Andrea Mcmillian – The Corsair
“I am going to have a house,” said Heather Molina. “It’s always been a dream to me but I didn’t think it would be possible.”
A single parent, Molina and her two daughters are one of the many families in Escambia County who do not have proper shelter. Homelessness, historically a problem in Pensacola, has only gotten worse because of the recession. At this point, many homeless shelters have waiting lists.
That is why the efforts of Habitat for Humanity are so valuable.
“I heard about Habitat for Humanity through my church. It worked out. I’m happy,” said Molina.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, Christian-based housing ministry which builds small, affordable homes for low-income families. To provide the labor needed, Habitat relies on volunteers from all religions, races, creeds and backgrounds.
Since 1976, the international organization has built more than 350,000 houses, now providing shelter for about 1.75 million people.
The homes are not free. To receive a house, a family must spend 300 hours providing labor.
“It’s sweat equity,” said Andrew Baker, who lives in a Habitat home with his wife and three children. “It’s worth it, though. I got my house in 2005, my mandatory volunteer hours are done. Now I’m just trying to help out other people in a similar situation.”
Habitat supplies the tools and material needed for home construction.
“All we need are people who want to help,” said group leader Amelia Omarosa. “No experience is needed, we are more than happy to train people.”
The No. 1 priority at any Habitat work site is safety. Volunteers are asked to bring their own hardhat and gloves. Everyone must also complete a safety quiz before working on a site.
A normal volunteer day runs from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. At the beginning of the day there is a group meeting in which plans are laid out and groups organized for the day’s work.
“Don’t be late. That’s important. The meeting sets up the guidelines for the entire day,” said Omarosa.
“I’ve laid pipes, learned how to frame walls, do drywall, floors, you name it. Anything that I have ever had a question about, they have taught me,” said Baker. “It’s like working, only better, because you’re going at your own pace. It’s a learning experience and a bonding experience. You see that house that you helped build without trying to get something back for yourself. Now that’s a good feeling.”
There are other opportunities for volunteer work with Habitat besides construction. The organization’s ReStores sell donated items at great prices. Also there are several committees which need volunteer help, including ones for family support, family selection, fundraising, and publicity.
“It’s a good way to blow off steam and work for a good cause. I’m helping myself and my community by helping others” said Molina.