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Six hundred miles to team bonding

Habitat staffers thrive under pressure at the Milwaukee Build-a-Thon 2012
By Julia Sellers


Habitat for Humanity International staff worked alongside volunteers and AmeriCorps members during the first week of Build-a-Thon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Among the participants: Andrea Nangle (left), National Service program specialist; Maureen O’Leary, National Service associate director; Angela Johnson, brand promotion and product strategy associate director; Tommy Prince, Learning and Organizational Development manager; and Duane Bates, public relations and new media director. Photo by Jason Asteros


I can’t wait to continue work on the many wonderful stories compiled during Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon week. But I’m hitting the pause button for just a minute to write about the fantastic staff that made logistics for an event of this size look as easy as opening presents on Christmas morning.

I’m an organizer. I clap excitedly any time I can label or color-code anything. I was elated when our initial planning info came via email labeled and color-coded for each build day. Then I arrived and got a goodie bag with Play-Doh, almonds, Twix and an adorable Toy Story shrinky-dink washcloth.

Next came another folder with even more great information for the week, including directions and maps for all the places we would visit that week.

As someone who doesn’t work daily with the AmeriCorps team or the Milwaukee affiliate, it’s hard to trust that all my needling but need-to-know questions will be answered in a timely manner. Sure, Milwaukee Habitat hosts building blitzes all the time and this wasn’t their first time playing host for Build-a-Thon, but you just never know.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about.

The affiliate staff is awesome. The staff is a great team full of former AmeriCorps members and passionate professionals. They knew exactly how to fill my, “Can you help me find someone?” requests. Although not many staff members are native Wisconsinites, their knowledge and passion about Milwaukee made me fall in love with this city. Even the affiliate’s AmeriCorps members have dreams of reaching out to new parts of the city and other ethnic groups, and they’re just here temporarily!

It’s one thing to visit a city and enjoy your time there, but this staff and their community involvement would almost make me consider wearing a coat five months out of the year to be a part of their team– almost.

As for Habitat for Humanity International staff, insert another “awesome.” Some staff members work remotely from home, while others actually work in the same building as I do in Americus, Ga., and I never had a clue.

How ridiculous is it that I had to fly more than 600 miles to meet these people? Why have I never really spent time with some of these team members beyond a weekly phone call or meeting?

I’m sure there’s a lesson about getting out of your comfort zone or seizing the day in here somewhere, but I really just walked away from this week even more in love with the fact that I can call this — writing, meeting people and traveling — a job and that I can call these wonderful individuals co-workers and friends.

Build-a-Thon in theory could be a hectic, tension-filled week with all sorts of drama and personality clashes, but every day, I actually looked forward to having dinner with our team to hear all about the day we had survived.

I’d gladly take a 600-mile trip with these folks anytime.

Julia Sellers is a writer/editor for Editorial Services at Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Georgia.