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Team Up for Habitat!

by Patricia Monahan

Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod (HHCC) holds a special place in my heart. It is because of this wonderful organization that I have a place of my own to call home.

Founded in 1976, by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity was based on Partnership Building. They believed that families in need would work side-by-side with volunteers to build simple and affordable homes. HHCC was formed in 1988. In the early days, volunteers worked on the rehabilitation of rental properties and assisted veterans in need with ramps and other modifications for their homes. They also erected 18 new affordable homes for families on Cape Cod.

Victoria (Vicki) Goldsmith took the reins at HHCC in 1999, as their first full time Executive Director. Keeping the partnership principle in place, she has gone full steam ahead in the past 15 years.

Vicki brought her knowledge of Social Work and Property Management to HHCC, as well as her prior working experiences with Elder Services of Cape & Island and The Orleans Housing Authority.

Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod is one of the most active chapters in Massachusetts. As of August 1, 2014, their chapter has completed 90 homes. They expect to celebrate the 100th home by the fall of 2015.

Over the next five years, HHCC expect to have between 120 and 130 homes under agreement, and they are working closely with the Cape Light Compact on a Solar Panel project to build on their current Green Initiative. Each town on Cape Cod now has at least one home built by HHCC.

Vicki does not take credit for this building boom over the past 15 years. There are many other leading women on the staff of Habitat who have helped in this steady growth.

Wendy Cullinan is the Director of Resources. She works with potential monetary donors, heads the Event Planning Committee and does the grant writing for HFCC.

Dawn Walnut is the Volunteer Services Manager. She is busy coordinating groups for the builds, registration table, and manages the construction schedule. Mary Campbell is the Office Manager and Bri Blakeman is the part-time administrative assistant.

Leedara Zola is Consultant to Habitat for matters of Land Acquisition and Donna Baldwin manages the Habitat ReStore in Yarmouth. To round out the staff are Bob Ryley, Director of Construction, and Desmond McMahan, Lead Carpenter. Everyone wears many construction hats on this team.

No matter how many hats are worn buy the staff, they could not build homes without volunteers and benefactors. These are the Board members and Committee members, Church and Corporate sponsors, Town and private land donations, and each and every layman who steps onto a Habitat build.

Without the outpouring of kindness, time, funding and expertise these volunteers offer, HHCC would not be the success it is today.

Building homes… Changing lives… Preserving community

Wall Raising at the Orleans Habitat for Humanity Women's Build, 2014. Photograph by Frank Almeida

Wall Raising at the Orleans Habitat for Humanity Women's Build, 2014.
Photograph by Frank Almeida

I asked Vicki what pulls this all together. She says it's a "brilliant web of simple excellent concepts that are really embraced by the home owners."

One of the major concepts that is the very essence of Habitat for Humanity is the Sweat Equity. Every homeowner has to contribute a required amount of time to the building of their home. Many of you know how it feels to raise a child to an adult, or perhaps a kitten to a cat, puppy to a dog. You bond with it more closely because you've watched it grow from birth. It is the same feeling you bring to your home by doing sweat equity.

You work side-by-side with the volunteers, each step of the way. You start with the wall raising. Then you saw, hammer and shingle your way to the outer lining of your home.

Then the real fun begins. It can be like grade school all over again, well sort of. Arts and crafts, cut and paste. You hang the drywall. You install the flooring. You paint the walls. Sometimes you even get to wear a bit of paint!

You bond with your neighbors who are building alongside you and you become family with the volunteers. And when the final touches are done, and the home is being dedicated, whether you're the homeowner or a volunteer, a feeling of pride wells up inside you that never goes away.

I've lived in my home for six years now. Each time I walk up my cellar stairs I remember how I built those steps. When I enter my sons' rooms, I can still hear the laughter of the volunteers while installing the drywall.

The giving energy of each person who walked through my doors still resides with us. Whenever I see a volunteer from the site, we hug and reminisce. The feeling is still there for them as well.

"Special moments that happen at unexpected times with great frequency." This is what Vicki says makes each build a unique experience for her. And an experience you should not miss either.

There is currently a woman's build taking place in Orleans, MA. It is in what I was labeling the Arts and Crafts phase, or as Dawn calls it, the interior stage. (Mine sounds more fun!) NO experience is needed to work on the site. Every instruction will be taught to you.

If you don't feel like you can physically work on the site but you want to absorb the tremendous giving energy, you can help by making lunch one day, or working at the registration table. There is no job too small, but pre-registration is required as the crew sizes are limited to the project at hand.

To volunteer for this woman's build (or any future build), you can go to their website and follow the Volunteer Up link.

If you wish to sign up a woman's GROUP, please contact Dawn Walnut at the Habitat office at 508-362-3559 for special instructions.

I have been playing with my pen since I was about twelve years old. Now newly entering the golden years I believe it is time to stop playing and start really having fun.

I am an Accounting Supervisor for ILG/Vacation Resorts International and work at their Hyannis, MA location. While working on financial reports, I am secretly adding up the components of my dream vacation.

I currently enjoy living in Brewster, MA with my three older children and make a vacation out of the beach whenever I can.

Bikram Yoga, nature walks and meditation are my great creativity motivators. I can be reached at