March 2013 RV Care-A-Vanners Update

Featured News

It seems like my columns lately have been a laundry list of projects and accomplishments, and this month is no exception. March is going to be a busy month for the RV Care-A-Vanner Program. We will start with the nearly week-long National Affiliate Conference in Atlanta. Frank Peccia, our RV Care-A-Vanner Desk Safety Officer, and his wife, Diana, will be attending the conference with me. We will have the opportunity to meet with affiliate representatives from across North America and share with them what the RV Care-A-Vanners can do to assist with their build programs. We set up a dinner at which affiliates will be able to dine with me and learn more about our program. That filled up immediately, and we had to add another dinner with Frank and Diana.

The week after the Affiliate Conference is our first Disaster Rebuild Course for RV Care-A-Vanners. We have a full house, with more than 30 participants. The course includes HFHI safety-training certification for everyone so that we can help the HFHI safety folks educate affiliates about the much stricter OSHA regulations that have been handed down. The same course will be offered at our 25th Anniversary Rally and Build in Springfield, Missouri, in April 2014, when I expect to get many more RV Care-A-Vanners safety-certified.

Speaking of our 25th Anniversary Rally and Build, we have just launched a Web page with updated information about the event, as well as a way to donate. We want to raise enough money to fund two houses. I've made my donation � have you? Go to the 25th Anniversary Web page to get more information and to donate.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not thank the RV Care-A-Vanner Desk Staff, who have had to pick up my responsibilities again this winter. I will be out for just a short time for some surgery. As usual, I am sure the Desk will run smoothly without me, thanks especially to Lu Tillotson, who picks up most of my workload when I am unavailable.

I want to leave you with one last thought: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Thank you for all you have given in time, labor and money to Habitat for Humanity. With your help, 2.5 million people worldwide are now living in safe, decent, affordable housing.

Mary Vandeveld
RV Care-A-Vanner coordinator

Why We Build
By Lowell Larson

Care-A-Vanners build for many reasons, but a core reason is the joy of seeing deserving families get a good, affordable place to live. It is a special joy to be able to meet and work with these prospective homeowners. In January of this year, my wife, Gwen, and I, along with Kim and Carol Parker and Earl Wellen, did a drop-in build in Nacogdoches, Texas. While framing a new house, we met the future homeowner, Arturo Merino. He impressed us from the start.

  Earl Wellen, Kim and Carol Parker, and Lowell and Gwen Larson

Because Arturo has a job that requires him to work four 10-hour days each week with frequent opportunities to work a fifth day at overtime rates, we didn't get to work with him much until the last day of our build. We found him to be an excellent worker, catching on quickly and doing quality work. We also met his two delightful sons, Axel and Luis, who are looking forward to having a new "big bedroom."

Joe Roach, the construction supervisor at Nacogdoches, provided me with the following additional information about Arturo and his family, which reinforces our picture of them as deserving of our "hand up."

Arturo Merino was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and raised in California. He lived in California for 35 years before moving to Nacogdoches two-and-a-half years ago. He met and married Sanjuana Aquirre, who is from the city of his birth in Mexico. They have two sons: 2-year-old Axel and 6-year-old Luis Emilio, and are expecting another child soon.

While visiting relatives in Nacogdoches, Arturo found work with CalTex Lumber Company in the planning department. He has worked for the company for the two-and-a-half years he's been in Nacogdoches.

  Axel and Luis exploring our motorhome.

The Nacogdoches affiliate electrical contractor happens to be his current landlord. When he
learned that Arturo was to get the next Habitat home, the contractor was pleasantly surprised and had only good to say about always on time, house well maintained, good and consistent worker. When Joe Roach apologized for taking away a good tenant, the contractor said, "No, he is very deserving of the house!"

The Nacogdoches affiliate staff describe Arturo as a hard, consistent worker with a positive attitude toward work, coworkers and life in general. They say it is a pleasure working with him and a joy to know the house is being built for such a family.
Sweat equity is no sweat with Arturo! He is available every Saturday, and he calls to see what he can do on his unscheduled days off. He also has enlisted skilled volunteers to help.

The affiliate had expected to have to spend $3,500 to remove hazardous trees on the lot where the new home is located. But Arturo just happened to have friends who are professional tree trimmers. The description of many Care-A-Vanners as "volunteers, but not amateurs" also applies to his volunteers!    

Team leader corner
A big "thank you" goes out to our FABULOUS February Team Leaders. They are: Dyana Todd, Bill Oates, Dale and Nancy Cobb, Lisa Crawford, Harvey Russell and Marge White, Frances Harless, Kelly Sosland, Kurt Newton, Bob Hammer and Sharon Upton, Jeff and Karen Greenstreet, Jay and Brenda Guild, Mike and Paula Brown, and Harry Fritts. It may have been a short month, but February saw many Care-A-Vanner builders making a difference in the lives of others. The Care-A-Vanner program would not be successful without you.

Remember, if you would like to join the ranks of our esteemed Team Leaders, just drop me an email and I will send you information on what is involved.

Team Leaders: Please remember to contact the Care-A-Vanner desk as soon after the start of the build as possible with any change in the roster � be it a new address, phone number or email, or a no-show. We also need to know if someone not on the official roster shows up. If anyone contacts you before the build about joining, please have them register through the Care-A-Vanner desk. It is the only way to assure a fair registration process. We often have people on a waiting list, and it is only fair to allow them first choice when a space is available.

One more reminder: Please inform your team of the Care-A-Vanners' 25th Anniversary Rally and Build in April 2014. The announcement is in your Team Leader information packet.

Team Leaders are needed for the following builds:

  • May 5-19: Ava, New York
  • May 12-26: Libby, Montana
  • May 12-26: Marinette, Wisconsin
  • May 19-31: Idaho Falls, Idaho

Note: I will be in Nicaragua from March 1-18, leading a Fuller Center Global Builders trip. Mary and Lu will be keeping an eye on my mailbox while I am gone. By the time the next newsletter comes out we should be well on our way to spring!!

Thank you,
Brenda Sawyer
Team leader coordinator

Disaster Response

  • West Liberty, KY (formally known as Morehead, KY): We are in need of house leaders from August 11, 2013, through November 2, 2013. Can you read a blueprint, solve construction issues and lead a group of capable RV Care-A-Vanners? Then you can be a house leader. Once I have house leaders in place, I will list builds in support of those house leaders. Remember, West Liberty lost 500 housing units, many of them low income, in the March 2, 2012, tornado. They really need our help there! If you would like to sign up as a house leader, please contact me at I have builds listed in support of our house leaders starting April 7, 2013, so sign up and make a difference.
  • Tuscaloosa, AL: Tuscaloosa is rebuilding following the massive tornado in 2011. They now have room for eight RVs at their volunteer facility. We have yet to fill all those build slots this winter. I have just listed the Tuscaloosa builds on our website for summer and fall, starting in August and running through December. No experience is required to work in Tuscaloosa, and I have heard from the builders that have been there that it is a great place to work. We are in the process of assisting the Tuscaloosa affiliate with some grant money to upgrade their RV sites and put in a dump station. They have also lowered the cost of camping to $10 a night.
  • Joplin, MO: I still have a need for a house leader October 7-12th, 2013. Our responsibility is to lead a Thrivent team of 10 to 12 members and enhance their volunteer experience. There will be local construction supervision available. If you are interested, please contact me for more information at
  • Superstorm Sandy Relief: Habitat International is currently working with local affiliates to respond to the disaster. Affiliates are just doing their assessment of needs. I know we will have a presence there this summer, so stayed tuned. For those of you who have expressed an interest, I am compiling a list of potential volunteers, and I would be happy to put you on it. You can contact me at

trips Upcoming Builds

We add new builds whenever an affiliate schedules one. We try to update the list on Fridays so that you can check over the weekend to see if any new ones have been added. Builds are now sorted by date when the list comes up. You can sort by state by clicking the link at the top of the list. Just click on the build list.

Featured Builds

Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley, located in Bozeman, Montana, needs a miracle. They are building a passive solar house with a grant, but the house has to be completed by the end of June to receive the grant. The build is listed in Belgrade, located off I-90 just northwest of Bozeman. This is a new affiliate for us, so let's show them what the RV Care-A-Vanners can do! Register for the builds (They are listed as two back-to-back builds starting May 12.)

trips Collegiate Challenge

Because of eight willing Care-A-Vanners, we were able to fulfill a request from the affiliate in Albany, Georgia, for Collegiate Challenge crew leaders for six weeks in February and March! A big "thank you" to Greg Harbage, Ray and Mary Kay Johnson, Lisa Crawford, Barry Mansfield and Mica DeAngelis, and Chuck and Judy Sambs for adding this destination to your travel plans and sharing your experience with these young people.

We still lack a Care-A-Vanner single or couple to help out in Port Townsend, Washington, the last week of March. Please contact me immediately if you can help there. And I will continue to collect the names of those interested in assisting affiliates when they host Collegiate Challenge teams; just send me an email. This will ensure that you receive emails about various possibilities during the year 2014. There is no commitment on your part, just a willingness to receive the emails to see what might interest you!

