Wells Fargo -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Lead sponsor of Habitat for Humanity’s 27th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, Wells Fargo contributed $750,000 and 150 volunteers to the building event. Wells Fargo has provided local Habitat affiliates $58 million in funding and more than 4 million volunteer hours since 1993. In 2010, Wells Fargo joined Habitat as a national partner with an $8 million contribution for its resource development capacity building and Habitat’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which constructs, repairs and rehabilitates affordable housing for low-income families in markets hit hard by foreclosures.
Jenni Wilken, Wells Fargo’s lead volunteer, working from the heart
Jenni Wilken has a full-time job and a full-time passion, both courtesy of Wells Fargo. Her official job, as Operational Risk Consultant, pays the bills. But she says the job that suits her heart is the unpaid assignment as head of Wells Fargo’s volunteer efforts with Habitat for Humanity.
“I’ve been volunteering for about 15 years, 12 of those with Wells Fargo and as leader of our Habitat volunteer program for the last three years. I’m the lead volunteer of the committee that organizes our builds twice a year – one in spring and one in the fall,” Wilken says.
Of her organizing role, she says, “I couldn’t have a more rewarding part of my job. I’ve always been an affordable housing advocate. I think the Twin Cities should have a moratorium on building another stadium here until every homeless person and every family who is living in inadequate housing has a decent and affordable place to call home.”
Her colleagues also are quite gung-ho, and they sign up right away for Wells Fargo’s Habitat builds. Wilken encourages anyone who’s interested to sign up as soon as registration for the event opens. “We filled 400 spots in 2 ½ hours in the fall of 2008,” she explains, still amazed at the readiness of colleagues to get involved.
For the 2010 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, Wilken joined 14 other Wells Fargo team members working on new construction on a lot in Minneapolis’ Hawthorne neighborhood. Another 10 worked on as house in Saint Paul.
“I helped build scaffolding and nailed sheathing on exterior wall frames. I also helped with digging and demolition of a fence along the property line between this and a vacant house next door. We were building a two-story house in five days, because this is the Carter blitz. Most of the Wells Fargo Habitat builds take multiple weeks,” she said.
Wilken said she deeply appreciates the commitment Wells Fargo has to the communities where it does business. “I have worked for Wells Fargo for 23 years, and as large as the company is, it never ceases to amaze me the heart of our company for our responsibility to give back. We gave $8 million to Habitat for Humanity this year, and $250,000 of that was for the local Carter project.”
Her latest mission, Wilken said, was to get a photo with the Carters. This mission was accomplished on Wednesday during the Carter Work Project, when the famous couple posed with the crews at all the build sites in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Another milestone for Wilken was meeting the homeowner family of the house she helped construct.
On the last day of the build, Wilken met homeowner partner Nina Kimmons. Kimmons, a mother with four children including a daughter who has autism, expressed gratitude about the space inside and outside that she will have for her children to study and play.
“The thing that I was most impressed about her was she was very excited and interested in being involved in the building. She’d already put in sweat equity hours and really wanted to learn how to do things so that she could take care of her home,” Wilken said. “That’s a prevalent theme of home buyers I’ve interacted with, and I feel that way, too. When I’m building, I want to learn so I can do it at home.”
The Carter Project, Wilken said, stands out as one of the most memorable Habitat construction projects she’s participated in with Wells Fargo.
“This one was different from builds in the past, because it was highly publicized. So much attention was paid to it, and we couldn’t have had more beautiful weather; a year ago we had snow! Everything about the atmosphere was great, including that big tent Habitat set up as a place for volunteers to congregate and have lunch. There was a lot of camaraderie, and we were right across the street from the house the Carters worked on.
“On that day the Carters were there, even amid the hubbub, the crew we had on site still managed to stay on track. We put up all the exterior walls and framing of the second floor. Mid-afternoon, the crane was there, hoisting the rafters up on the roof. At the end of day three, the house was completely framed in,” including the roof rafters, she said.
Wilken said she plans to drive by in a week or so to check on the house. She added that she’s quite invested not only in the progress of the house she worked on but also others in the four-block area under revitalization in the Hawthorn EcoVillage community.
Always thinking ahead to the next opportunity for Wells Fargo volunteers, Wilken said, “I’ve already put in a request that we be considered for the spring build to finish the work in that neighborhood.”