Guest Blog by Shannon Twiss and Lillie Taggart
2017-18 Habitat AmeriCorps Members
You might just be adjusting to the chilly winter temperatures, but early in December on the first really cold weekend of the winter, 17 members of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity's AmeriCorps cohort bundled up and made the trek north to Virginia, Minnesota. We spent three days putting up siding (yes, outdoors), learning about a different Habitat affiliate, and getting to know one another better.
Although this was a service trip, we had a little time to play the tourist. Members of our cohort hail from Virginia (the state!), Tanzania, Los Angeles, and everywhere in-between. On our drive up to Virginia, we stopped at Glensheen Mansion in Duluth for a tour. If you haven’t visited, dear reader, let us recommend it to you for its walls of silk and woven goat hair, its delicate imported glass work, and the unique plumbing of the early 1900s.
After another stretch of driving we arrived at United in Christ Church in Eveleth, who graciously played host to us for our two nights on the Iron Range. We were camped out in classroom space in sleeping bags, and were fortunate to have the use of their commercial kitchen. We split up who was in charge of which meals, and worked together to make grocery lists, and one group threw together a meal before turning in for the night.
On our first building day, we got to site after a warm breakfast made by some of our crew. Actual temps were in the teens, but we were all too cold and afraid to look up what the wind chills were, so imagine a frigid arrival and the hopeful bliss we felt when we saw a large propane heater inside the house when we walked in. After a safety talk with our site supervisor, we set to work chiseling the scaffolding out of the ice that had been accumulating with the early winter weather so we could access the (exterior) walls of the house. After that warm-up, we spent the rest of our work time siding; we completed three of the four sides bottom to top over the course of two days. The Mesabi Daily News even came out to share the story.
Welcome respites from the weather came in the form of lunches provided by the Catholic Daughters of America and by Messiah Lutheran Church. We also had the opportunity to meet the homeowner, Karen. She was unable to build with us due to a busy work schedule, but she still took the time to bring us donuts and hot chocolate one morning. Meeting her and hearing about her family gave us the inspiration we needed to keep at it despite the weather.
The work was good, hard work, but we all saved enough energy to hang out, cook, eat, and play board games. We also spent some time on reflections and team-building exercises. We wrote about and discussed the impact we hope to have during our year term with AmeriCorps, which is a topic worth returning to regularly as we learn, serve and grow.
We are so thankful to North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity and the churches in Eveleth and Virginia that hosted, fed, and warmed us. Their generosity was inspiring, as was seeing the close-knit community come together to support Habitat volunteers and families alike. We are all already looking forward to our weeklong service trip together in the spring!
AmeriCorps is a national program to provide service opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. Since the start of the AmeriCorps program, Habitat for Humanity affiliates have hosted AmeriCorps members to engage community volunteers and build, rehab & repair affordable housing. AmeriCorps supports its members through a living allowance and an education award at the end of their term of service. For more information or to apply, visit www.tchabitat.org/AmeriCorps.