“I’ve always wanted to design buildings and focus on the built environment,” said Nick Engling. “I wasn't getting a lot of satisfaction with some of the projects I was working on, and I wanted to use my skills on something I care about.”
As a Structural Engineer, Nick has put his skillset to work designing various buildings throughout the metro, including luxury and other apartment complexes, and has traveled the country doing structural forensic analysis. But volunteering with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has given him an outlet for his skillset in a way that truly helps others.
Nick started with Twin Cities Habitat with a few days of volunteering on site helping build homes. One of those days was particularly interesting—they were installing walls.
“It was cool to see because we [engineers] draw out the walls on a plan, not thinking of all the little adjustments carpenters have to make,” Nick said. “If they installed the walls exactly how I drew them, it wouldn’t work. It was cool to see that on a micro level.”
Nick enjoyed his build days. He thought the expectations of the day were well set ahead of time, that it would be a welcoming environment, and that the site supervisors were great at noticing what’s going on and utilizing everyone’s skillsets. But, working fulltime, it was difficult for Nick to volunteer for an entire day, and he was still itching to find a way to use his structural engineering skills. Then, he saw it: an opening for a Project Management Assistant volunteer role. Nick signed up and attended a volunteer orientation.
“I enjoyed the volunteer orientation,” Nick said. “The orientation broke down the mission statement, and got very specific—like how the work benefits families and communities, and where your donation dollars go. It’s important for affirming that what you’re doing is specifically good for the community.”
Then, Nick got to work. He started doing some data entry for Brent Tyler, Senior Project Manager.
“Nick worked so quickly that I soon ran out of work for him,” said Brent, “and offered him to John Hall (Design and Building Technology Manager) to help on some of his projects. Nick has been an outstanding volunteer to work with and is eager to do whatever is asked of him. I really like working with Nick, and hope that we can keep him around.”
John Hall was impressed, too.
“I’ve been fortunate to have Nick volunteering with me as he’s been a quick learner on our design software,” John said. “His ability to help with cleaning up some designs helped keep some projects on time for volunteer starts and has allowed me to focus on other projects.”
In the few months that Nick has been volunteering in the office, he’s been able to use his skills in a variety of ways. As John needs certain parts of plans rotated and manipulated, Nick can go in with a fine comb and make sure all the details carried over. He’s looked at wall plans and cabinet plans as well, and is excited to learn more about the overall design and planning process. The office work fits in better with his schedule, too.
“Here I can pop in and pop out—they give me a task and a deadline,” Nick said. “That flexibility is nice.”
Coming from work where profit is prioritized above all else, Nick is glad that his weekly contributions—although relatively small, in his eyes—play a part in Habitat’s mission to make affordable shelter for all people a matter of conscience.
“I’ve come to realize that there are others who don’t get a fair shake in life,” Nick said, “and I want to do anything I can to even the playing field for everyone.”
There are many different ways to even the playing field, but Nick chose to focus on safe, stable, affordable housing—not only because of his skillset, but because of the foundational role it plays in a person’s life.
“Housing can have a profound impact for a family,” Nick said. “So many other things can flourish when you have stable housing. For example, you can invest a lot in a kid’s education, but if they’re going home to a different couch each night, it’s not going to stick.”
Every time Nick comes into the office to help with design or data entry, he is playing a part in laying the foundation for another family in the Twin Cities to flourish. Together, along with people who swing a hammer on site, advocate for affordable housing at the Capitol, or sell items at the ReStore, volunteers make a huge difference.
All sorts of skillsets are needed at Twin Cities Habitat. If you want to explore applying your particular skillset to volunteer work at Twin Cities Habitat but aren’t quite sure how, please contact our volunteer coordinator at email@example.com or 612-305-7114.