Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Friday, November 20, 2015
All of my life, I've had a place to call home. My address has changed more than 14 times but my homes have all been safe and part of a healthy community. It can be easy to take this basic need for granted, but there are many individuals and families living in poverty without the stability that an affordable home provides. Because I don't want to take what I have for granted, I try to find volunteer opportunities to help open my eyes, mind, and heart to the challenges facing people in my community. While there are many organizations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro where I could volunteer my time, I've always wanted to work on a Habitat for Humanity project.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has the Women Build program which invites women from all walks of life to work on a home build project with no previous experience necessary. I invited several women I admire to join me and was lucky to have my neighbor, Jean take me up on the offer. Jean and I have a lot in common and it was rewarding to share the Women Build experience with her. Several of the women in our group were regulars and could show us newbies the ropes. In fact, there is a group of woman who are in their eighth year of volunteering once a month! I plan on making this a tradition and hope more of my friends will join me for future Women Build dates.
This particular volunteer shift brought us to the Jordan neighborhood in Minneapolis. The five-bedroom single-family home is new from the ground up for a family of seven who will be moving from a two-bedroom apartment. We were fortunate to be able to work alongside one of the homeowners. I enjoyed getting to know him and talking with him about what it has been like to build his new home with his own hands. He is a hard worker who was kind and enthusiastic to teach me some of the lessons he's learned during the construction process.
While most of the volunteers tackled siding and trim, I helped disassemble and assemble scaffolding. I will never look at scaffolding the same way again! It's hard, time-consuming work that may not be all that sexy but building it properly is vital for the safety of the crew. Part of the challenge for us was adding scaffolding to unleveled, frozen ground full of gravel. We definitely had to get creative but swinging the hammer and moving heavy pieces of metal kept me warm (it was 25 ºF outside). I also helped clean-up the site which is the part I enjoyed most. I even got to use a sledgehammer to remove huge chunks of concrete from the ground.
One of the most inspirational parts of the day was meeting Larry Hossfeld, a long-time TC Habitat volunteer who worked on the house with us. A retired engineer, Larry has been volunteering since 1990. In addition to volunteering 40-50 hours a week on Habitat projects, he has donated five homes to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity (read more about Larry via Kare-11 story and the TC Habitat blog post).
On my mind during the Women Build volunteer shift was President Jimmy Carter, the most famous Habitat for Humanity supporter who has cancer in his liver and brain. To honor President Carter, I wore my Still Kickin t-shirt because of its connection to brain cancer research and also supporting people who are persevering through incredibly difficult circumstances. Related to Women Build, when I purchased my t-shirt, the Still Kickin Hero was Sarah Super, a rape survivor and founder of Break the Silence. All of these incredible stories motivate and inspire me to make a positive difference in my community and support others to do the same.
The Nivens Family