Worth a weekend — or two

Published 1:56 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

By Staff
Habitat for Humanity of Beaufort County recently completed its 14th house, but that couldn’t have happened without the elbow grease of volunteers.
The organization is always looking for other willing workers — and those who roll up their sleeves will find it’s worth the effort.
Building a Habitat house is about so much more than putting on a roof, painting walls or caulking windows. Just ask Filipe Villegas. For the first time, Villegas has a home that truly belongs to him, his wife and their three children. The Villegases’ home on Aycock Street is the latest project finished by the Beaufort County Habitat chapter.
Filipe Villegas, a truck driver and mechanic by trade, says he plans to be the next “builder” to don a Habitat hardhat.
Everybody’s busy.
Between work, school and family commitments, it’s easy to feel that there’s no extra time to do anything. And if there is “extra” time, the tendency to want to guard it is understandable.
But making the decision to give as little as a few hours on a Saturday can make such a difference to another person. The Villegases’ home was built in about five months, with just a small crew that worked three days a week.
But many hands make light work. More volunteers would mean that an area Habitat house goes from drawing board to done a whole lot faster. Or, with more workers, it’s possible that two houses could be under way at the same time.
Some people shy away from Habitat because of the myth that it specializes in “giveaway” houses. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It’s true that Habitat houses are made affordable to low-income families. That’s because there’s no profit in a home’s sale price. But Habitat families are screened, and Habitat beneficiaries have to make down payments and monthly mortgage payments just like every other homeowner has to do. On top of that, Habitat homeowners put “sweat equity” — hours of their own labor — into building their homes.
Some would-be volunteers believe they aren’t cut out for Habitat work. But one needn’t have a background in construction work in order to be put to work.
That could mean carrying windows, drawing chalk lines, laying tile or stenciling a wall. It could mean cleaning up a mess or sweeping a floor. The point is that one doesn’t have to be a construction-site foreman to qualify as a Habitat volunteer.
And while it’s an organization with worldwide reach, Habitat’s impact at the local level is never lost. In the past two decades, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 225,000 homes, housing 1 million people. And 14 of those families chose to live right here near the Pamlico River.
The Beaufort County Habitat for Humanity chapter operates on private donations from individuals, churches and businesses, according to spokesman Frank Belote. But as necessary as the money is, money means little without muscle.
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is one that is worth a weekend of anyone’s time. But we suspect volunteers will find they want to give more than that. That’s because the organization’s impact is measured in more than shutters and floors and ferns and fences. It’s measured in the faces of the families it serves.