On Thursday, January 8th, many of the staff and AmeriCorps and Vista Members of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity had the opportunity to put some muscle behind their words and spend the day as volunteers helping to build townhomes in Cottage Grove.
Over 70 volunteers drove from all over the Twin Cities metro area to the Mississippi Dunes townhome development in Cottage Grove. Arriving in their work clothes and ready to work hard, the volunteers signed up to do specific tasks in one of four different townhomes for their day of service. A partial list of tasks includes installing laminate flooring, painting and installing interior doors, cutting and installing closet shelving, or cutting and installing interior trim.
Two things quickly became clear: One, the only people who knew what they were doing at the beginning of the day were the Site Supervisors and their AmeriCorps Members: Two, those who knew what to do were there to train and supervise, and not to do the work themselves. Thank goodness for these talented construction pros, if they hadn’t been there, keeping a close eye on what we did, and how we did it, well, let’s just say it wouldn’t have been pretty!
Looking in on the crews in each unit, I found Kate Loe, TCHFH Director of Donor & Volunteer Development,(pictured at top) working on a crew installing laminate flooring in one unit. “I’m learning lots of new skills,” she said. “I’ve never done this before!” Apparently the crew had learned it well, because they were making quick work of the living room floor.
In another unit, Becky Engen, Digital Marketing Program Manager, was discovered in a linen closet installing base rails for the shelves. She smiled and proudly held up a nail gun, “I learned a new tool!” then went back to work – BAM! BAM! BAM!
Megan Hard, Habitat’s Events Program Manager, quickly became skilled at cutting trim just right. When teamed with another crewmember that knew who to measure properly, a skill that took a little time to develop, the team finished trimming most of a whole townhome level before lunch.
Mary Schumacher, Twin Cities Habitat COO, was on her knees alongside AmeriCorps Members Julia Brauchle, Kaitlyn Huntington, and Sarah Harris, painting the trim upstairs in one unit. Like most crews, they worked diligently, but when they took a couple of minutes to catch a breathe, they started trading stories about work, families, or school, quickly filling the townhouse with laughter.
Rhonda Thorson, a full-time Site Supervisor with TCHFH, was in charge of the Staff Build Day. She had the crews well-organized and made great use of her AmeriCorps Members. They effortlessly went from teaching a crew to install flooring, to making sure another crew painted trim right before handing it off to another crew who cut and installed the trim. They kept a close eye on every step of every process, and when they caught an error, the efficiently taught the errant volunteer how to do it right. Of course, since these were all co-workers, anybody who made a mistake instantly evoked good-natured teasing and shared laughter.
Everyone finished the day with all their fingers still attached, their bodies getting sore, and their pride showing. The only negative of the day was that it started snowing so hard after lunch that the decision was made to send crews home early rather than risk their safety in poor driving conditions.
At the end of the day, all of the volunteers appreciated the opportunity to learn new skills and to actually do the work they usually only get to talk about. Prospective volunteers and donors that talk with these volunteers will hear the confidence that only comes with having practiced what they preach!
We invite you to signup with Twin Cities Habitat, or make a donation and would love to talk with you about making it happen. Just visit our website and explore all the great ways we make it easy for you to get involved!