By Dennis Smyth
There are many important ingredients required for Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. (DC Habitat) to successfully build a new affordable home or rehabilitate a vacant home — including such obvious inputs as land, materials, tools and permits. The addition of committed volunteers, led by a skilled construction staff, is the essential element that enables us to accelerate our production of decent, affordable homes in Washington, D.C.
Volunteers do much of their work with Habitat on the construction site — work ranging from site preparation to all levels of construction. Volunteers with no previous construction skills often show up a bit nervous about whether they will be able to actually contribute to the building of our homes. They soon realize that under the guidance of our skilled crew leaders, they will indeed build part of a home and usually finish the day quite amazed at what they learned about construction and Habitat’s affordable housing mission. Many also walk away with a wonderful feeling that they helped to make the world more than just a little bit better that day. These volunteers can be heard exclaiming things like, “I helped build a bedroom wall today!”
Volunteers also support Habitat’s mission by serving in a variety of non-construction capacities, including: committee members, board members, office volunteers, and as special events volunteers. In these roles, volunteers help Habitat with a wide variety of tasks, including organizing paperwork and electronic records related to onsite volunteers, data entry, writing for our website and publications, and helping to identify qualifying homebuyer applicants.
Most of our construction site and “offsite” volunteers eventually realize something important through their work with us: substantial financial resources are needed to acquire the permits, plans, properties, tools, materials and staff that, together with volunteers, result in the high-quality yet affordable Habitat homes in Washington, D.C. Many of the financial expenses reflect the high cost of land and construction in major urban areas like the District. It’s for this reason that we ask build groups to donate – or raise –the cash needed to fund their work on our site – typically, $5,000 per 20 volunteers who spend a day building with us.
We’ve benefited from the steady, generous support of many corporate sponsors around the Washington area – sponsors who donate large sums of money and send teams of employees out to build with us on a regular basis. But in order to increase our capacity, we need to continually increase the amount of funds we raise. That’s why we ask all those who support our mission to become a partner with us – whether it’s for a single team build or as a platinum level sponsor – and help provide DC Habitat with the combination of funding and volunteer labor we so critically need.