Giving Back as Celebration
“I suppose home means a place where family finds security, love, continuity, and a sense of community, so that they are not only living there but they’re living amongst others. What Habitat does is create home which build communities, which strengthen our country.” – Lewis Morris, Habitat Volunteer
In lieu of giving gifts to the bride and groom, the wedding party of Holly and Kirk, two DC-area lawyers, decided to give back to the city of New Orleans. Two days before the happy coupled got married, their friends and family volunteered on site in Hollygrove to help build a Habitat home. Both knew they wanted to contribute time to a worthy cause, and their friends suggested NOAHH.
“I volunteered in New Orleans several times,” said Lewis Morris, a friend of the family now living in Tacoma. He and his wife have volunteered with Habitat affiliates in DC, Baltimore, and many other places, as well as working with Katrina Corps on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“It’s nice to see homes going up one at a time,” Lewis said. “I admire so much of the spirit of people, because it’s one step at a time. It’s been a long walk.”
Oliver Correa, a member of Holly’s family, comes from Venezuela by way of Upstate New York. “I just came from fifteen degrees at Christmas, freezing. The weather’s great here. How can I not be outside and helping out?”
When asked how volunteering on site compared to giving traditional wedding presents, both said they enjoyed the new experience.
“It’s lovely,” said Lewis. “It’s a nice way to get to know someone over time. A lot of the cocktail party interaction is just ‘what’s your name, what do you do?’ and you forget both. Here, we’ve held ladders together and nailed stuff. We’ve cleaned up together, so you get to know the person a lot better than the superficial stuff.”
“It’s much more inspirational than most wedding parties I go to,” Oliver said. “It’s great.”
Lewis has been volunteering for a decade, and in his time has met several partner families. He reflected on the impact of working alongside them.
“We had a mom and her young boy come work with us for two days once,” Lewis said. “Then we got this wonderful Christmas card the next year because they moved in. The young man was seven years old and always wanted a dog. We got a postcard of him and his dog on the front porch. It’s emotional. I’m a lawyer, my wife’s a lawyer. You don’t have a lot to show for it at the end of the day except some paper and maybe a happy client, but here, after a week, you’ve got the flooring done, you’ve got the sheathing done. It’s very satisfying for yourself, <i>and</i> you’re helping people.”
“Anyone can be here doing this,” Oliver said. “I’m here with three generations [of my family]. My grandfather, my uncle, his son, and me. My grandpa’s had two knee replacements. He’s 79. Being out herewith him puts a smile on my face.”