Guest blog by Christopher Jurewitsch, AmeriCorps Member & Construction Volunteer Facilitator
Like many people during the start of the pandemic in early 2020, I had to transition from working in a sea of office cubicles to working remotely at home. It was both a difficult adjustment and a sigh of relief, because while I had to figure out the odds and ends of working in my bedroom, I was able to enjoy the comfort of working from home and not having to drive to work.
But as the pandemic stretched on, my desire to work from home faded. Staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day wasn’t as satisfying as it used to be, nor was the lack of direct human contact for days on end. Add that to the disillusionment I had for my then-career after struggling to find a new job for well over a year, I realized that something needed to change.
I knew I wanted to try something new, and one way I knew how to get into a new career path was by joining an AmeriCorps program. Having served with the Conservation Corps for one summer back in school, I was well aware of the impact AmeriCorps made in the community. I wasn’t particularly picky about which program I wanted to participate in; I just wanted to find something meaningful. So when I saw that there was an opening for an AmeriCorps position with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, I immediately applied.
Within a matter of a week, I went from designing maps on a computer to learning how to cut and lay vinyl flooring. I traded my work computer for a pickup truck, my programs for a tool belt, and my mouse and keyboard for a hammer and pry bar. I learned how to measure twice and cut once, paint and repaint walls, and use a stud finder all without any prior construction experience. I even had some unexpected tasks such as saving a cat from under a porch of a home we were remodeling—something that definitely wasn’t on my job description!
Construction skills aside, I also learned how to manage and help volunteers on site. The nice thing about Habitat is that you’re constantly seeing new faces, serving with new volunteer groups almost every day with different backgrounds and skill sets. From Regular Volunteers that have built homes for years to new volunteers that have no construction experience whatsoever, it’s always a pleasant experience getting to know those who take the time out of their week to come out and help.
As much as I love teaching my volunteers how to frame walls or install sheetrock, I often learn more from the volunteers themselves. Not just tricks or skills related to construction, but also life skills and advice. You learn that despite different upbringings and career paths, people often share similar attributes in life and look for ways to help others. In many ways, it’s a humbling experience being able to meet people every day and hear their stories, but it’s even more humbling to help them contribute to something as meaningful as building a home.
My role doesn’t stop at construction and volunteers, though. In addition to my role in homebuilding, I became active in planning AmeriCorps events for and along with other AmeriCorps members, both with my cohort as a member of our support crew and for AmeriCorps members across the state as a member of the InterCorps Council of Minnesota. From volunteering for various organizations across the Twin Cities to presenting on the effects that redlining and highway construction have had on housing disparities in Saint Paul, it’s definitely given me confidence as a leader and team player when it comes to planning and executing events.
Life as an AmeriCorps member hasn’t always been easy. With a lower income than my previous job, I have to be more cautious about my spending. I’ve worked in the blistering cold, sizzling heat, and soaking wet conditions throughout my service, and I often come home exhausted. I’ve had a few minor work-related injuries over the past year, and I’ve made many construction mistakes even despite my growing construction knowledge.
Yet even my worst days on site are still better than the best days I ever had at the office, and I continue to maintain a positive attitude through it all. A huge part of what keeps me going every day is my cohort of fellow members and field staff. Everyone that I work with has been amazingly supportive to me and my fellow members, and our crew feels just like family. Without their presence, this position wouldn’t be as special as it is to me, and I’m blessed to work with such a talented team.
I’m forever grateful for making the decision to join this AmeriCorps program, and I hope that the skills and connections I’ve gained will stick with me forever.
You or someone you know could be the perfect fit for Twin Cities Habitat's AmeriCorps program! Learn more.