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The 2012 AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon in beautiful Pensacola, Florida
By Julie Gurnon

 


Blogger Julie Gurnon

 


The energy level was high all day, despite the warmth and humidity. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker

   

Six of us — two Habitat for Humanity staff members and four AmeriCorps members — drove to Pensacola Sunday morning from Americus, Georgia. We left in rainy, cool weather and noted the heat and humidity four and a half hours later, not that we weren’t expecting it.

About 76 AmeriCorps members arrived at the University of West Florida throughout the day.

Instead of lanyards or clip-ons, the National Service staff provided everyone with impressive name badges that wrap around your upper arm. I promptly lost mine within the first hour of arrival, although I’m hoping to find it on the floor in the van in which we drove down.

While waiting for the opening ceremony to begin, I struck up a conversation with AmeriCorps VISTA member John Evans, who is serving as the faith relations coordinator at Loudoun Habitat for Humanity in Sterling, Virginia.

Evans submitted his AmeriCorps application at the deadline last year from his home in up-state New York. He doubted that he’d hear anything. A few days later, somewhat in shock, he was planning relocation to the Washington, D.C. area to begin his year of service in August 2011.

I’ll write more about John, and other AmeriCorps members later, but now, I wanted to share a few of the highlights from the opening ceremony:

  • Pensacola Habitat for Humanity executive director Tim Evans, who joined Habitat in 2011 after long-time volunteer executive director Betty Salter retired, joked that it’s a tough job to take on the executive director’s position following somebody who worked for 23 years for free.
  • Evans also announced that the efficient use of NSP2 funds would allow the affiliate to build more than the 240 homes originally planned. The latest estimate: 310!
  • Peter Rumsey, Habitat for Humanity International’s director of National Service, thanked Pensacola Habitat’s board and staff members for not just operating as usual, but for responding to the urgent need for affordable housing in their community with “a boldness of vision and the courage to step out into it.”
  • Soon-to-be homeowner Juvannua Bell shared how she struggled every year during Thanksgiving or Christmas with the decision of whether or not to renew her lease for another year. When she told her children that they had been accepted into the Habitat program, one of them asked, “Who’s going to be the landlord?” She was so happy to tell him, “I am.”