I clearly recall the first build I attended – a lanky, uncoordinated, and wholly awkward young teenager. To the child I was, the shiny, and some-not-so-shiny, tools seemed like candy at the drug store: I could not get enough. While my interests and reasons for volunteering and building for Habitat have changed, one theme remains the same: I still cannot get enough.
My mom first told me about Habitat for Humanity when I was eight or nine, incapable of understanding the vastness of the program, but fully aware that it presented volunteers the opportunity to use a hammer and nails. When I was finally able to join the Habitat for Humanity club at Vestavia Hills High School as a Freshman, I immediately began counting down the days to the first build. My first year, during which I volunteered numerous times, exposed me to an addicting organization that offered me countless opportunities: For the first time in my life I could climb on a roof, place a window, and even raise a wall.
However, I burnt out my Sophomore year, barely attending enough builds to meet the club’s minimum hour requirement at school. I lost my drive. I had stalled and sputtered, entering a transitory period, no longer passionate for shiny tools, and not yet perceptive of the greater importance of Habitat.
I discovered a newfound passion for building at the beginning of my Junior year, and I frequented more builds than I ever had before. I recognized that Habitat was much larger than me or the club at school; as a volunteer, I was and still am a member of a diverse family of homeowners, builders, and volunteers, working to rejuvenate communities and families through homebuilding. Habitat offers me a place on a team working to improve lives, a common goal that provides me self-worth and provides homeowners with physical renewal. Habitat was no longer an activity to occupy my free time, but an initiative to fulfill my desire to engage in a cooperative effort and aid homeowners in their inspiring pursuit of success.
Habitat is not a sacrifice, it is an opportunity to form short-term relationships with dedicated volunteers from a local church one Saturday and new volunteers the next; the opportunity to form long-term relationships with site supervisors like Ricky Ferris and devoted, knowledgeable volunteers like Cynthia McGough, both of whose endless guidance has inspired my passion for building with Habitat. The organization allows me to connect with homeowners, providing experiences that motivate me and reveal the value of Habitat and the assistance it provides. As an underclassman, I shied away from homeowners, intimidated by my naïve fear of speaking to strangers. As I have grown older, homeowners, no matter how little I may know them, are no longer strangers but members of the same family, my family, working to better their lives.
Saturdays have become synonymous with Habitat. I no longer ask myself what I am going to do Saturday, for my choice to volunteer is instinctual; Habitat is ingrained within me. Every Saturday is an opportunity to meet and connect with volunteers, builders, and homeowners, and to transform lives, one swift hammer stroke and nail at a time.