Volunteers raising walls and building hope every week

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Georgie Kerber frames a new home in Northeast Central Durham.DURHAM HERALD SUN - By Anna Benfield. On a recent Friday morning more than 50 construction volunteers found their way to five build homes across North East Central Durham. By 9 a.m. they were hard at work, building walls and installing siding on new homes and removing old flooring from a future renovation.

No Friday paycheck was keeping these laborers going. For Habitat volunteers, payment comes in a less material form.

Now celebrating our 30th anniversary, Durham Habitat is proud to partner with more than 8,000 volunteers each year. From framing to finish, over half of the tasks of the typical home build are completed with volunteer labor. The cost savings this affords is one of the miracle ingredients in Habitat’s ability to make the dream of home ownership a reality for Durham families.

This Volunteer Appreciation month we’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of our volunteers and to call out our five AmeriCorps construction crew leaders. You might mistake them for staff because they serve 40 hours a week leading volunteers.

Matt Lawing celebrates another completed home near Joe’s Diner with the Anthony family.AmeriCorps member Bill Clay joined Durham Habitat as a volunteer after years of work in the corporate world. He now serves with our critical repairs and deconstruction programs. “Being a part of Durham Habitat’s mission has honestly been incredible: humbling, gratifying, challenging, rewarding, and just plain fun, ” he says.

Billy Dee moved from Chicago for the opportunity to learn construction. “Although I don't expect to become a super-master-carpenter in 10 1/2 short months (that would take years!), it has been truly illuminating to get a clearer sense of the process of home building. I have been amazed by how much I have been able to learn, and that I am often in a position where I am able to share some of my new found skills and knowledge on the worksite,” Dee says.

While the living stipend is minimal, AmeriCorps members find meaning and motivation in the unlikely cross-cultural and cross-generational relationships that flourish on Habitat work sites.

“I meet great people every day and love the feeling of working as a team to improve the affordable-housing situation in Durham,” says Georgie Kerber, who joined the team after a year of service with AmeriCorps in Tennessee.

Durham Habitat’s five AmeriCorps members – thank you for your service!Sandra Fleming is living proof that if you’re not careful, Habitat will change you forever.  Sandra joined AmeriCorps after leaving her career in veterinary medicine and is serving a second term with Durham Habitat. “That first year with AmeriCorps was, quite literally, the best year of my life!” she says.  “It has brought about an enormous change in my personality, my outlook on life and even the quality of life that my husband and I have.”

Matt Lawing, also a second-year AmeriCorps member, has taken his passion for building affordable housing oversees to Honduras, where he served two years in a row with Habitat’s Global Village program.

Inspired to join the team? Durham Habitat is accepting applications for AmeriCorps members interested in serving from August 2015 through July 2016. Contact abenfield@durhamhabitat.org for more information.

Don’t have a year to commit to service? Volunteer for a day! No experience needed. Just watch out; you might get hooked!

Sign up online here: www.durhamhabitat.org/volunteer.

Anna Benfield is Durham Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer manager and AmeriCorps host site manager.

Habitat Success Stories

Growing up in East Durham, Tora saw the neighborhood decline and bounce back. She was excited to partner with the Streets at Southpoint and Belk to build and purchase her own home in East Durham -- making her part of the neighborhood's revitalization.