At Habitat Monroe, our mission is to provide safe, decent, and affordable housing to deserving families in Monroe County. Everyday we work to help individuals in our community achieve their goal of homeownership. We are proud to have completed over 104 Habitat homes in our county, and this couldn’t have been accomplished without the dedication of our volunteers. Volunteers make up 80% of our workforce, and their presence is imperative for us to function.
All of the volunteer groups that we see on our Habitat-build site are at different skill levels. We have had volunteer teams from Home Depot, Barton Malow Company, and Ford who have more experience with construction. We also have had volunteer groups from local businesses, churches, organizations, fraternities, and universities.
One fact that most individuals overlook, is that volunteering with Habitat is 100% beginner friendly. During every morning orientation, we reiterate that no construction experience is necessary. Our Construction Director ‘Ken’ and Construction Manager ‘Jim’ are well-trained to walk volunteers through every task that they will complete. When volunteers leave the Habitat Monroe buildsite, they leave feeling accomplished and like they’ve learned something new.
One of our volunteer groups that truly embodies the volunteer spirit are the EMU Nurses. Susan Kandes, a Clinical Nursing Instructor at Eastern Michigan University, brings her students out to the Habitat build site to learn a new set of skills, to develop confidence in themselves, to learn more about how Habitat is a resource to the community, and for her students to possibly recommend Habitat as an option to future patients.
We are appreciative of the nurses that took time out of their busy schedules to volunteer with us. We are especially grateful that we were able to interview Susan and two of her students in April about their experience with Habitat.
Susan Kandes with students Beverly & Jennifer. Also pictured: regular volunteer Connie Ammerman.
Susan Kandes is often put on the spot to be a proponent for community partners. In fact, she is so well-versed in our program, she could give the volunteer morning orientation herself! She is a strong advocate for Habitat and is always spreading the word about what we do for our community. On April 13th, we asked her why she believes Habitat is important, and what she and her students gain from volunteering with our non-profit organization.
Why do you think Habitat for Humanity is important?
“I feel like there is a lot that people don’t know or understand about Habitat. For one, I think most people don’t know if they qualify for a Habitat house. I know that my thought process, in the beginning, was skewed in that I thought it was for homeless people only. I didn’t realize that you didn’t have to be homeless to qualify. I learned that Habitat walks people through the application process, helps with financial education, and makes sure that Habitat homeowners can afford to stay in their house; so they don’t end up evicted or go into bankruptcy. I had no idea. The only thing that I knew was that Habitat builds houses for people, and that was it. I realized that there is SO much more to this program. For example, the fact that this program is all grant-funded, and that Habitat can use help from the community.”
From your experiences working with us, why do you believe it is beneficial for people to volunteer with Habitat?
“[Habitat works] very hard every day to find people to partner with, to help [Habitat], so [Habitat] can help the community. This is why I bring the students. I hope that they’re going to spread the word. The idea about community health is to understand what happens in communities, and where your resources are. I want my students to understand that they themselves could qualify for a Habitat house. I want them to have an understanding of what is required for that. If they have a patient who has a medical condition that needs an energy-efficient house, if they have someone who may need a ventilator, oxygen, or other special electric considerations, these houses are built to equip someone with those needs. I know that working in the hospital we have had people that had certain needs. For example, people have needed air conditioners installed in their homes because they had asthma, and couldn’t tolerate the heat and humidity. We used to have to try and find somebody to pay for that. Here you have this beautiful home, maybe now they’ll think, ‘I wonder if Habitat has a home available for someone like this. Maybe we should check into that avenue instead.’ ”
We asked two of Susan’s students, Jennifer and Beverly, about their previous knowledge of Habitat, and what they thought about our program post-volunteer morning orientation.
What would you say you know about Habitat for Humanity?
“I didn’t really know a whole lot about it. I knew that they built houses, but that was all I knew. I was really excited to be able to volunteer. It was one of the only things I was really looking forward to doing.”
“I also didn’t know much about Habitat, I thought that it had something to do with Section 8. Other than that, I really don’t know anything.”
After hearing our Construction Director Ken talk about Habitat and what we do, how do you feel about it?
“It makes me excited for the people that are moving in. It’s so nice for these people.”
“It’s a nice feeling. Now I know that I could recommend this to people at the hospital. Habitat has a lot going on, and many can benefit from it.”
The last question that we asked Susan was regarding why she continues to bring her students out to the build site.
What do you believe your students gain from this experience?
“Habitat helps you to develop some very basic construction skills. It can seem daunting at first to volunteer without initial building knowledge. When I started, I didn’t have those skills either. By coming to the build site, I learned that I could do these things. All I needed was a little instruction, and now I am inspired. I’ve completed projects outside of my comfort zone such as using a chop saw, nail gun, and hitting a nail well. It is empowering to know that you have the ability to learn those skills. After leaving the build site, there are a few things you could do in your own home. A lot of people think that volunteering on a construction site is outside of their skill set. However, it’s not that hard. Ken and Jim teach you everything you need to know, and you don’t have to bring your own tools. That’s especially why I like to bring my students. Not only are they learning about a community partner that is so valuable, knowing how much work they do, and what they provide… they also get to learn a new skill while they are out here and gain some confidence!”
We are so appreciative of volunteer groups like the EMU Nurses, and their Instructor Susan, for being such a positive group to have on the build site. The EMU Nurses have put a significant amount of work into our 105th Habitat home. We send a special thank you to Susan, and her two students, Jennifer and Beverly, for explaining what their volunteer experience means to them. When volunteers come to our build site, they gain new skills, work in good company, and enjoy serving their community. Susan and her students are the perfect examples of what a volunteer experience should look like. We hope that they continue to spread the word about Habitat, so we can continue to support hard-working local families in our community.