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6/21/14 First Day of Summer, First Day Volunteering with Habitat

6/21/14 First Day of Summer, First Day Volunteering with Habitat
Volunteering is not a universal concept, given that every volunteer has distinct motives. On the already lit morning of the first day of summer on June 21, 2014, I attended my first Habitat for Humanity volunteer event. Before I share my experience, I would like to explain who I am. I, Roberto, am interning at Habitat for Humanity Riverside for eight weeks as part of the Bank of America Student Leaders Program. My internship with a nonprofit organization is Bank of America’s way of investing in the community and providing employment opportunities for the youth. My goal in my eight weeks as a Bank of America Student Leader is to develop skills I will soon need in the work force while investing time in the improvement of the community, like this volunteer project.
Intense yard work was to be done on the front yard of Virgil’s home since he is and has been for years unable to upkeep with the work around his home. Virgil is a veteran from the wars in Korea and Vietnam and now finds himself in a state of disability.
The city’s code enforcement cited him for his unkempt front yard. After the case was reported to Habitat for Humanity Riverside, we sent a call out to our volunteers to help Virgil transform his front yard thanks to funding from the City of Riverside’s Community Development Block Grant.

I arrived at the site a little past 7:00 a.m. with Trevor, the project coordinator for this volunteer day, and felt a bit startled about the work that had to be done. I asked myself if enough volunteers would show up to Virgil’s home, and if they would be able to complete tasks. It is not that I was underestimating their ability; I simply had never been on a volunteer site where there were such handy tasks.

Around half an hour after our arrival, volunteers began arriving one after another for a total of 12 volunteers – an impressive number of volunteers to me considering it was a Saturday morning. As I was signing volunteers in and making sure their waivers were filled out, I couldn’t help but notice the politeness and enthusiasm they had. Although Habitat for Humanity provides all tools necessary for the day, some volunteers even brought their own equipment in case it was needed.

After a quick round up and prayer, the volunteer day was kicked off, volunteers selected their tools, and they began restoring Virgil’s front yard. The sight of 12 volunteers actively participating to give a stranger a better living was both an energizing and refreshing scene. There was a sincere care factor that I had not exactly run across in other volunteer events I had taken part of.

As the volunteers yanked overgrown weeds, shoveled away at an entangling ivy vine (which had practically taken a whole chunk of his front yard), mowed the dying lawn, and even trimmed at an intimidating large agave plant, I decided to go around and hopefully discover what motivated them to come out, volunteer and work as hard as they were.

I met Jill who had just moved to California from Missouri in October of 2013. She participated with Habitat for Humanity in her home state and sought to find a Habitat for Humanity in her new home to volunteer with. She found a Habitat affiliate in Riverside and decided to help out with Virgil’s home, making that the first volunteer event with this Habitat that she completed in California.

There was also Brian, a nurse, who had just gotten off an overnight shift at the hospital to volunteer with Virgil’s front yard. Brian decides to constantly volunteer because it makes him feel satisfied helping people that can’t take care of such tasks on their own. Carin, another volunteer,  pulled off a smile the entire day – even when she was exhausted – and claims volunteering is a way of her giving back to the planet after what she has been blessed with in her life.

Jonathan was intensely working the entire day; he was covered in sweat. It was intriguing seeing a person work as much in a volunteer event, so I asked him what his driving force was. In between heavy breathing, he expressed how he had been blessed and wanted to bless others, especially because he was now an owner of a Habitat home in Rubidoux.

Nothing seemed to stop the volunteers and within hours the house had undergone a transformation on the front lawn. It was interesting seeing neighbors slow down as they drove by simply to take a look at the house after its transformation. Virgil’s neighbor even cheered the volunteers on and thanked Habitat for Humanity after noticing the logo on the truck.

The day came closer to an end when a volunteer was trimming an overwhelming bush of bamboo only to discover a hornet’s nest. Soon enough the hornets were swarming around the bush, creating a danger for the volunteer to proceed working in that area.

Final details like shoveling the last waste piles into the heavy duty bin and trimming trees were completed and the project came to an end. Trevor and John thanked the volunteers, and they rounded up for a group picture. The volunteer day had come to an end.

Like I stated in the beginning, volunteering is not a universal concept, but as I learned this day through the volunteers, it has a universal effect: it improves the lives of people in a home, a neighborhood, a city, and even groups of people on a larger scale.

  1. Tanya Perdue07-22-14

    Where do you apply for volunteering?

  2. Christine Morgando07-22-14

    Check out more information on volunteering and how to sign up here: