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Want A Homebuilding High? Volunteer For Habitat For Humanity

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By Randy

I had a very rewarding experience today. How? I volunteered my Saturday to work with Atlanta Habitat For Humanity and Team Clark Howard. What an honor it is to be given the opportunity to help disadvantaged people realize the dream of becoming a homeowner in such a fulfilling manner.

l to r : Me, Clark Howard and building partner, Jill Taylor, posing in front of the newest Atlanta Habitat for Humanity home.

I learned a lot, I came away with a healthy respect for many dedicated individuals and I’ll be volunteering again and again. It was an interesting homebuilding experience and a lot of fun…all for a very worthwhile cause!

I’ve known about Habitat for Humanity for years but never taken the time to participate. Shame on me for waiting this long!

I’m a regular listener of the consumer advocate radio program The Clark Howard Show and he always gives great advice on air and on his website

Clark mentioned on the air a few weeks ago that he would once again be co-sponsoring Habitat homes this year and that they were his #24 & #25 sponsorships. That’s one heck of a commitment. He spoke about the recipients of the homes and also about how anyone can join in the effort and learn something new in the process.

That was more than enough to motivate me enough to sign up and I am encouraging every one of you reading this to make time to volunteer with a local affiliation in your area.

I arrived at the Habitat home building site at about 7:45 on a Saturday, signed in and stuck my duct tape name tag on my shirt. Yet another use for duct tape. Chik-fil-A biscuits and coffee were on hand to get everyone off to a good start.

There were three homes being built concurrently within sight of one another with Clark Howard & The Rev. Nancy F. Noblin Foundation co-sponsoring two of the three and Cox Enterprises, Inc. sponsoring the third.

About 10 minutes later, Clark gathers the crowd, welcomes everyone and thanks them for volunteering their time and then hands the megaphone over to the soon-to-be homeowners (3 homes being built with 3 new homeowners – Quovadis Jackson, Tanis Moses and Asmamaw Yayhe & Semegne Esubaluw) to introduce themselves. We are then given some safety instructions by one of the house leaders and split into 3 separate groups (1 group/house).

Just to get us going, our first task was to move the drywall refuse pile from in front of the house to the sidewalk. Personally, I was glad to get busy to quell some of my nervous energy . I give the supervisors and house leaders all of the credit in the world for their organizational skills.

The house leader then described the tasks for the day and I took mental notes on the tasks that I would most like to learn to do. I wanted nothing to do with painting (and there was a lot of it to be done) since I can do that in my sleep. Nor did I hope to clean windows, lay linoleum and a couple of other tasks mentioned, although I would have gladly performed any task asked of me.

The front facade (l) before we started installing the HardieShingle siding and (r) after we were done for the day.

I had two tasks in mind; a) install interior doors and; b) install staggered edge HardieShingle cedar-style siding. My first choice was the siding installation.

Lots of volunteers chose painting and cleaning so that cleared out most of the group. When the house leader asked for two volunteers to install siding, I immediately raised my hand. No one else did…for a few seconds. It was then (thankfully) that my soon-to-be building partner, Jill Taylor, raised her hand to help me out. I think there were a few shy ones in the group because our house leader jokingly said that he can read our name tags for volunteers if a task gets no volunteers. Everyone got a kick out of that.

Long time Habitat builder, Mark Butler, was our supervisor and he happened to be good friends with Clark and had been on every Habitat build with him beginning in 1996. I also met Mr. Willie Wilkerson, introduced to me as the only volunteer to have worked with Jimmy Carter on every one of the annual JCWP homebuilding efforts. Quite a feat and I was honored to have met him.

See more great photos from Clark’s Habitat projects here (March 10, 2007 was the day I participated).

I’ve gotta tell ya…installing cedar shingle-style staggered edge HardieShingle is harder than it looks. It’s not hard to nail to the house, just difficult for amateurs like us to overlap properly and retain an evenly staggered look while at the same time measuring and making angled cuts to fit and still secure it to the studs. With Mark’s expertise, he guided us through how to measure and line up the staggered edges and end up with a professionally installed look. We had our share of goofs but it goes with the territory.

Jill and I gave measurements and suggestions while Mark digested our input and made the cuts. Apparently, we were installing a high profile piece of the puzzle because people were watching our work progress throughout the day. I don’t know if they were giggling or admiring but we felt good about the finished product.

It started out as a crappy weather day but soon turned sunny and 70 degrees F. Everyone was extremely glad to see the sun come out and stay out. Not only was the weather great but everyone came with a great attitude and the supervisors were super helpful and proved to be supreme guidance counselors. I suppose they are used to this by now, but I know it must be a difficult task to keep this many amateur homebuilding volunteers productively busy throughout the day and coordinate them effectively so everyone isn’t running over one another. The supervisors that I worked with truly do magnificent work.

All-in-all, it was a great first experience with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity and I’ll be back soon.