Midland, MI – Everyone knows that there’s no place like home. That’s why 13 AVI-SPL employees abandoned their cubicles one sunny August day in Midland, Michigan, hopped on a bus and rode for 20 minutes to Bay County. No, they weren’t on their way home – but rather to help repair homes by teaming up with Dow Chemical to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization with a mission to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world.
Habitat for Humanity chooses homes to restore based on the homeowners’ income levels or lack of resources, their ability to work with the Habitat crews or pay minimal expenses for the Habitat work and the families’ ability to assist with the revitalization projects. Since elderly folks cannot work, they are asked to be home when it’s happening and to engage with the volunteers.
The 13 volunteers swapped their white collars for t-shirts and tennis shoes and got to work restoring a few houses in a nearby neighborhood. First on the agenda was a home needing some fixing up owned by a family of six – a husband, wife, three children and their grandmother.
AVI-SPL employees Tim Spear and Fady Kais got to work on creating a custom lattice with a frame around the porch. Since the frame had a flat top, they built a slanted cover to prevent standing water. They also worked on creating a locking gate for the lattice in order to access the area under the porch. “Difficulty arose from the porch and house not being level,” Kais explained. “Not only did everything have to be built exact, the gate itself could not be square.”
Other volunteers worked on painting a very porous and defined wall on the exterior of the house which required a type of blotching skill, making it difficult to paint. “It took a lot of paint to get into all the cracks and holes of the concrete,” explained Brian Gotts.
Jana Gerber, James Eich and Jason Woodford worked to restore the foundation of the house which is made of cement blocks that were deteriorating. “My job was to apply a cement mixture to the decaying blocks and rebuild the look of the block so it would blend in and match the rest. Once set up and dry, the next team would come along and paint,” Gerber explained.
On the same block, volunteers worked on a home owned by a 93-year-old woman living alone. After her husband passed away, the house started falling apart. But with some encouragement from her grandchildren, she applied to Habitat for Humanity and was selected.
The AVI-SPL volunteers got to work on scraping off the old paint from the garage and repainting it. “Since it was lead-based paint, we had to take extra precautions to remove it including wearing masks, gloves and avoiding skin contact,” explained Erin Lucido.
“The homeowner bonded with all the volunteers and loved the company,” said Kais. “By the end of the day, everyone called her grandma.”
All the volunteers walked away with a wonderful experience getting dirty for a good cause.
“I enjoyed being able to help out the city I have lived in and around for a long time,” Woodford shared.
“The experience for me was all about helping others. Sometimes when we’re at work we forget how lucky we are. We’re so focused on our jobs. When we help out, it’s such a great feeling,” said Anna Malabanan.
Kais added, “All in all we got a lot accomplished and our Habitat project leader said that our volunteers were some of the hardest and quickest volunteers he had worked with.”
“The great thing about the Habitat for Humanity event was that our team got to build relationships with each other and the community all while doing something great for someone that needed it. And they had fun doing it too,” shared Beth Andreski. “I saw big smiles and laughter the entire time I was there. A few of the employees even stayed after their shift was over because they wanted to see the project through to completion.”
Since 1976, Habitat has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 400,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than two million people. For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit Habitat.org.