By Debra Thomas
When did you serve with HFHMGC? My first time serving with HFHMGC was during the HFH AmeriCorps build-a-thon of 2008, partnered with the JRCWP in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a week that changed my life and inspired my second year of service with HFHMGC. I was an Assistant Site Supervisor for the Construction Department for 1 year.
What do you remember as the best thing about work? Meeting and working with hundreds of amazing volunteers from all over the country, meeting and working alongside the partner families, learning how to lead volunteers, learning how to build houses and coming away with some amazing friends!
About the Coast? The cultural immersion; living in and interacting with, a wonderful local community. My first exposure to the Gulf Coast (JRCWP 2008) I remember people stopping me a lot to express their gratitude for HFH’s work along the coast. I remember the warm welcome and hospitality. I’ll never forget the various encounters I had with the locals and various partner families, learning of what they had lost during Katrina. I appreciate and understand better now, the needs of the GC community. I enjoyed the time that I spent immensely. I absolutely love the coast – it’s a lovely place to call home. I will always find my way back there to volunteer and further contribute to its revitalization.
In what way did the experience change you? Well, a lot of personal growth, that’s for sure; this experience encouraged some real introspection. I discovered a lot about myself. I developed an understanding for the needs of the local community in which I served, but also how to assess the needs of any community and coming up with innovatirve ways to address them. I learned how to be a better leader, how to collaborate better with others, and how to build houses! My experience was one I will never forget!
Please share a story of something meaningful to you: When I served with HFHMGC, I volunteered on occasion with the Family Services committee. I didn’t make many home visits, probably 3 or 4 tops. One of those home visits was for a man who had lost everything during Katrina and was living out of a government issued trailer. The last house I built with HFHMGC was his house. Going from his pre-acceptance, to application approval, to watching him look over the blueprints to his future-house, to working on his home– was an experience I’ll take with me forever. When I started working at Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Georgia over a year ago; on my first day I was given a tour of the HQ and walked by a poster; it was of this homeowner. Not in a group even, just him – smiling big and bright!! I knew I was where I was meant to be. When I was shown to my office later that day, there it was again – the same poster just outside my office door. I see it each day when I go to work and when I leave; my daily reminder of what I do and why I do it.
Would you recommend serving with AC/Vista? Absolutely – I have been and always will be an advocate for the AmeriCorps program, and all that CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service) has to offer.
What about HFHMGC? Yes! Absolutely. I will always be partial to HFHMGC and always do recommend it every chance I get.
Where are you now? Living and working in Americus, Georgia (the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity). I am the Collegiate Challenge Associate at Habitat for Humanity International.
Did HFHMGC &/or AC Vista help prepare you for your new job? Absolutely. Serving with HFHMGC provided me with an invaluable learning experience that has had a tremendous impact on my life and career path.
Do you see yourself volunteering in the future? In any particular field? Yes – I have made my way back to the Gulf Coast to volunteer with HFHMGC occasionally and within the past year. Most recently, I volunteered with a Global Village team led by John Mitchel in June 2011. I look forward to volunteering in a similar capacity in years to come. Additionally, working in the Collegiate Challenge program at HFHI, I have the opportunity of sharing my experience with high school and college teams planning their alternative break trips year round.
Is there anything you would like to add? I <3 HFHMGC!
Aw! Stephanie, we love you too!