Habitat Home in Kalamazoo, MI

Part of the Habitat Crew
Check.  I can now cross "helping on a Habitat house" off my bucket list!  Not to say I won't continue to volunteer for Habitat, because I am certain I will, but I am thrilled to have experienced the joy of building for a cause.  I am no stranger to building...sheds, walls, kitchens, you name it, but when you build to help someone else build their new life, it adds a whole new dimension.  Working together as a community and a team builds not only houses and sheds, but new relationships and camaraderie among a group of strangers from all walks of life.  This particular group consisted of a Habitat Lead Builder, a Crossfit AZO team, the future homeowner, a group of traveling Habitat volunteers and a handful of other locals looking to lend a hand on a beautiful Saturday in Kalamazoo, Michigan!  Although I can't claim to be a Crossfitter myself, I always try to support Crossfit AZO when they step out into the community to help others in need. 
So let's walk through the day with Habitat so that you, too, know what to expect if you decide to check this one off your bucket list as well!

We started at 8:30 with a brief safety video at the Habitat warehouse.  It was pretty basic stuff, but pretty important nonetheless!  After meeting everyone who was involved, we started right to work loading up trailers and trucks with everything from rakes to hammers to piles of wood!  A short stroll around the block and we arrived at our Habitat work site.  Much to my surprise we were not building a new home!  We were renovating an existing home and building a new shed.  And when I say renovating, I might as well say building a new home! This home will be outfitted with all new electric (no more knob and tube wiring), plumbing, insulation, kitchen and landscaping.  One of the seasoned volunteers told us that it will essentially be brand new by the time Habitat is finished with it. 
Inside the existing home
I don't know for sure, but it looked to me like this particular home was a few weeks into the process.  After a brief tour of the grounds, we set off clearing away old fencing, removing posts and stumps, and unloading the equipment from the trailers.  Keeping the heat index in mind, our leaders always made sure we took breaks and drank plenty of water...did I mention donuts, too?! Anyway, back to work!  We divided up into teams to tackle the different areas of the home so that we weren't tripping over each other.  A daring group of volunteers dressed up in hazmat suits and headed straight down to the basement to remove old equipment and debris.  Another group tackled the lathe and plaster walls; clearing them down to the studs.  One Crossfitter, who was after an intense upper body workout, spent the better part of the day removing very well established shrubs from the front of the house.  So what did I do, you ask?  I was on the shed-building crew.  I could not wait to break out the power tools and get that shed built! NOT.....SO..... FAST!  Due to the fact that the majority of workers on Habitat home sites are inexperienced volunteers, power tools were few and far between.  In other words, we built that shed with hammers and nails!  No nailguns, no chop saws, no drills! 
A hammer...really?!
It took me a moment to adjust to this heartbreaking news because I LOVE my power tools, but I have to admit it was an eye-opening experience. 
The Shed Crew (without me)
These homes are going up all over the country the old-fashioned way!  Now don't get me wrong...there was an occasional tool that was plugged in, but those were used only by the professionals.  So I grabbed a hammer and started swinging.  My husband, the homeowner and a few others and I had those walls up in no time (I probably should mention the Habitat crew leader that guided us every step of the way!).  Throw in a lunch break and some more water, and we were right back at it. Each crew continued to plug away at their tasks at hand until the day eventually came to an end around 3:30.  We cleaned up the site, loaded all the equipment back into the trucks and strolled around to appreciate all our hard work.  It really is amazing how much can get done when a group of people work together!  As the old saying goes...many hands make light work.  We spent the day making new friends, learning new skills and talking about what Habitat is doing around our own communities.  I found that many people, including myself, have misconceptions as to what Habitat is offering to those homeowners who are receiving new homes.  These are not free homes by any means!  Habitat works with the family to find a manageable financial plan to allow them to pay off their new home interest-free.  But that's not it!  Each recipient is required to contribute 300-500 "sweat equity" hours to help others just like them.  I loved working along side the new homeowner on this project.  It allowed me to connect with her, learn her story and help her achieve her dreams. For more information, and to sign up to volunteer on a Habitat home, check out the Habitat website.  Trust me...you won't regret it!  It will be rewarding and fulfilling, but most importantly, eye-opening.  So grab your gloves, goggles and hardhat and help build a home that will fulfill another family's dream!

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!


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