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Build-a-Thon bits

Seen and heard this week on the L.A. sites of the Build-a-Thon 2012
By Soyia Ellison


Jeff Goodwin got some screen time to talk about AmeriCorps and Habitat on KTLA. Photo by Soyia Ellison


Olympic sprinter Greg Nixon was quick with a paintbrush on the build site Thursday. Photo by Soyia Ellison


Joel Stallworth, an Olympic hopeful in track and field, also helped paint doors. Photo by Soyia Ellison


Ian Halsema has been volunteering three days a week for Habitat since he retired from Xerox from 10 months ago. Photo by Jess Koehler


Becky Murray, an AmeriCorps alum, adds her name to a picnic table built as a gift for the new homeowner family. Photo by Jess Koehler


Kandy Killingsworth hasn’t let a diagnosis of breast cancer slow her down. Photo by Jason Asteros

Spend enough time in L.A., and someone will point a camera at you.

Just ask Jeff Goodwin, an AmeriCorps member from East Bay Habitat for Humanity. On Thursday morning, he found himself talking with KTLA reporter Gayle Anderson.

KTLA, which has the top-rated morning news show in the city, spotlighted the annual AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon through a series of live remotes from Santa Fe
Avenue in Lynwood, where Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A. is rehabbing a foreclosed home for a new homeowner family.

Goodwin studied television and radio at Ithaca College, which helped keep him from being especially nervous.

“I’m probably a little more comfortable than some.”

He certainly seemed comfortable. You can see for yourself here at KTLA’s website.

The fastest volunteers

Olympic sprinter Greg Nixon showed up Thursday to help paint doors at a house being rehabbed on San Vincente Avenue in South Gate.

Nixon, an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team four years ago, majored in architecture, so volunteering with Habitat is a natural fit.

“Being from New Orleans, I know that Habitat definitely did a lot for my hometown after Katrina,” he said. “It’s getting a lot better, but I still want to volunteer there sometime.”

First, though, he’ll be competing in the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. Nixon’s specialty is the 400-meter. He’s won two gold medals in the U.S. championships, most recently with a time of 44.61 seconds.

Helping him paint was another Olympic hopeful, Joel Stallworth, who was volunteering with Habitat for the first time.

“I’m just following him,” he said, pointing to his friend, “because he’s faster than me.”

‘Rusty Nails’ on the rehab site

Not everyone participating in this year’s Build-a-Thon is an AmeriCorps member.

Some are regular volunteers, part of a group of older folks the L.A. Habitat office has dubbed “The Rusty Nails.”

Among them is Ian Halsema, who’s been volunteering three days a week for about 10 months, ever since he retired from Xerox. He chose to get involved with Habitat at the suggestion of his wife, who pointed out how much he enjoyed doing little projects around the house.

“It’s been all that I expected it to be, and more,” he said, taking a break from building a fence gate.

Halsema hadn’t known that Habitat renovated old houses, a process he’s really enjoyed.

“Rehabs are a lot more interesting than building something from the ground up,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges. You have to work around a lot of quirks.”

Working with the AmeriCorps team this week is another experience he’s enjoyed.

“It’s always different when you have a large group. Sometimes, if they don’t have a lot to do, they can get in each other’s way. But the AmeriCorps group really manages to avoid that sort of thing.”

Buses, trains and build sites

AmeriCorps alum Becky Murray showed up this week to pitch in renovating a foreclosed home for a new family.

Murray, 28, spent 2011 working at Beaches Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville, Fla., helping run an after-school program for kids. Only rarely did she get to do any construction.

But now she is beginning a 25-state building tour. She’ll be traveling by bus or train from city to city, sleeping on stranger’s couches and spending a day or two building with various Habitat affiliates.


It combines her love of travel with her love of Habitat.

Murray was introduced to Habitat through a Global Village trip to Madagascar in 2007, where she worked on a site so remote that the team had to hike to it each day.

She particularly remembers one family whose patriarch had to walk scores of miles to work and stayed gone for months at a time. All his family could do was pray that he was OK, and that he would return with the money and goods they needed to survive.

“It changed the way I thought about things,” she said.

If you want to follow Murray’s current adventures, she’s blogging at

Giving back and living strong

Who’s the toughest person working on this week’s Build-a-Thon in L.A.?

It just might be Kandy Killingsworth, a 56-year-old AmeriCorps member still recovering from breast cancer.

Killingsworth grew up in nearby Orange County and is now in her second year as an AmeriCorps member with the affiliate there. For years she owned a hair and nail salon at South Coast Plaza.

“I had a passion for Habitat, but I never had the time,” she said. “I always liked what they stood for. I used to drive by the affiliate and think, ‘One day, I’m going to work with them,’ but I had to make a living.”

About five years ago, she sold the business. Soon after, she started volunteering on a Habitat construction crew. That eventually turned into the AmeriCorps position. Working construction scratched an itch she had for DIY. Rehab projects are among her favorites.

“If you can fix these, you can fix your house,” she said.

Last June, Killingsworth was diagnosed with breast cancer. She could have quit the program, but she said, “I didn’t want to stay home and dwell on the situation.”

So through surgery, through chemotherapy and now through radiation, she continues to build houses for those in need of affordable shelter.

“I think it’s good work,” she said. “If we can better this place in some way, we should.”