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A Build-a-Thon like no other

By Meredith Nelson

Veteran Regina Best, an AmeriCorps member from Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity in Texas, raises the Air Force flag over a house frame built on the National Mall. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Ever since we discovered our build site location, everyone has been saying, “This is not a regular Build-a-Thon.” After being in Washington, D.C., for a couple of days, I asked a friend and fellow AmeriCorps, Toni Manfredi, if she preferred this year’s Build-a-Thon or last year’s. She said, “They really aren’t comparable.” From what I know, she is right.

Peter Rumsey, National Service director at Habitat for Humanity International, has reminded us throughout our time in D.C. that this build is symbolic of the mission of Habitat. The seven houses we framed this week are for veterans in the D.C. metro area and represent more than four walls and a roof.

Our build has created a buzz of questions and excitement for locals and tourists alike. Some of the questions we’ve heard throughout the week include:
“Are these houses staying on the Mall?”
“Are veterans going to be living in the houses?”
“Can I volunteer now?”
“How can I own a Habitat home?”

For me, the atmosphere fits in with all the strong, defining moments of patriotism in my life — my first memory of watching fireworks on the Fourth of July and being told by my parents how we are blessed to be a free country; observing American flags outside every home after Sept. 11; and finally, this week, our build in honor of every veteran.  

During our opening ceremonies, it was noted that we were in the shadow of the Washington Monument. I was reminded of all the veterans from decades past, including my grandfather, who was a World War II veteran. He passed away four years ago. For me, this build was in honor of his life and his service to our great country.

Meredith Nelson is an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity International’s Women Build program.