I’m glad to be a part of any of this.”
Matisse keeps herself entertained by joking around with drivers and swapping stories with the other volunteers assigned to work with her, who on Thursday were JoAnn Beckman and Diana Scholl.
“We’ve covered health, primarily women’s health, and caring for aging parents,” she said. “And we’ve traded book and movie tips.”
She made the other women laugh when she told them that once, she’d asked her mother why she’d chosen to spell “Michele” with just one “L”: “She told me, ‘I’m a good Catholic, and I took that extra ‘L’ out because I didn’t want ‘hell’ in the middle of your name.’ ”
Matisse has also served this week as an unofficial ambassador for Habitat. When some neighborhood residents happened by to check out the work site, she encouraged them to consider volunteering.
“I told them, ‘It’s the hardest work you’ll ever love.’ ”
— Soyia Ellison
Work days get hairy for Denver’s materials delivery crew
DENVER, Colorado — Why, exactly, were Amber Smith and her volunteer crew sporting fake mustaches most of the week?
“Why not?” she said. “Life’s more fun when you’re in costume.”
Smith is a high school teacher who took a week off work to be part of the Carter Work Project. She has been volunteering with Habitat since she took part in a build in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now she takes groups of high school students to build in New Orleans every spring break and volunteers with the affiliate during her summers off.
“To build someone a home,” she said, “it’s just a privilege to be a part of it.”
This week, Smith bonded quickly with her team: a silly but hardworking bunch assigned to deliver materials to the project’s 26 construction sites.
Colleen Mentz, the site development project manager for Habitat Metro Denver and a leader of the materials crew, bought the mustaches at the end of their long first day.
“I’m just trying to keep things light and fun,” she said, “so after I left at 10 one night, I went to Target and bought three packs of $1 mustaches. They’ve been very popular.”
Like parking lot attendant, materials handler is not one of the more glamorous volunteer assignments. But it is important. And the materials crew is living proof that any volunteer job can be fun if you want it to be.
— Soyia Ellison
Union Beach volunteers radiate warmth on damp day
UNION BEACH, New Jersey — It was a cold and rainy day in Union Beach on Thursday, but you wouldn’t have known it from the faces of the 150 volunteers who worked to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Smiles and laughter were everywhere as volunteers hung drywall and installed windows on several homes in this blue-collar community. Many of them had never done this type of construction work, yet they took to their tasks with gusto.
Lesley Corydon, who serves on a fundraising committee at Habitat for Humanity of Monmouth County, said she was excited to help install drywall in the garage of Peter and Stephanie Zelinskie’s home.
“It’s really cool to be here,” she said. “There’s so much opportunity, especially in Monmouth County, to help rebuild.”
Corydon said she had no trouble recruiting 60 of her co-workers at JPMorgan Chase to participate in the Carter Work Project.
“It’s very rewarding to get people into their homes and help them stay in their homes,” she said.
First-time Habitat volunteer Lisa Gluck described her day on the build site as a fun learning experience.
“When I first got here, I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. After only a couple of hours, however, Gluck was installing drywall like a professional.
“My husband isn‘t going to believe it,” Gluck said with a laugh.
Jeff Stuart, who spent the day installing fence posts and replacing drywall, said participating in the Carter Work Project wasn’t entirely easy, but he enjoyed every minute of it.
“Dragging 80 pounds of cement wasn’t fun, but other than that it’s been great,” he said. “We’ve been working hard and really enjoying it.”
— Tracie Troha