Habitat for Humanity International's motto is “A hand up, not a hand out.” Dozens of employees lent their hands - and hearts - in building BNP Media-sponsored House #20, one of 31 homes dedicated June 24 as part of Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy Carter Work Project in Detroit's Core City/Thurgood Marshall neighborhood. The house now is the home of Efrain and Damaris Guevara and their five children.
“All aspects of this project were incredible,” says BNP publishing director Tim Fausch. “The Habitat organizers ran the project with great precision, our volunteers worked with amazing commitment, and the Gueveras represented the ideal family that everyone wanted to help.”
Known as a Blitz Build, the annual project takes place in a single location and results in the construction of a large volume of homes in just one week. Low-income families receive the homes by committing to no-interest loans and providing hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” on their home and other Habitat homes.
For volunteers, the Blitz Build provides an opportunity to serve others in a meaningful way. Most habitat families have undergone hardship and are struggling with housing. Habitat is able to provide affordable housing because of donated labor, materials and funds.
The Detroit project employed a strategy called neighborhood infill. The strategy involves placing homes on vacant lots located in the same neighborhood, thus increasing the appearance and value of an entire area. To reinforce the infill strategy, a new playground was installed in the center of the neighborhood. In addition, Habitat is working with local groups to encourage grants and further investment in the neighborhood.
The BNP Media employees involved in building Home #20 left their office jobs and were greeted only by a foundation and floor base upon arrival at the work site. More than 50 people participated throughout the week. By the end of the first day, volunteers had raised the walls, installed trusses and roof boards, and framed interior walls. Professional contractors then installed rough plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. Over the course of the next five days, volunteers installed insulation, bathtubs, fixtures, sinks, faucets, shingles, doors, windows, siding, trim, floor tile, appliances, cabinets and landscaping. They sawed, drilled, caulked, painted, stapled and nailed. It was noisy, dirty, sweaty work. And yet they loved every minute of it.
“It was an exhausting but very rewarding week,” says volunteer Donna Edwards of BNP's research department. “The memories and friendships made will stay with me always.”
One morning, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Roslyn visited house #20 and presented a signed Bible to the Guevara family. For lunch, the BNP Media work crew was treated to a Puerto Rican-style meal home-cooked by Damaris.
On the final day of the build, the crew and family celebrated together with a ceremony that acknowledged everyone's contributions. The ceremony concluded by handing the home's keys to the Guevara family.
“I was touched by the thankfulness of the house family,” says volunteer Katie Zarrilli, BNP Media administrative assistant. “I was grateful to have played a small part in this.”
For more information on the Habitat For Humanity 2005 Jimmy Carter Work Project, visit www.habitat.org.