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Five reasons to love the Build-a-Thon in Wild Rivers

Kyle Shillington set aside a football scholarship to help build houses with families in need. Habitat for Humanity International/Jason Asteros
Decked out in their hard hats, Jared and Krista Moe show their children — Isaiah, 5, and Laurel, 18 months — around the site of their home-in-progress. Habitat for Humanity International/JasonAsteros
Stephanie Ham, a construction crew leader with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, has volunteered on build crews since high school. Habitat for Humanity International/Jason Asteros 

By Julia Sellers

  1. The community. Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity serves a two-county area. But you can’t walk into a convenience store or a restaurant without this project touching someone’s life. Each evening as staff and members head back to their respective temporary homes, the obvious out-of-towner look leads to conversations about Habitat’s work and mission. It makes an already fulfilling day even more satisfying. It also leaves a great legacy for Wild Rivers as staff members pursue projects after Build-a-Thon.
  2. The children of partner families. Sometimes it’s hard to keep building when there are so many cute babies to hold! Throughout the week, about a dozen children of partner families have stopped by to say hello and see the progress on their homes. For the exhausted workers, it’s a great reminder of why they’re building. For the parents, it’s a great way to make their children a part of the experience even though they’re too little to work on the build site. The older children also ask questions about the materials being used and the building process, so the visit is very educational. Who knows? They may grow up to be the next generation of AmeriCorps members.
  3. Wild Rivers Habitat staff. If you need a tarp, Eric Kube, executive director, will find a tarp. Need an after-hours report for the next day’s blog? Jackie Thorwick, office manager, will work with you beyond dinner hours to get what you need. With almost a dozen sites spread out about two hours apart, the energy and willingness of the staff to get things done keeps the spirit up on work sites.
  4. AmeriCorps members. The 70 members participating in this Build-a-Thon are tough as nails and extraordinarily committed to service. Stephanie Ham, a construction crew leader with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, has volunteered with Habitat since she was in high school. As she completes her second year of AmeriCorps service, she’s planning a trip to Costa Rica with fellow alumni to serve with Habitat there. At a build site just a few blocks away in the community of Frederic, Kyle Shillington is another remarkable story. Two years ago, he had a football scholarship and his life plan ahead of him. But a build with Habitat for Humanity changed everything. He applied for AmeriCorps and spent his first years out of high school on roofs, working alongside new Habitat homeowners.
  5. Wisconsin backdrop. It’s a joy to share in the first mild spring temperatures with this community. There is a buzz in the air as locals break out their short-sleeved shirts and drive with their windows down for the first time this year. It’s perfect building weather for AmeriCorps members to help knock out projects that have been on hold as the state suffered through one of its coldest winters in 60 years. Beautiful lakes, pastures and dairy farms dot the drive to and from each work site, which just adds beauty to the simple fun of a Build-a-Thon.