I’m looking for a few good volunteers. Specifically, I’m inviting peers from our industry to join me in framing out a home for a very low-income family over the course of just one week. Know anyone? Are you interested yourself?
Before I get to the exciting details, I want to quickly share my own volunteer journey over the last couple of years.
Appalachia Service Project
All of my volunteer activities to date can be traced back to yearly trips to serve the wonderful people of Appalachia. For nine of the last 10 years, I’ve gone to either Virginia or Kentucky, on trips with a group of four to six teenagers and adults who spend a week working as a team to provide needed home repair to the seriously impoverished. The organization hosting us is the Appalachia Service Project, and their motto is “Warmer, Safer, Drier”. While on these mission trips, there is no television, and cell service is hard to come by. The week is packed with hard work, challenges, frustration, and a spiritual discovery that leaves you wanting to return next year — and also to go home and make a difference in your own community. However, those sentiments of continuing volunteerism back home get lost when your day-to-day responsibilities take over. The volunteer “high” can slowly wear off.
On my 2010 ASP mission trip, I was mindful of that tendency. So I promised myself that I would continue volunteering in my community — making a difference at home, while keeping the “high” going year round. The group I decided to spend more time with was a non-profit called Empty Tomb. Similar to ASP back in Appalachia, Empty Tomb provides home repairs in my local community on a weekly basis.
My work with Empty Tomb has been immensely rewarding. Families are so appreciative of the help — the renovations are usually desperately needed. That’s a huge part of volunteer work: the relationships you build with the families you’re helping, as well as with fellow volunteers.
In 2013, on a dangerously cold night, I was asked to help drive groups of homeless men from a gathering place to an emergency warming center, where they would spend the night. In the morning, they would be returned to the street and collected again at night if temps dropped to zero. Before I knew it, I was submitting my information to be qualified as a driver for the Canteen Run — a volunteer group that works through the Salvation Army to deliver needed food and clothing supplies to the homeless on a weekly basis. This additional avenue for volunteering was also very rewarding spiritually — similar to my work with Empty Tomb. I’ve grown to know many of these guys on a first-name basis, often finding time to have breakfast with them, help them run errands, or just encourage them as they work to leave the street. As I volunteered with Canteen Run, it was interesting that I would cross paths with many of the same people I volunteered with at Empty Tomb.
Housing Development Alliance
Then, in 2015, I had a new opportunity. I joined a group that I’d been on ASP with, who had volunteered to make a trip back to Hazard, Kentucky, to frame up a single-family residence. We worked alongside seasoned carpenters through a non-profit called the Housing Development Alliance, which focuses on developing a variety of housing options for the homeless, as well as repair of existing homes. Other project types include transitional housing, affordable rental housing, and affordable homes for low and very low-income families. We were going to be framing up an affordable home on our visit. Regrettably, our group had other commitments that prevented us from staying the entire week. But in just a few short days, our progress was amazing. We went from only a block foundation, to framing up and installing the floor plates, floor joists, finished floor, exterior walls, all the interior walls, and the top plates.
So back to my opening proposition. I want to organize a group of design-minded professionals to join me in returning to Hazard for a week, to frame up a single-family home. The home will be finished out afterwards, then made available through low-interest loans to be purchased by a very low-income family.
The HDA has an excellent program in place that will take 12 volunteers and place them under their experienced carpenters for a build that will begin on a Monday morning and run until Friday evening. Our group will start with a block foundation and end having framed up a single-family residence that’s roofed and sided. No experience or tools are needed — just a willingness to work and a desire to help others in need.
Chris Doll, Assistant Director of the HDA, can attest to the need for volunteers, and the difference they make. “It is a life-changing impact,” he says. “We build homes for a variety of people, because we believe housing is a fundamental right.”
Fall is a time when they especially need volunteers. In the summer, an influx of high school and college students arrive to volunteer, but help dwindles in the fall, while the need continues. “We cannot do what we do without the help of volunteers,” Chris says. “Some of those we serve just need affordable financing; others need much more, and many of those people have children.”
While in Hazard, our housing will be provided and our evenings free to explore the region. Our only responsibility is either cooking our own meals or dining out at some of the awesome local fair. Midweek, we will get a tour of a subdivision of low-income homes that the HDA has constructed on a reclaimed coal mine — turning the land back into usable property. Our project may even be within this exciting reclamation site.
The build will be scheduled for this fall. If you have an interest in participating on a trip that will leave you exhilarated and possibly enhance your desire for more volunteerism, click here.
I look forward to hearing from you!