I was born and raised in Xenia, a small town in southwestern Ohio that was sadly destroyed by an EF5 tornado on April 3, 1974, when I was a junior in high school. I left for college shortly after that, but never lost touch with family and friends there. Though my hometown was long ago rebuilt and I don’t dwell on the Xenia tornado these days, it made an unmistakable impression and influenced my life in many ways.
In the early 1980s, I moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and have lived here ever since. Much of my career has been spent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Now in the sixth year of my second stint in resource development, I currently work as a stewardship and donor relations officer.
The earthquake in Haiti touched me deeply and in the aftermath of that and Hurricane Katrina before, I found myself compelled to help in some way. Around that time, a friend sent me an email about an opportunity to join and be trained for Habitat for Humanity’s Disaster Corps in New Orleans in January 2011. As I was filling out the application, I realized that one important reason I was being drawn to this work was my own profound experience of living through a natural disaster.
After training in New Orleans, I traveled in March 2011 to Lucedale, Mississippi, to work with the George County Habitat for Humanity. I had the good fortune to be there along with a group from University of California at Berkeley who were spending their spring break helping to build a new home and learned a lot by helping and listening. Back in the office, we spent time talking about foundation, corporation and individual prospects, improving communications with donors, building more community support and writing proposals to foundations. In the end, we wrote a couple of proposals, one of which was successful.
I was thrilled to be invited back in March 2012, to continue some of the exciting work we started and to look at some new projects as well. Lucedale is a beautiful town and I have enjoyed getting to know the Habitat community there. I stay in contact with the executive director, and have to admit that I feel like a part of the family. They are continuing to make a huge difference in their community and have made enormous strides, both in fundraising and building a network of support, in the two years I have known them.
I plan to continue working as a Disaster Corps member and look forward to one day being able to do more than one deployment per year.
In the meantime, I have also become involved with Habitat for Humanity in Haiti. I travelled to Leogane, Haiti, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, as a member of an advance team for the Carter Work Project.
My advice to Disaster Corps members: Spend some time listening and absorbing the situation wherever you are. Working on-site is a great way to get to know the Habitat staff, volunteers and future families.
With thanks to my family, friends and colleagues who have encouraged me in this work and who cheer me on every day!