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Setting the stage for a life-changing week

AmeriCorps members will build 11 houses in Dallas during Build-a-Thon 2012
By Julie Gurnon


TV personality Steve Thomas feels right at home on the Dallas build site during the 2012 AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon. Photo by Tammie Ferguson


I arrived in Dallas, Texas, on Sunday, May 20, for the second week of the 2012 AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon.

Not all of the 125 AmeriCorps members had arrived yet; some were in route, and a few flights had been delayed. This group of AmeriCorps members — another crew will spend the week in Los Angeles — will spend five days building 11 houses, the largest number among all four event sites in this year’s Build-a-Thon.

Later that evening, everyone attended the opening reception and dinner. I especially liked the way the affiliate had arranged the tables by house number, so all those assigned to a particular house could sit next to each other. Eight of the 11 partner families also sat with the group working with them on each of their homes.

I squeezed into an empty seat at a table for house No. 3, where I sat near soon-to-be homeowner Schwana Jones. She can’t wait to move into her new home with son, Jeremiah, 4 months.

I also enjoyed meeting television personality and Emmy winner Steve Thomas, former host of “This Old House” — which I watched regularly for many years — and “Renovation Nation.”

“I am looking forward to your optimism, your energy and your ideas —radical or otherwise,” he told the AmeriCorps members during his opening comments.

Before departing for the night, Jennifer Knoeber, director extraordinaire of volunteer services for Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, reminded everyone not to go swimming in the outdoor pool directly after returning from the build site during the week, knowing that the hotel staff wouldn’t appreciate cleaning a “ring around the pool.”

On Monday, the AmeriCorps members were dropped off in the middle of a residential street with 11 cement slabs and piles of materials awaiting them.

As always, the speed at which the members worked amazed me. I can’t wait to see how much they accomplish tomorrow.