Old Friends Join NOAHH at Build-A-Thon


Early in the morning, before the volunteers began hammering, the voice of experience was overheard on site explaining one crucial piece of construction strategy:

“We tune them both to the classic rock station, and we leave that radio out here. We’ll put the newer one under the house, so it echoes,” said Aaron Frumin, a former NOAHH construction site supervisor who has joined NOAHH as a volunteer for Build-A-Thon. He now works for Uncommon Construction, a local nonprofit that helps young adults learn valuable skills. The house he’s leading is almost completely wrapped and roofed just two days later, despite rain, intense heat, and the occasional commercial break.

Along with Frumin, several other former staff members have come back as volunteers to help lead build sites, including two former construction directors, Billy Puckett and Dann Cahoon (who now also serves on the NOAHH board), and one former site supervisor, Nicolle Bennett. The homes they are building on the north end of America Street are models of blitz build progress, showing that experienced leadership is an important part of the build process. Along with former and current staff, volunteers from other Habitat for Humanity affiliates have joined NOAHH to guide the hundreds of active service AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps alumni, and other volunteers as they make the dreams of ten new homeowners come true.

All four–Frumin, Cahoon, Bennett, and Puckett–have experience with previous NOAHH blitz builds, including the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in 2008 and the Fifth Anniversary Blitz Build in 2010. Like the AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon, the Fifth Anniversary build commemorated the progress made since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, building five homes in five days as a symbol of hope and promise to continue NOAHH’s efforts to revitalize New Orleans. The accelerated build is a statement that shows the power to transform communities that comes when people come together. As over 300 volunteers a day raise walls and roofs on America Street in New Orleans East, the hard-hit area of the city will see enormous progress in a very short period off time.

When asked why they came back for Build-A-Thon, all three gave similar answers: they were asked to. Their commitment to New Orleans didn’t stop when they moved on from NOAHH, and the chance to be a part of the transformative event, seeing ten families’ homes rise up over a mere ten days, was all they needed to brave the heat and hard work once more.

As to how they manage such a feat, Frumin explained, “I don’t tell anyone my goal for the day. I know what I want to get done, and I set a fast pace to inspire everyone to keep up. And if they go faster than me, that just means I have to work faster.”