We both value service

Anne Gates and Jed Wardecke

The trip from Wisconsin to South Jersey was to help build another Habitat house, or so Anne thought. Jed had other plans.

First, he took Anne on a tour of the Habitat homes that they had helped build together, including the first one where they got to know each other on a college service trip, working side by side installing windows. The tour ended at the retreat center where the students had stayed. “Then Jed proposed,” Anne says. “I can’t think of anything more romantic. It was not your sunset beach proposal, but it was perfect for us.”

“Perfect” is a word that people use to describe Anne and Jed, as in the perfect couple or perfectly matched. From the moment the two started on those windows, their friends say, it was obvious that they were meant for each other. (The couple figured that out months later.)

But Jed and Anne did feel love on that trip to Vineland, New Jersey — for the Habitat homeowners, local Habitat staff and the other volunteers. So much so that they have returned to Vineland to work with Habitat three times in the past two years.

“My friendship with Anne did turn into a romantic relationship,” Jed says, “but the other relationships that we built on that trip are still so powerful. I can say, with certainty, that trip changed me. I am grateful to Anne for that.”

Anne was the one who encouraged Jed to sign up for the alternative spring break trip that their college was sponsoring with Cumberland County Habitat for Humanity. “We didn’t hang out together in college, but I just thought he would be a good guy to come along,” says Anne. “We were awesome working together on that trip. We didn’t bicker over who was going to get to use the screwdriver.”

While Jed and Anne were learning a little about each other on that trip, they also were learning a lot about themselves. “That was really the first time I had done a service project,” Jed says. “Whenever we go back, Anne and I can see how the families are doing in the houses we helped make. Physically getting involved in someone’s life through service is now a priority for me.”

It is for Anne, too. She remembers meeting the mom, dad and young daughter who would live in the house that she and Jed first worked on. “Meeting them and getting to know their story made it so much cooler,” Anne says. “I thought, ‘These people are going to be walking through this doorway, and this is going to be their home.’”

Anne and Jed also became fast friends with the people at Cumberland County Habitat. Jed has asked Cumberland Habitat’s executive director, Robert Scarpa, to be in their wedding this fall.

“Anne and Jed represent everything that is good about their generation,” Robert says. “Vineland is not a vacation destination — we are a largely agricultural community in the most economically depressed county in the state. But the folks here are good people. Jed and Anne see that. And they find excitement and fulfillment in doing for others.”

Anne and Jed are getting married Oct. 1. Whatever their future holds, it includes more trips to Vineland building with Habitat. “The beauty of our relationship is that we both value service — to one another and to other people,” Anne says. “I always tell people that if you want to meet a good person, go volunteer with Habitat.”

Want to meet a good person? Find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you. Locate your local Habitat, or explore traveling with us to build, and discover how Habitat helps families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better life for themselves.