“If I had a hammer….I’d hammer out love between my brother and sisters, all over this land.” These words from a song by Lee Hayes and Pete Seeger have been running through my head on and off for the last few weeks. Years ago I worked down the hall from a Habitat for Humanity office. I walked by that office each day and finally decided to volunteer. I filled out the application, but was never called as a volunteer.
In June Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity ran an ad in the local paper. I decided to try again so I filled out the application and submitted it online. By the next day I was registered to attend an orientation session the following Saturday. So began my July adventure!
A lot of people think that former President Jimmy Carter founded Habitat because he has been a visible face of Habitat for so many years. However, the organization was actually founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976. (www.habitat.org) Since then Habitat has built over 250,000 homes! According to the web site “it is the mission of Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity to follow the example of Jesus Christ by providing simple, decent places to live for families who cannot afford a home by conventional means, through building and rehabilitating houses in partnership with the community and prospective homeowners.”
Future Habitat home owners have a tough road ahead of them. They have to qualify by meeting financial and need based guidelines. They work with volunteers who walk them through the process which includes financial and credit counseling. Then they have to fulfill sweat equity hours before moving into their house. That means they actually have to go out to the build site and help construct their house! Habitat holds the mortgage on all Habitat houses. The loans are thirty no interest loans with fixed payments. These families who move into Habitat houses are active participants in every step of the way.
When I first talked about becoming a Habitat volunteer I am sure my friends and family wondered if I had lost my mind. I have worked only office jobs in my adult life. In my free time I sit at a computer and write. I was probably the last person some would think of as a home builder. In fact, my nephew Jeff when I asked him if he could see me building houses responded, “Yeah, but not safe, sturdy ones.” Then when I told him I got to use power tools his comment was, “How did no one lose a limb?” Good thing I love ya, Jeff!
I participated in my first build in July and yes, they did let me use power tools. It was a warm, sunny Saturday morning when about 15 people gathered to work on a house. The foundation had been poured and our job that morning was to remove the forms the cement foundation was poured in. I may not have all the lingo right, after all I am a writer, not a home builder. So, I unscrewed and pried off two by fours. Then we helped to carry the two by fours up the hill to load in a truck for carting to the next location.
As the sun beat down that day I was able to work alongside the young man whose family would move into the house we worked on. I also met the young couple who were moving into the completed house next door when their sweat equity was done. And, I got to participate in a blessing ceremony with the single mom and her two sons who would move into another house that was just getting started. It was truly a great thing to meet the people who would benefit from my sweat and labor.
I was asked that morning why I was there. I became a home owner a few years ago after years of renting apartments. My house is nothing special. It’s just a small townhouse in a nice neighborhood, but it’s mine. I have been blessed in my life and by volunteering a few hours each month I can help others be blessed by home ownership.
Volunteering was an adventure that will continue since I plan to volunteer each month with Habitat. As I do, I will learn more about home construction and help others in the community. I have a hammer and I am sharing the love Christ has given me with my brothers and sisters all over the land, well, at least all over the city!