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New construction: A building newbie's first day framing

Blogger Hanna Gichard

Day two on the build site at Milwaukee Habitat’s 2012 Build-a-Thon event
By Hanna Gichard

Today started out the same way it usually does for Milwaukee Habitat construction staff, regular volunteers and AmeriCorps — a cacophony of hammer-pounding and power tools echoing through a cluster of lots with recently-capped foundations of new homes.

Normally, these sounds would only be with me for a few moments as I snapped some photos and greeted volunteers before leaving site to go back to my office. But today, these sounds were part of my workday too — I am on loan from the volunteer services department at Milwaukee Habitat to participate in Build-a-Thon 2012 as part of the construction crew.

For the first time in my life, I will be helping to build a house this week!

As a construction novice, it isn’t easy keeping up with my more experienced AmeriCorps peers on the worksite. Things that are second nature to many are foreign and awkward to me. Things that they could probably do in their sleep took me what seemed like ages to complete correctly.

I may be one of the “local” AmeriCorps, but ALL of us are having new experiences this week. I’m branching outside of my comfort zone to do construction work, which I have almost no experience in; at the same time, AmeriCorps members from Habitat for Humanity affiliates all over the country are experiencing and learning about a new community. Local or visiting, construction or non-construction — we are all learning, and it is only the first day of Build-a-Thon!

When we weren’t pounding nails and studs or lifting up interior walls, we were watching the Clement’s Racing Sausages have a nail-pounding contest, we were flooding into the local Hepatha Lutheran Church for lunch, and we were striking up conversations with the AmeriCorps working by our sides.

The main thing we seem to be learning as we bond with one another is that despite being from different affiliates and different parts of the United States, all of us to share a passion for Habitat’s mission and a desire to do something about housing issues.

This week in Milwaukee we will come face-to-face with those housing issues. One of the speakers during last night’s Build-a-Thon opening ceremonies, regular volunteer and Marquette University professor Bob Timberlake, informed us that men and women living in the neighborhoods where Milwaukee Habitat builds have alarmingly high chances of teen pregnancy and going to prison.

Milwaukee is notorious for being one of the most segregated cities in the country, and many inner-city areas of our community face dire poverty. All of the AmeriCorps working with us this week will see more than just the housing issues our community faces – they will see how their work here is going to make a difference for families in need and help revitalize our neighborhoods.

I had a great first day out on site. I am really looking forward to getting to know some of my new AmeriCorps friends, knowing what it feels like to help build a house, and hopefully becoming a little more skilled with hammers.’”

Hanna Gichard is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a 2009 graduate of Carthage College. Last year she served in AmerCorps NCCC, where she traveled around the southwestern United States doing team-based service projects in cities, parks, and disaster-stricken areas. This is her first year as a Habitat AmeriCorps. Her experience with Milwaukee Habitat’s volunteer services department has helped her develop a wide array of professional skills and to connect with the Habitat for Humanity mission.”