Nail-drivers in Birmingham are driven by many things -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Nail-drivers in Birmingham are driven by many things


Stephanie Taylor, an AmeriCorps member from Chicago, paints the Freeman family’s house in the Wylam community on the second day of the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


Volunteer Kelly Shannon helps install soffit board on the roof of the Gunter family’s home in the Wylam community of Alabama. © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


Valspar employee Wilshaun Wren paints the Kendall family's house as part of Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness repair program in Fairfield, Alabama. © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


Volunteer Jim Wallace helps paint the Kendall family’s house in Fairfield, Alabama. The painting and other exterior repairs are part of Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness program. © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

By Phillip Jordan

Ask Habitat volunteers here about their motivation for volunteering, and you will frequently get as many answers as there are—well—volunteers.

For Ginger Singleton, inspiration proved divine. On her first Habitat build in Corpus Christi, Texas, Singleton signed her name on a wall frame along with the homeowner. Singleton decided to add Jeremiah 24:15 to the frame, a verse that ends with “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When the homeowner read it, she began crying.

“She told me, ‘That’s my family verse that’s been passed down through the women of our family from my great-great-grandmother,’” Singleton said. “It was that moment for me where I just felt God spoke. I said, ‘OK, I should help build houses now.’”

Next door to where Singleton worked alongside her husband, Allen, to caulk a house in Habitat’s Wylam Oaks neighborhood, Kelly Shannon helped install soffit board. The 23-year-old said Habitat’s mission has impressed her enough that she wants to contribute full time. She hopes to gain a construction job with a Habitat affiliate and says studying sculpture in college helped prepare her for home construction.

“You learn a lot about tools,” Shannon said as she worked to trim a soffit piece that wouldn’t quite fit. “And problem-solving!”

Wilshaun Wren, another 23-year-old from Birmingham, might have the most direct connection to Habitat. He works for Valspar, which has helped Habitat turn its A Brush with Kindness repair program into a national initiative through donations of paint and cash.

“I’m glad to be part of a company that cares about doing something,” Wren said from a repair project in Fairfield. “But it means a lot to me personally to help somebody in need. It’s a chance to do a good deed, and I’ve seen neighborhoods here that need good deeds. I hope we can get more people to do this after they see the results we have here.”

Construction update

Scraping old, peeling paint continued Tuesday on many repair projects, but painting, roof replacements and other exterior improvements increased on Day Two in Birmingham. New-house construction also passed major milestones as several crews neared completion on the outside of the homes and began to turn their attention to the many indoor tasks that remained.

Lucy McDowell was one of the hundreds again at work Tuesday, helping paint Betty McKeller’s house. McDowell took the entire week off from work to lend a hand. “My youngest daughter just left for college last month, so I’ve got a lot more free time now,” McDowell said. “I’ve always wanted to try Habitat, and thought this would be a good way to get my feet wet and see what it’s all about. I’ll definitely be back.”

Creative craftsmanship

There’s no getting around it: Belinda Brackett’s Fairfield home is tall. Reaching the upper sections has been a challenge for the crew repairing the house. Long-handled rollers enabled the volunteers to paint the broad rows of siding, but what about the trim and the exposed crevices between the siding?

Enter on-the-fly inventors Ray Allen and Phil Schnepp—and a roll of duct tape. The duo taped smaller paintbrushes to the end of those long handles, which could then be hoisted high enough from ladders to get to those difficult-to-reach places.

“We do what we can,” Schnepp said with a grin.

A wasp is not an arachnid

Paula Cushing is an arachnologist from Golden, Colorado. Jim Wallace is an electronics engineer who works frequently with his local Habitat North Central Georgia affiliate. The two have volunteered with a group of friends on many Habitat builds across the world. That doesn’t mean they’ll do anything for each other, however. On Tuesday, both on ladders, Cushing and Wallace encountered a colony of wasps starting a nest near a house eave.

“Jim turned and asked me, ‘Hey, what are these?’” Cushing said. “I told him: ‘I don’t know. That’s not my field! But I’ll get down so you can knock them down on your own!’ That’s not a job for the biologist; that’s a job for the engineer!”

Phillip Jordan is a writer/editor for Habitat for Humanity International.