AmeriCorps Reflect on the First Week of Build-A-Thon

BAT Week 1

Nearly 200 AmeriCorps from Habitat for Humanity affiliates all over the country have made the first week of Build-A-Thon a great success. The first wave of inspections have all been passed, and drywall is already going in at each site. Though many of the visiting AmeriCorps have been working as construction crew leaders at their home affiliates, some have taken a week off office work to swing a hammer in the hot sun. No matter what kind of service they’ve been doing, they’ve all turned into pros this first week of Build-A-Thon!

BAT Week 1-1

“I feel really confident!” said Piper Stacks, a ReStore Development Coordinator from the Greater Sacramento affiliate. “I feel like I could confidently go on a construction site and understand what they’re talking about–and help out any way I can.”

Piper’s focus in Sacramento has been integrate the Habitat mission into the ReStore and to get more people involved, and she has used her artistic background in creating signage for the store. During her previous volunteer experience on a build site left her with a smashed thumb or two, making her a little nervous about her first day at Build-A-Thon. After four days on site, however, she says it has been an amazing experience.

“It’s madness and magical,” Piper said. “It’s wonderful seeing it happen so quickly, especially with so many people, with some who have a lot of experience and some who have none. Everyone is working so hard, and now it looks like a house. A home, actually.”

BAT Week 1-2

Chianti Johnson from the Charlotte affiliate has been working with their Family Services department. She, too, was a bit nervous before coming down, despite having volunteered a bit in Charlotte to get some experience on the build site.

“I was really overwhelmed. So many people who know what they’re doing, and I don’t know. I thought it’s going to be so hot, too, but it’s actually worked out really well. It’s really organized here, and everyone gets along great. We got great leaders, and it’s been really fun.”

“I’m exhausted but so happy to be here,” said Courtney Nordling, a construction crew leader from the Denver affiliate, echoing a sentiment most of her fellow AmeriCorps expressed. Those with construction experience also found the accelerated pace of a blitz build–and the New Orleans heat–to be a little tiring, but they all enjoyed watching the progress.

“I feel great,” said Charelle Hinton, a construction crew leader with Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte. “It’s good to see progress made. It’s exciting. This is my third time rebuilding in New Orleans, and I’m surprised at how much is done… They’re moving in a positive direction, and there’s still a lot more they can do.”

Chianti echoed Charelle’s perspective, saying she had heard stories of the slow progress in the city from her family. Her family lived in New Orleans before the storms, but moved away shortly after. She had been visiting them only a month before the storm.

“It was completely different afterward,” she said. “I was just there. It was crazy for me. There’s a little more progress than I thought. I heard people say they came back, and there’s still so much to be done. I guess I just expected the bare minimum, but I feel like it’s been a lot of work done, a lot of progress made. I’m sure it has a lot to do with Habitat.”

BA3T Week 1-

Daniel Artz of the Omaha affiliate said he was pleased to be part of the first week of the build, saying that while he enjoys the polish and precision of the latter half of a build, he preferred the rough framing and roofing. He also noted that the houses in New Orleans were slightly different.

“I like the stilts every house is sitting up on. It’s pretty cool to see something different,” he said.  While they’ve spent their days building, they’ve all taken some time at night to see more of the city. Everyone has checked out the French Quarter, and some have ventured further, exploring parts of New Orleans heritage in Treme or enjoying the museums and food around the city.

“I want to move here,” said Piper. “I think I’m going to take back the spirit of New Orleans, like saying ‘hi’ to people you don’t know… I’m from Philadelphia, and it’s a different kind of city. People are a lot more reserved toward each other in public. The thing that I love most about here is that everyone is so open and human to one another. I’m going to bring that everywhere I go.”