As our building season ramps up, we get a lot of questions in the office about building on site. What it’s like, what skills are needed, what to expect when you get to site – that sort of thing. We thought we’d share for you our Ten Things To Know About Building with Flower City Habitat for Humanity.
1.) YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A HANDY MAN
Which means you don’t even have to know the difference between a Phillips head screw driver and a flat head screw driver. SO MANY VALUABLE tasks go into building a house and not all of them involve the use of power tools. We have jobs like painting, grading, drywall sanding, caulking, cleaning, and placing concrete which don’t take any special power tools at all. The key is communication, if you’re unsure about volunteering because you are worried you’re not handy, just let our site supervisors know when you arrive and they will find a job that will work better with your skill level.
2.) IF YOU ARE HANDY WE’VE GOT TASKS FOR YOU TOO
Just like the light-work jobs listed above, there are PLENTY of jobs that involve hammering, nailing, cutting, etc. We even have volunteers help us with roofing. The trick is to be flexible, you might be very good at hanging drywall, but you’ve never lifted forms out of a basement. That’s okay, but you might have to lift forms if that’s what’s happening the day you volunteer. Our build sites are fluid and constantly changing – so if you have a special talent you’d like to use, let our site supervisors know after orientation so they can be aware and use you to our benefit.
3.) EVERYONE OVER 16 YEARS OLD CAN BUILD ON SITE
And we mean it! We’ve had volunteers who are celebrating their 80th+ birthdays, volunteers who have never picked up a hammer, volunteers who are hearing impaired, volunteers who have limited mobility, and others. It’s all okay – we applaud and encourage inclusion. If you’re worried you might be a challenge out on site, call us. We’ll talk with our build team and find a meaningful job for you to help us with.
4.) OUR CONSTRUCTION STAFF MEMBERS ARE GREAT TEACHERS
And this is no joke! Bill, Edwin, Orlando, Sarge, and Erwin are patient and fun leaders who enjoy teaching people new construction skills – and they do it in a kind-hearted, no-fail way. They are one of our greatest strengths, and they make sure every volunteer on site is comfortable, put to work, and taught new skill if their interested. In the end we are building solid, safe, well-built homes with families in Rochester – and they’ll teach you skills that help make that happen. Oh, and did we mention they juggle?
5.) WE HAVE BACK-UP
We know you want a solid, safe, well-built home as much as we do; so don’t worry about “messing it up”. We have a backbone of skilled volunteers, our Hammer & Saw crew, who build alongside our volunteers making sure that the quality is kept high. Along with filling in the gaps of only having 4 site supervisors, they work on specialty work like plumbing, electrical work, cabinetry, HVAC, and masonry. We love them because they allow us to do more good with less spend AND they tell good jokes.
6.) SAFETY IS OUR PRIORITY
Whether that means checking on and correcting how you’re using a ladder, stopping early because of heat or cold, or reviewing and then standing by as you learn to use a saw, our site supervisors are keen at keeping the job sites safe. They’ll review overall safety at the morning orientation when you first arrive AND check in on how you’re doing throughout the day. You can help keep the jobs sites safe too by wearing appropriate clothing/footwear, listening to instructions, and making sure you’re aware of your surroundings.
7.) WE LIKE TO HAVE FUN
Sure building a house is hard work, just ask any of our homeowners who are working on or have completed their 450 hours of sweat-equity, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a laugh along the way. Besides our site supervisors juggling, nail brain teasers, and singing we hope you’ll take a moment during your long day to stop, laugh, and smile. You’re doing AMAZING work for others, and that deserves giving yourself a break when you’re faced with a challenge, rain, cold, or a new task. Take a moment (at a safe time) to take a picture and share it with your friends – you’ll be amazed how many people will be giving you kudos. And you deserve it!
8.) YOUR SPOT IS SPECIAL
Not only will the work you do on site help build a home with a family who is working hard to achieve a better life for their family, but we receive over 4,000 applications for volunteering a year. Which means there are popular days where our sites fill up and we may have a waiting list, especially during the summer. If you’re volunteering with a sponsorship group, like Women Build, either you or someone else helped to raise the funds to make the house you build on possible – to make your volunteer spot possible. Your spot is YOURS and it’s an experience only you can have, so make the most of it.
9.) BY VOLUNTEERING YOU’RE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER
Habitat for Humanity is one of the most recognizable non-profits in the world with over 1,500 affiliates in the US and Canada – not to mention the international work our friends are doing in 80 countries. We know there might be a time on site where a job may seem mundane, but think about the 1 million volunteer community you now belong to across the world! Our mission is to eliminate poverty housing and revitalize neighborhoods in Rochester, NY – but that’s such a small (though important!) piece of the giant puzzle of 1.6 billion people who are homeless or living in poverty housing world-wide. By volunteering you’re making a difference in your own backyard while also helping to change the WORLD.
10.) YOU’RE OUR BIGGEST ASSET
We can only build houses with Rochester families because of you. Our ability to offer low-income families a program where they work 450 hours of sweat-equity and then pay a 30-year zero interest mortgage only works when our houses are built by volunteers. The cost of building houses is great, but our ability to offer affordable, decent homes to families who would otherwise be turned down for a traditional mortgage is possible only because you, and others, have chosen to give up a day to come out on site and get your hands dirty. Without you we couldn’t do this – so why not come out and give it a try?