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Yes, in my backyard: Volunteers give time, talent, and love

Yes, in my backyard: Volunteers give time, talent, and love

The basic philosophy of Habitat for Humanity is simple: neighbors working alongside neighbors to create safe, stable homes and strong communities. But the story of each house has unique characters—homebuyers, volunteers, sponsors, donors, site supervisors, neighbors—who fill the home with energy and love.

This summer, we're following one property from start to finish. We'll hear the stories of the many people who touch the project from the early stages of finding land through the hopeful home dedication ceremony. The blog series is called “Yes, in my backyard.” You can find out why in the first blog.

We’ve got the land; now let’s build

At the start of this blog series, we met the generous couple who donated their side yard to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. (They asked to remain anonymous, so we called them Jackie and Robert.) They’re incredibly humble and kind, and they know that a Habitat home in their community is good for their neighbors, for the homebuyers, and for Maple Grove.

Construction started on the property at the beginning of June. I’ve visited the site a few times already and it’s amazing to see how quickly the empty lot transforms into a home.

June 29 at Maple Grove house

But that transformation couldn’t happen without the time, sweat, skill, energy, and love of our amazing Habitat volunteers. Over the last several weeks, volunteers have been busy framing and roofing, installing windows, and so much more. It’s been a hot summer, but groups have stayed hydrated and cool, so they can keep up the good work.

July 18 Northwest Churches at Maple Grove

Many hands make light work

People get connected with Twin Cities Habitat in a variety of ways. Sometimes volunteers find their way to a Habitat construction site through their employer, their congregation, or a friend’s Women Build day. Other times, individuals are seeking a great way to give back during retirement, so they join a regular crew or sign up for a build day or two.

Sign up to volunteer

Every year, more than 16,000 people volunteer their time with Twin Cities Habitat on construction sites, home repair projects, at our ReStore outlets, and in our office. And at just one home over the course of a summer? 900.

That’s 900 volunteers who will don hard hats and work boots this summer to build this home in Maple Grove. That’s 900 people who choose to spend their time—maybe a day, maybe weeks—building the home of someone they may never meet.

At this build, many of the volunteers are part of faith groups. The home’s Cornerstone Sponsor, Thrivent Financial, engages its individual members, congregations, and employees in the build, so there are new faces on site each day.

June 4 Thrivent with Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman stopped by to visit Thrivent volunteers on the first day of the build and his first day as our new CEO.
I had a chance to talk to a few volunteers about their experience building with Twin Cities Habitat. It was fun to see so many volunteers who live in the Maple Grove area working to create a safe, stable home in their community.

Jackie, Robert, and their crew

Jackie and Robert, the neighboring land donors from the first blog post, organized a build day of their own. They invited their fellow church members and neighbors to spend a day installing windows and preparing the site for the next phase of work.

Most of these volunteers were from the neighboring town of Osseo and hadn’t volunteered with Habitat before. It was Jackie and Robert’s invitation to join the build that got them out to site for the day.

That’s what I love about Habitat—it’s contagious. Jackie and Robert connected to our mission in a big way through their land donation, then they inspired 15 more people to swing a hammer on a hot summer day.

Installing a window during the neighbors' build day

Wade Borg

Wade Borg, a volunteer from Mount Olivet Lutheran Church of Plymouth, organized two build days with his church in July. Wade and his wife, Deb, have been volunteering with Twin Cities Habitat for 25 years. They love the mission and know that they’re making a difference when they share their time and talents on site.

For the past six years, Wade and Deb have organized their church’s build days. “Everyone feels involved,” Wade shared. “They come back when it’s done for a home dedication… they walk through and point out the different things they worked on.”

Wade and Deb at a home dedication

Wade, Deb, and Mount Olivet volunteers celebrating a home dedication.

This project, in particular, is special for the group. “This project is in everybody’s neighborhood. They all live a few miles from here,” Wade said.

On top of coordinating his church's build days, Wade also helps organize Blues, Brews, n BBQs, Mount Olivet's summer music fest to support Twin Cities Habitat and PRISM. This year's event is coming up on August 11, so grab your tickets now.


Roger Wherry

While most of the 900 volunteers build for one or two days on a house, there are a few extra remarkable volunteers who come back day after day all year round. Roger Wherry is one of those volunteers.

Roger Wherry on site

In the warmer months, Roger volunteers with us four days a week. It would be five, but he takes Thursdays off to golf. He deserves it. 

On top of that, during the winter he’s a regular volunteer with San Diego Habitat for Humanity, sharing his time and talent with a warm-weather affiliate.

Roger has volunteered with Twin Cities Habitat in some capacity since 1991. First, he volunteered with his company, Cargill. After he retired, he joined the Cargill Retirees Regular Crew. Now, he volunteers on his own and sticks with one property from start to finish. Roger estimates he’s spent more than 800 days on one of our build sites over the last 27 years. 

For the last few years, Roger has worked with site supervisor Tony Beckstrom. They are self-described ‘good cop, bad cop.’ But honestly, I had to ask which one was bad. They're quite a fun pair. They both have great senses of humor and certainly know their way around a construction site.

While Roger and I were talking, Tony jumped in. "Might I add something? Mr. Humility probably isn't going to mention this... He's also a very active, important volunteer for Crescent Cove, a children's hospice home just a few miles from here." As if his Habitat volunteer time isn't enough, Roger helps out with maintenance at Crescent Cove, saving the organization a lot of money.

By professional background, Roger is an accountant. He learned a lot of what he knows about construction from Habitat. "Building a house is nothing more than a math problem." He makes it sound so easy.

I suppose he does have nearly three decades of volunteer experience. "Do anything long enough and you'll pick up a few things." Now Roger is a trusted advisor to Tony and teacher of volunteers. Tony consults with him on plans for the day and gets his input on the best way to approach a project.

Roger helping in the basement

Roger is from Maple Grove and he says its great to see Habitat building in his community. To anyone who has doubts about a Habitat home in their neighborhood, he says they'll soon see a family with kids and "that stuff goes away."

Week after week, year after year, what keeps Roger coming back? "Relationships with people" is a nice part, he says. But mostly it's about the impact: "I believe in the mission of decent, affordable housing," he shared. "The best part is the first time the kids come to see the house. They run around to see the bedrooms and they just light up. They know it's going to work."

If you liked this blog, read the next post in the series which highlights the home's accessible design and quality construction.

Don’t miss a post

Stay tuned over the coming months to read about the many others who touch this project along the way. Don't miss a story—subscribe to our blog below to be alerted when we publish new post. And, if you want to be one of the unique characters breathing life into a Habitat home, get involved as a homebuyer, volunteer, donor, or sponsor.


Sign up to volunteer

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