Diane Gravlee
Collegiate Challenge coordinator

trips Anniversary Celebration

Care-A-Vanners � 1989 - Ah, the Good Old Days

This is what RV-ing looked like in 1989. Think back to where and what you were doing in 1989. Most of us were still working, with retirement a long way off. For us, RV-ing was a thing of the future, as we we had just finished a period of camping in pop-up trailers or tents.

Only a handful of hardy souls ventured forth in the motorhome, camping trailer or 5th wheel � your RV of choice � and an even smaller handful chose to build Habitat homes under the banner of Care-A-Vanners.

One of the things that hasn't changed? Our love of taking pictures. We wanted to remember those wonderful moments of teamwork, of sharing the blessings of building someone a home, of just plain fun. Well, remember this, too � those pictures were on FILM. Can you believe it? Really, film. Yes, digital cameras were just beginning to come to market, but they were targeted at professionals and journalists. Photo CD's from your Kodak film cameras weren't introduced until the early 1990s. By then, Care-A-Vanners had built several hundred homes, and all those early pictures were recorded on film.

Fast-forward to the present era, and we find that RV's are very modernized, be they travel trailers, 5th wheels or motorhomes. Though in fairness, the older ones are very comfortable, too, and many of them are still in frequent use. Our cameras are now mostly all digital. And our numbers have dramatically increased, to the extent that at any one time, there are in excess of 1,500 of us at work or signed up for a build somewhere. Our email circulation is approaching 6,000. That is an impressive growth curve over 25 years.

This reflects our collective mindset of "travel with a purpose" � a lifestyle choice that many of us have made. It fits well with the concept of "giving back" or "paying it forward" for the times that we have been blessed with abundance. It is our growth over 25 years that we want to celebrate by remembering the friendships we have formed with other Habitatters, and the many, many houses we have turned over to new owners as homes.

We also want to collect some images from the early years that were capture on film. If you have some good ones that have stood the test of time, please let me know by email and we can arrange to collect them.

Remember, and put on your calendars,
25th Anniversary Build & Rally, April 21 � May 4, 2014, Springfield, MO

Joe and Jane Gano,
25th Anniversary Event Coordinators

NOTE: A 25th Anniversary information page, which includes an online donation button, is now live at We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Welcome new Care-A-Vanners

David and Gin Anderson, Byron and Lois Ball, Harvey and Margy Bonner, Mark and Deb Culley, Darrell and Ellen DeVault, Bill and Dori Duthler, Joan Halberg, Leigh Jaques, Bruce and Joyce Johnson, Phillip Kay, Dan and Gina Kelly, Kathy Keys, Ken and Gwen Kruger, Andre Marceau and Jacqueline Labrecque, Susan Oliver, Don and Sandra Platt, Robert Robb, Frank Thompson, Vikki Thurston, Brian and Kim VanDorp, Gary Vines and Deborah Locke, and Darrell and Kimberly Waag.

Our apologies if we have included a seasoned Care-A-Vanner or if this is a duplication. Habitat for Humanity is grateful for the work that you do!

 Safety Corner

In addition to building from the ground up, Habitat affiliates are increasingly tackling renovation projects. These sorts of projects may present safety hazards that we need to be aware as we demolish or remove walls, sheetrock, flooring, exterior siding, roofing, etc.

Team Leaders need to review with the affiliate construction manager the plan for demolition or removal, the methods for removing various house elements, the equipment necessary to do the job and any specific safety hazards unique to the site.

Each of these tasks directly affects the risk associated with a successful and safe deconstruction phase. You should:

  • Ensure that the structure is sound and that structural members are still intact or adequate for the work to be done.
  • Ensure that there is adequate lighting for stairways and interiors.
  • Determine whether utilities will be affected or are near the deconstruction work. Are there adequate safeguards?
  • Determine whether there are hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead paint that will be affected by the deconstruction.
  • Place railings around any opening in the exterior walls or stairways.
  • Contain debris in a drop box or a specific space. If debris is dropped from a second story, there are specific rules around providing a chute and an enclosed area at the ground level.
  • Draft a demolition plan that starts at the highest level and works down.
  • Use lateral bracing on any wall section standing alone and make sure it's stable at the end of each work shift.
  • Provide walkways or ladders to enable workers to access scaffolding or reach walls above normal standing height.
  • Make sure workers have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary for interior renovations, such as gloves, hard-soled shoes or boots, protective glasses, hard hats and respirators.

Happy Care-a-Vanning,
Frank Peccia
Safety officer

Questions, cancellations or concerns?
1-800-HABITAT, ext. 7534
1-229-410-7534 (direct)
RV Care-A-Vanner staff contact info

Register for a build online
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Roster updates
Please email updated roster information to or or call 1-229-410-7534.

Report Care-A-Vanner hours
Help us keep track of total volunteer hours contributed, and partner families served. Please email these stats from your drop-in or ongoing builds to

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