Two volunteers stand inside a home they are renovating in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri.

Bringing generations together through Habitat service projects

At a glance:

  • Habitat for Humanity partnered with three trusted nonprofits to launch Team Up, an initiative to build connections through service projects.
  • Habitat affiliates across the U.S. design and facilitate local Team Up projects.
  • Truman Heritage Habitat’s Team Up project brought together an intergenerational group to repair two homes in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri.

A Habitat for Humanity build site is a place where people of all backgrounds unite for a common purpose — where volunteers come together and join future homeowners to build affordable homes, hone skills, create memories and develop friendships.

Mike first witnessed the power of Habitat when the 23-year-old participated in a Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity intergenerational build alongside other young adults and a group of mostly retired volunteers. He wasn’t sure how he might fit in with the older volunteers, but his nerves quickly turned into enthusiasm.

He began showing up early for the weekly build days in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri, eager to learn new skills and spend time with fellow builders. Mike created a particularly close bond with 69-year-old volunteer Tom. The two spent hours together each week, exchanging stories while renovating a pair of homes.

During lunch, the young adults and older volunteers sat on paint buckets and lawn chairs in a semi-circle in the driveway and shared meals, stories, advice and laughter. “I felt like I was in a whole new family,” Mike says.

Habitat connects younger and older volunteers

Truman Heritage Habitat’s intergenerational project is part of Team Up, a nationwide initiative launched in February 2024 by Catholic Charities USA, Habitat for Humanity International, Interfaith America and YMCA of the USA to help people build connections across differences with others in their communities through service. Team Up was first announced and endorsed by U.S. President Joe Biden during the bipartisan United We Stand Summit hosted at the White House in September 2022.

Through Team Up, Habitat affiliates across the U.S. design local projects to bring people together. Recognizing that their existing volunteer base was older and that they struggled to engage younger volunteers, Truman Heritage Habitat created their intergenerational Team Up project to help address the issue.

To identify young adults to participate, the affiliate partnered with Cornerstones of Care, a local youth and family support service organization. Mike and his cohort are part of Cornerstones of Care’s transitional living program, designed to support youth leaving foster care or struggling with housing and homelessness. The affiliate plans to expand its partnership with Cornerstones of Care and other local organizations to continue hosting intergenerational groups.

Facilitating intergenerational connection

Truman Heritage Habitat matched the young adults with several of the affiliate’s regular, weekly volunteers, including Tom. The participants gathered every Thursday for several months in late 2023 to help renovate two homes.

After each week’s build day, the young adults received a tool to keep. By the end of the project, in addition to his toolbelt and tools, Mike had also collected critical construction skills like how to install siding and flooring.

Tom says the lessons were a “two-way street” and that the older volunteers “got more out of it sometimes than the young people.” From learning new phone tricks to bantering over lunch, he says, “The project was a really eye-opening experience for all of us. There was never a dull moment.”

“It was like my whole life changed”

Mike was raised in foster care and was living alone in Kansas City, Missouri, when he joined Cornerstones of Care’s transitional living program. When Mike became part of Truman Heritage Habitat’s Team Up project, he says, “It was like my whole life changed.” Energized by Habitat’s mission and the camaraderie of working side by side with fellow volunteers, Mike looked for ways to stay engaged beyond the 6-week project.

That’s when he learned about Habitat’s partnership with AmeriCorps, a federal agency connecting individuals and organizations across the U.S. to tackle the nation’s most pressing challenges. The Habitat AmeriCorps program places AmeriCorps members with Habitat affiliates to help build and repair homes, expand affordable housing services and engage their community — all while gaining lifelong skills and hands-on nonprofit experience.

Mike applied to join Habitat AmeriCorps and calls the day he was accepted into the program one of the best days of his life. He plans to serve two years as a Habitat AmeriCorps member before pursuing a full-time career in construction.

“I have a new job, a new community, a new set of friends and new skills,” Mike says. “It’s one of those things you have to put yourself out there to know. If you don’t put your foot out there, you don’t know what life can bring.”

Learn how you can serve with Habitat AmeriCorps