Many of you remember the old song, “If I Had a Hammer.” After working with Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build for a day, helping to build a home for a local San Diego family, I’d definitely finish the line by saying, “I’d replace it with a nail gun or a power drill!” Hitting nails in the old fashioned way is just not all that easy, nor all that fun! There is a VERY good reason why, when you walk past a construction site you hear the clacking of nail guns and the whir of power drills. They are one HUGE leap up in productivity from the old fashioned pounding in of the 8 penny or the 16 penny!
Of course, there is plenty-good reason why they don’t give us once-in-a-lifetime types of volunteers nail guns. Because society would be full of one eyed previous volunteer type people wandering around! As it was, it was damned good we were all wearing hard hats at this event! More than one of us was hit in the head by dropped hammers, pieces of wood and other debris!
I have wanted to help with a Habitat for Humanity build for years. I never really knew how to go about it, until the opportunity presented itself a few weeks back. A friend of mine from a networking group I belong to put out the word that she was trying to put together a team of women for a local build day. I immediately jumped at the chance, even though I was already committed to another volunteer opportunity that evening. I knew I might be bone tired for my volunteer ushering with some friends, but I wasn’t going to miss this chance.
Part 1 of volunteering for the build is you need to raise a minimum of $300.00. Raising money for these types of volunteer events used to be pretty easy. Now that there is some sort of MS walk, Breastcancer walk, Brain Cancer walk, Alzheimers event or other needy-cause event nearly every weekend, I find it’s much harder to raise funds. I volunteer for these events 5-10 times a year, and you can only put your hand out so many times before people just don’t even notice any more. Therefore, raising the $300.00 in about 5 weeks wasn’t as easy as I had hoped! I knew that if needed I could donate whatever hadn’t been raised. And my man also offered to put up anything needed, so it wasn’t going to be a deal breaker on participating in the event. The biggest chunk of donations came in over the last couple of days. We only had to kick in about $100.00 total.
The morning of the build, Saturday, May 20 was bright and sunny. Our team met up at a Starbuck’s coffee, located near where most of us lived, so that we could caravan down to Logan Heights, where the build was to take place. We had 2 cars, because I needed to find a YMCA to shower and change at immediately after our build, to go on to event #2! All 5 of us grabbed a coffee and piled into 2 cars to get to the build site before 8:30 AM.
The minute we arrived, we were given our tee shirts and those who had raised over $500.00 were given pink hard hats or a pink tool belt- their choice. I was feeling a little jealous that I had neighter, but, what’s a girl to do?
There were coffee, drinks, croissants and bagels to help ourselves to, until the kickoff announcements took place. We were all chomping at the bit to get the building started.
The site we worked on will eventually be 11 homes for low income families. They are attached- 4 or so to a building, and our assigned unit was Unit #1, a handicapped friendly unit. (Not sure how that’s going to work, as all of the bedrooms are upstairs, but this is not my monkey, and not my circus.)
We all grabbed hammers, tool belts, safety glasses and hardhats and were assigned our 2 male “supers” for the day. And away we went…… One of the first things I noticed was that hammering a nail is just wasn’t as freaking easy as I had thought it would be. Then I was told, we didn’t have big enough hammers, go outside and find some bigger hammers. Unfortunately, no one had mentioned that the buckets held 2 sizes of hammers when we chose our tools, and the big ones seemed to be gone. I was sent to ask Dale, one of the long timers who works on all the local Habitat builds, where to get a larger hammer. After investigating, Dale let me know that none of the large hammers were still available, and after promising I could be trusted with his own personal, FAVORITE hammer, he entrusted me with it.
Let me tell you something. Size does matter! Hitting in a nail with Dale’s big tool was 100% easier than it was with the previous hammer. But now I had to shlep 2 hammers, because I had a pinky swear with Dale that I would not use his hammer to pull out any bent nails. A girl has to live up to her word, so one hammer to put the nails in, one to take them out. (Yes, sometimes the nails just seem to have a mind of their own, and decide to give this wet-noodle performance. they have to go.)
And not to brag, but this lefty found out that she’s ambidexerous when it comes to wielding a hammer! Yep, I can use the left, the right, or when needed BOTH hands to get the job done. My abilities just never cease to amaze me!
I got to use a power saw to cut a few of the beams, and we quickly came to realize how damned heavy a 24 foot beam is! Holy Shit, lift a few of those puppies in place and you know you’ve lifted something.
Our team of women was great. There wasn’t one whinner or wimp amongst them! Everyone worked the whole day, the only complaint was that we wanted a shorter lunch hour, and wished we could have worked a bit longer! Team “Carlsbad Cares” rocked it, I must say!
It got hotter than hell out there by afternoon, I must say! I have a newfound appreciation and respect for construction workers now, no way around it! Geez, when you are up on scaffolding and you are so hot you think for a minute you might faint, it’s not fun!
The most surprising part of the day was when we found out that this job site will take Habitat about 2 years to complete! I had no idea that the jobs take that long. There is a good chance that we might be back here working on the same project for next year’s build! I am going to find out how I can do another day on this building. I would love to see it when it is closer to being completed, and perhaps do some of the finish work or painting!
On site, along with breakfast and lunch, there are volunteers who give each volunteer a 10 minute chair massage. Believe me, those were much appreciated by all! I didn’t realize that I had a few sore arm muscles from hammering, until she started to work them out of me!
At each build day there is a playhouse which is constructed and given out to different community places. The wood is pre-cut, so it is basically assembled and painted. This is the one that one of the teams put together. It turned out really cute!
I was UBER impressed, when at the morning kick off they announced the person and team who had raised the most money for the event. A darling, trim blonde, Kay Grimes had raised over $7200.00 and her team, “The Riveters raised over $17,000 between them.
I was curious as to how this team got together, and how they raised such a phenomenal amount. Kay shared with me that their team leader, Kelly Mercado, put together a group of friends who all work in the building industry. Kay said that raising the amount she did had actually been easy. Here is a quote from her email to me about her fundraising. “There’s no great secret to my fundraising, actually. My job puts me in a position the people (1) open my emails, (2) read them, and (3) want to make me happy. That’s it in a nutshell, so I don’t have any amazing tips, other than always being very appreciative of those who support me.”
It’s great that Kay and her team both had the support they did. I’m sure a big part of the support was because of relationships Kay and her friends have cultivated in their communities. It is good to hear that our local building industry is so supportive of the Habitat endeavors. I know that most of the supplies were donated to this site, quite a lot of them by Home Depot and Lowes. I am looking forward to seeing Kay, The Rivetors and all of the other friends I made this year, again at next year’s event. I know that I will be there!
So, my friends, please consider donating to the cause next year when I put out the plea for donations for this event. It’s certainly a worthwhile event. Not a hand out to a family, but a hand up. The families that are able to purchase the homes give 250 hours each to the building of a Habitat home. They have some skin in the game, and they are able to achieve the great American Dream- home ownership!