Partner organizations help make it all happen -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Partner organizations help make it all happen

Bank of America employees (L-R) Mehrnaz Manteghi, Hodan Nalayeh and Brenda Suits.

Every day this week, through long hours of camaraderie and construction, Jimmy Carter Work Project volunteers and partner families are working side by side in Los Angeles to make simple, decent, affordable housing a reality. But Habitat for Humanity doesn’t make all of this happen on its own.

A building event as intricately choreographed and ambitiously envisioned as JCWP requires the high-level participation of an array of partner organizations. In addition to their donations of materials and generous financial support, however, Habitat partners also send their most precious resources: their employees, members and friends.

Easy to spot in their cheerful, usually color-coordinated T-shirts, these colleagues and cubicle neighbors spend their days on the JCWP build sites learning to collaborate in new and exciting ways, strengthening old friendships and forming new ones.

Ryan Ward, Lowe’s employee.

Most weeks, Raymond Chan of West Los Angeles is a senior IT consultant for accounting firm KPMG, but this week he is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer at the Vermont Avenue site. This is Chan’s first Habitat build. Not only has it been a gratifying house-building experience, he said, but it also has been a team-building opportunity for him and his co-workers. “There are some I’m getting reacquainted with, and some I’m getting to know,” he said. “You’ll meet a lot of great people — lots of different kinds of people.”

Sometimes, those people are corporate co-workers — and sometimes, they just happen to be other volunteers helping out on the same house.

“Yesterday, I was building on the roof with an artist,” said Ryan Ward, Lowe’s area human resources manager for Los Angeles and Ventura counties. “How often does a retail store guy get to work with an artist? How often do an artist, an actor and retail work together on a roof for a nice, sweet family?”

Ward is overseeing volunteers for Lowe’s at JCWP 2007. Each day, about 15 to 20 volunteers from the Lowe’s stores in Los Angeles County — all first-time JCWP builders —are building on the two Lowe’s houses at San Pedro.

Many of the volunteers carry lessons learned on the build site back to their boardrooms and offices. “It’s the best test of creative problem-solving skills you will ever have,” said Brenda Suits, Bank of America’s senior vice president of corporate philanthropy. Suits, a resident of Charlotte, N.C., has been building with Habitat for 19 years; this is her third JCWP.

Citi employee Tony Borer.

Citi’s Tony Borer agreed about JCWP’s required skill sets and the event’s lasting professional benefits. “Here, you’re working directly with the homeowners –which is also customer service,” said the assistant vice president/unit manager who has logged more than 300 Habitat hours since October 2006. “Here, you can see the direct effect on the customer’s face.”

That kind of immediate contact also has been important to Diana Limon, electrician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #1. Limon first got involved with Habitat for Humanity through a tradeswomen conference in Denver, Colo. This week she is one of hundreds of IBEW members on site at the Jimmy Carter Work Project. “This is our community, too,” said Limon. “We go to church in this community; our kids go to school in this community,” added Kim Craft, IBEW’s assistant business manager. “What we’re all about is helping people rise up and increase their standard of living, own a home and participate in the American dream.”

Major partners for the 2007 build include the City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Monica, the State of California, Citi, City of Burbank, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Lowe’s, The Dow Chemical Company, The Home Depot and Time Warner. Visit for a complete list.