Once upon a time in a small city in Georgia, an affluent attorney put his career on pause to found an organization centered on creating “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” Now, nearly four decades later, Habitat for Humanity, recognized as the most successful global not-for-profit builder, is laying a foundation of hope everywhere, even in Stanislaus County.
On June 14, HabitatNOW held a five-hour work project at Modesto’s River Vista housing development. HabitatNOW, a division of Stanislaus Habitat for Humanity, is geared toward youth ages 10-18. Normally, volunteers must be at least 16 years old to build on a Habitat site, but the youth program allows children to get a flavor of some Habitat service early on.
Karissa Wright, the youth volunteer coordinator for Stanislaus County Habitat for Humanity, works to bridge the chasm between interested kids and volunteer opportunities. “Just a heart to volunteer is pretty much the only requirement,” she said.
The heart for service was particularly apparent in 18-year-old Annalee Dias, who spent a good deal of her time raking and weeding at the Saturday event. “I just felt like coming here and helping out,” she said.
Young siblings Taylor, Mia and Reagan Nardello had a slightly different story. The three were helping to fulfill their family’s remaining 160 service hours for the house they received in December. Habitat worked on the Oakland residence’s exterior, landscape and inside painting job.
“It’s been a process, but it’s been a good one,” said the children’s mother, Sharon Nardello.
Added Taylor, “It’s fun having my own room now.”
Another mother, Rachel Ewing, who was volunteering with Habitat for the second time, also brought along her children. “It feels good to be able to do something for someone besides yourself,” she said, echoing the sentiments of her adolescent son.
The experience is summed up quite well by a motto on Stanislaus County Habitat for Humanity’s Twitter page: “Building Homes, Building Hope, Building Communities, one nail at a time.”
Anyone seeking more information about HabitatNOW can call Wright’s office line at (209) 575-4585 ext. 113. No experience is necessary to join.
Henna Hundal is a senior at Turlock High School and a member of the Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom Program