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Midwest to West Coast: The tale of two Build-a-Thon adventures

Memories of Milwaukee fuel new work in L.A. during Build-a-Thon 2012
By Stephanie Ham


Graham Wesolowski and Andy Scudero dig holes for fence posts for homes being renovated during Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A.’s Build-a-Thon week. Photo by Stephanie Ham


Erin Stephens (Left), Graham Wesolowski, Mel Delbon and Chris Laster relax after a long day of building. All four AmeriCorps members serve with West Coast affiliates. Photo by Stephanie Ham


The most tragic moment of summer is when camp ends, and the conclusion of Milwaukee’s Build-a-Thon felt just like that. As the end of our AmeriCorps term nears, these Build-a-Thons are more than a culmination of our service work. They are the last time many of us will be together.

Last week, we got further than expected on all six of Milwaukee’s AmeriCorps homes. We installed all the windows, doors and roof sheeting, and finishing as much siding as our ladders could reach. Not to brag, but yeah, we rocked the block.

Our week of wonderfulness ended Friday afternoon with a block-party barbecue for all the volunteers, AmeriCorps and community members — a thank-you gesture to the neighborhood for letting us run our power tools at 8 a.m. Oh, those boisterous morning Habitat cheers too.

After that food fest, we headed to the Brewers game. Many of us tailgated with the Milwaukee Habitat staff and regular volunteers. Lots of fun and lots of, “Wow, you clean up well!”

Thanks for the amazing week, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity! We can’t stop talking about all the fun, inside jokes and bruises.

On to California …

Fast-forward through airport security, turbulence, free peanuts, more security, airport shuttle, a quick load of laundry, and the Los Angeles Build-a-Thon has arrived!

Eighty West Coast and Hawaii AmeriCorps gathered by the hotel pool Sunday, swapping stories and jokes. Habitat Greater Los Angeles staff pumped us up with cheers. (Pompoms flew around for a bit — safety hazard!) We broke into our house groups to discuss how we’re going to finish rehabbing five homes in one week. Each house crew made team flags and names, ranging from the Dream Team to the Periwinkle Sidekicks (the latter being far superior).

On Monday morning, our buses dropped us off at our respective sites, where we toiled away for the day. At 4 p.m., the bus came around again to pick up lots of tired AmeriCorps bemoaning their sore muscles. The Periwinkle Sidekicks came on the bus looking like coal miners. Digging irrigation trenches is dirty work.

Back at the hotel, dinners have never been eaten faster.

Tuesday was another great workday, and Wednesday was our free day! Habitat L.A. organized many awesome adventures for us. We had the option of visiting the famous Getty Museum, playing on beaches in Santa Monica and Venice, seeing the Warner Brothers Studio lot, or taking a tour through Hollywood!

More adventures to come, friends! Rumors of a beach bonfire have been confirmed, and I’ll keep you all in the loop about that — and about how successful we are on the build sites!