VIRGINIA – At almost every groundbreaking and dedication, Nathan Thompson, executive director of North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity, looks around the happy gathering and says, “Habitat for Humanity builds five homes a year. We have four staff members. So, who is Habitat, who is building these homes with our partner families? Look to your right. Look to your left. You are Habitat for Humanity!”
Every person in our communities who picks up a hammer or a paintbrush, helps prepare a mailing or a lunch, mails in a check or tells a neighbor “Habitat DOES NOT GIVE AWAY HOUSES FOR FREE,” is helping us build homes, communities and hope. Without the support of our volunteers and donors, our supporters, we could not help our partner families with a hand UP into home ownership.
North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity has been blessed with great relationships with so many groups and individuals that continue to help us help our neighbors—there are too many to name (and some individual volunteers will not allow me to do so!). Suffice to say that churches, businesses, clubs and many, many individuals have made our affiliate one of the strongest in the state and we thank you all for that!
But our vision, a world where EVERYONE has a decent place to live, is still far ahead in our sites and we are always seeking new partners to help us move that vision closer to reality. So, with so many excellent ways to fill your precious free time, from hunting to ice fishing, to kayaking and canoeing, to working on your own home or cabin, why give of that time to volunteering? When I review our volunteer survey results, several key themes emerge.
Habitat volunteers express the deep pleasure that comes with helping others:
• I enjoyed my volunteer experience because we were able to help make a better life for other people in our community. It’s definitely a rewarding experience being able to work side-by-side with the homeowner and I highly recommend this experience to others looking to gain a little knowledge in fixing up a house and being able to be a part of that type of experience.
• I loved being part of something that helped!
• Great to help someone on a journey of independence and positive lifestyle improvement.
• Always a positive learning experience when I have done any builds. Thank YOU for the opportunity to make a difference to the families.
Habitat volunteers express experiencing great feelings that come from being part of a community and meeting new friends:
• I really enjoyed my volunteer experience because the group we worked with was very welcoming and appreciative of us being there. It felt like we were needed and it was extremely satisfying seeing the impact of our work.
• We enjoyed the experience because it allowed us to meet new people in our community and share in helping another family have a better future. We highly recommend volunteering because it is a very rewarding, enriching and challenging experience. A good way to grow as an individual is to reach beyond your comfort zone. Habitat for Humanity provides that opportunity.
• It was great to get together with family and friends in helping with the project.
• I had a great time working with the community and other volunteers. We had plenty to do on the work site which made it a good experience.
• I enjoyed the ability to both volunteer and visit with other neighborhood volunteers at the same time.
Habitat volunteers express that they are excited to use their talents and learn new skills in a safe environment:
• Honestly it was a perfect day. The house was well equipped with tools and your staff was an excellent teacher and director. THANK YOU!
• I enjoy helping others and using my talents and abilities when I can. I felt they genuinely appreciated my help.
• It was a very calm, supportive environment that made learning new skills a positive experience.
• They had things to do for all levels of experience. They did not make anyone feel dumb for doing something wrong.
• It was very soul-satisfying for me. I enjoy using my God-given talents and tools for this cause; it is my passion.
Habitat volunteers express enjoying their time “on the job”:
• It was relaxing, fun and productive all at the same time! There was nothing not to like about it. Habitat for Humanity is by far my favorite organization to volunteer for.
• I believe in “paying it forward” and this is one way I thought would be beneficial to those in need. I would definitely recommend this volunteering experience to others as working with all the volunteers there was very rewarding and quite fun!
• “Volunteering with your organization is always fun and fulfilling.” I like the opportunity to experience any and all types of tasks when on site, big or small. Thank you!
• The volunteer building was laid out very nicely; there was no pressure to be perfect. It was a fun experience.
When I first saw the call for articles about volunteering, I knew I would want to write something to thank our fabulous pool of regular volunteers and to encourage new people and organizations to join the cause.
As I look over our list of groups and individuals, I know a large number of the Hometown Focus readers have already partnered with Habitat to help our neighbors into affordable homes. For that, we are deeply grateful. Each groundbreaking and each home dedication reminds us again of all the many hands that come together to make North St. Louis County Habitat and the families with which we partner be successful in helping families into affordable and sustainable homes.
If you are among the few who have not dipped your toe into the proverbial volunteer waters, please contact us today and let us know how YOU want to get involved— be it building, feeding volunteers, donating goods or funds or encouraging a family you know to make the first step and get an application for housing to us.
Together, we can make the Iron Range stronger and better, a place where all of our neighbors have simple, decent and affordable homes. Together we are creating strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Remember Habitat for Humanity, it is never a hand out; it is a hand UP from you to your neighbors in need of a home!
Susan Garrett lives in Cotton, MN. She is the community relations manager for North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity.