The Volunteer Spotlight is here to honor those who have gone above and beyond for Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio! Thank you to each and every individual and group listed below for your amazing dedication to and support of Habitat MidOhio. We are a better organization because of you!
Habitat wants to shine a special light of thanks on... Cynthia Franklin and Kevin Baxter!
Cynthia Franklin started volunteering with Habitat in 2018 with the Women Build crew. She had known about Habitat for a long time and decided to get involved again once she retired. She had done a little bit of volunteering several years ago, but was unable to commit as much time as she would have liked. Her first impression of Habitat was how awesome it was to be a part of setting up homeowners for long term success. Cynthia has had her hand in the building of 9 different homes in her short time volunteering. She has been able to learn how to do a wide range of tasks and use a multitude of tools. She has been able to apply these skills to her own home.
She treasures her memories with the Women Build Crew. Not only do they regularly volunteer together and help each other on site, they also spend time together off site. “We all went out for lunch and ice cream on a warm summer day. We sat together and talked and laughed.” She is proud of every home she and the Women Build crew have come together to build. Cynthia chooses to volunteer with Habitat to meet new people and to get things done. She is able to work together with others and see amazing progress on the home.
Outside of Habitat, Cynthia is very into sports. She bikes, does weight lifting, and loves to be outside. She hopes to go skydiving and hot air ballooning in the future. She also has volunteered with other organizations like Columbus Literacy Council. She is looking forward to being able to volunteer with MidOhio Foodbank. Cynthia spent over 30 years working with people with special needs. This gave her several opportunities to work on the Special Olympics. Cynthia also loves to spend time with family and friends.
Cynthia’s biggest advice is to “Get involved, especially on the Women Build. Anybody can learn something on site. You can empower yourself and see accomplishments. Don’t be afraid.” We love having Cynthia on our Women Build crew!
Several years ago, Kevin Baxter’s neighbor recruited him to volunteer on an AEP sponsored build and he’s been coming regularly ever since. “I knew of Habitat as an organization, but never really knew what they did or its impact on the families and communities it serves until I actually took part, saw, and most importantly, felt that impact firsthand.” As ac construction volunteer, he gets to see his impact first hand. He enjoys that he gets to work alongside the families and gets to be involved in dedication their home. Habitat is the first organization Kevin has volunteered with and it has definitely impacted him. “In seeing how Habitats mission is carried out and the impact made with each family served and the overall improvement to the community, I have gained a better sense of compassion.” Habitat is a good fit for him as a volunteer since he likes to stay fit and be outside. He also felt very welcomed by the AEP crew from his first day and beyond.
Outside of Habitat, Kevin is kept busy by his job at an engineering and surveying firm and by his wife and two kids. He enjoys golfing with his son, kayaking with his daughter, and evening walks with his wife. He also enjoys playing in fantasy football leagues.
Kevin’s biggest piece of advice is to get involved! “Volunteering helps you connect with other people in and outside your community. It teaches valuable lessons and skills. Most importantly, it gives a sense of fulfillment when you see how your volunteerism impacts a family and their future.” We couldn’t agree more! Thank you Kevin for being such a dedicated Habitat MidOhio volunteer!
Previous Volunteer Spotlights
Brad Martin started volunteer with AEP after seeing an article in the company newsletter in 2003. When he started there were fewer volunteers, but it was, and continues to be, fun. Through site lead, Jim Rosing, Brad has learned many skills. He also realized that he likes to teach as well. When asked about memories of volunteering, Brad had a list; “Every year meeting new people that want to share their talents. Always trying to cheer up folks, even on a bad day. Always worn out at the end of the day – in a good way. Rain or shine, there was always an accomplishment.” Brad also has several memorable accomplishments as a volunteer. Aside from the group being so fun that every time is memorable, Brad recounted having the honor of putting on the house numbers for the first house and putting them on perfectly level. He also considers having nobody getting hurt on site an accomplishment.
“All your talent means nothing, if you don’t share it” Brad remarked. Volunteering with Habitat is a meaningful use of his time because he is able to teach others how to do something they may remember for a long time. When asked for advice for future volunteers, Brad said “You get out what you put in. If you don’t put forth the effort, you won’t have the appreciation for the finished product or the lives you have impacted.”
Outside of Habitat, Brad has been a part of several United Way commercials and chaired several campaigns; including the Light the Night campaign for Leukemia and Lymphoma and the Heart Fund campaign. He also serves as computer support for several senior citizens. Brad served as co-chair for the Steubenville Regatta for two years and spent three years as a math tutor for the Jefferson County GED program. When not volunteering, Brad enjoys working on home repairs, computers, watching sport, thoroughbred horse racing, boating, water skiing, golf, reading, and researching better ways to accomplish tasks. Brad is looking forward to spending time with family now that he has the COVID vaccine.
Once thing that might surprise you about Brad is that telling him he cannot do something will spur him to prove that he can. This is a great mindset to have on site and Habitat MidOhio is thankful for his continued dedication to our mission!
Brent Kinnan worked as an attorney with a corporate practice for 38 years and retired in 2014. After accomplishing all of the work around the house that was on the “to do” list and doing a little travel, he wanted to do something entirely different with my life. “For most of my adult life my hobby was woodworking and carpentry, so I thought that Habitat for Humanity would be a perfect fit.”
Brent started with the Tuesday/Thursday crew in 2015. “On my first day on the job I was immediately surprised by all of the knowledge possessed by both the house leads (some young enough to be my children) and the veteran volunteers.” Despite his background, Brent could see he had a lot to learn. He decided that the best thing that he could do was to take advantage of this opportunity and learn at least one new skill or technique every day. “After six and a half years, I’m still learning, but there is no judgment on a Habitat site. Everyone just does their best within their background and capability.”
Some of Brent’s best memories are meeting the homeowners that he was are helping. “We have had rehab projects where the homeowners were so grateful that they fed us lunch of pizza or fried chicken. We gutted and rebuilt a fire damaged house for a man who was blind but insisted on working with us shoulder to shoulder. On one new build project I worked with lady who was a tireless worker. Together we installed the floor in the bedroom to be occupied by her young son. And, I even got to meet the son afterwards.”
Finally, the best aspect of being a Habitat volunteer to Brent is the comradery. “You meet a great bunch of guys and gals to call your coworkers and friends.” Thank you for your 6 and a half years of dedication to Habitat!
Joan and Byron Bossenbroek
When Habitat MidOhio built its first home, Joan and Byron Bossenbroek went to the dedication and decided to get their church involved through the Clintonville-Beechwold Partnership. Joan served as chair for the partnership for over 20 years. The partnership was then merged with several others to create the Northside Partnership, which dedicated its most recent home in January 2021. After merging, Joan continued to serve on several committees, including family selection and a committee that helped shape the partner family’s requirements and benefits. She also was tasked with tracking the sweat equity hours for partner families until the task was taken over by staff. Byron is also heavily involved in Habitat. Shortly after Joan got involved, Byron started as a construction volunteer on weekends. Since retiring 19 years ago, Byron started volunteering during the week as well. When Joan and Byron started volunteering, Habitat was almost entirely volunteer run. Volunteers did nearly all phases on the home build. Joan recounted working on drywall and mudding. “We would spend more time sanding somebody else’s mistakes away than mudding.” She suggested that this kind of experience helped lead to Habitat contracting out tasks. From the start, Joan and Byron were impressed with Habitat’s dedication to helping people and quality of work. Joan and Byron talked about how blessed they are. “We can still give back and that is a top priority.” When one of their former churches disbanded, they helped set up a fund to help financially support Habitat to a level that they never could have reached prior.
When asked about a favorite Habitat memory, Byron remembered a time while volunteering at the check in desk of a food pantry. He ran into the homeowner of the home that the Clintonville-Beechwold Partnership helped build in 1991. After nearly 10 years, she told Byron that she was about to make the final payment on her home. “That was a neat experience.” Joan has enjoyed getting to know the people who have been so dedicated to helping others at Habitat. In 1996, as a thank you, Joan received an award and gift from Habitat. The gift was a home shaped cookie jar, which she still has. She also recounted an appreciation of “all of the people of different cultural backgrounds that we became involved with through Habitat.” She reflected on how that helped her grow as a person. “We’ve met a lot of people who had needs but were really strong, determined people. I gained a lot of respect for people who have so many hardships.”
Before volunteering with Habitat, Joan and Byron were very active with their church and their involvement led to getting their church more involved with other organizations. They became active in their church’s emergency relief group, World Renewed” and traveled around the US to help rebuild after natural disasters. They also have three very active children who are also involved in community service. When not volunteering, Joan and Byron are very invested in bird watching. After retiring, they set a goal for themselves: to see half of the species of bird in the world, 5,000 species. They reached that goal in 2018 and now they stand at 5,055 species. They enjoyed a lot of travelling to accomplish this goal. They also enjoy spending time with their children and grandkids. They are looking forward to seeing their grandkids and their journeys through college.
When asked about advice for future volunteers, Byron said to “start early” and Joan followed up with “don’t hesitate. You have to make time for it.” They both remarked how rewarding their time with Habitat has been. “it’s been a real joy. I’m sad that I’m getting older and can’t volunteer like I used to.” We are so grateful for the many years of dedication and support Joan and Byron have given to Habitat MidOhio and look forward to many more years!
In June of 2016, Bob Geoghegan was looking for some activities to fill his retirement time and make use of his skills. He knew some people who were involved with Habitat and thought there were many dedicated and hard-working volunteers. He got involved with our Northwest Adopt-A-House group. He is led by volunteer crew lead John Fisher, who “is an excellent crew lead and knows more about building than I ever hope to.” This year has been tough for the crew since they have been primarily building in the winter months. “Working in a house with 6 inches of snow on the floor was a memory I hope not to have again.” This current home has also had its good sides. Bob normally travels a few weeks throughout the year, but has been unable to due to the pandemic. Because of this Bob has been able to be a part of every phase of building so far and will hopefully be able to continue that.
Outside of Habitat, Bob spends a lot of time maintaining his century-old home as he has since 1986. He worked in engineering for 40 years then volunteered in STEM-related education at various levels, including a month long stint teaching physics at Cristo Rey Columbus High School. He continues work at Cristo Rey through online calculus tutoring. Bob also has ridden Peletonia ten times and raised over $35,000 for cancer research at Ohio State. He is a part of a group that does a week long ride each year. He considers cycling his top hobby. He and his wife, Trish also enjoy travelling and hope to resume that soon. They have been able to travel to Ireland, Hawaii, Danube and Rhine Rivers, China, Tibet, Paris, Morocco, and a dozen US trips. He spends a lot of time maintaining and improving his home. A fun fact about Bob is that his mother was born in a log house in Kentucky, just like Abe Lincoln. “Abe is older though.” Bob is looking forward to the COVID vaccine, being able to visit family, and getting back to a sense of normal.
Bob has gained a lot of respect for those who build homes for a living, knowing how exhausting it can be. He has also really enjoyed getting to meet the families who will live in the homes he helps build. Meeting those families encourages him and other volunteers to “take your time and learn to do things right, build it like you’re going to live there.” Thank you for your work Bob and we look forward to the work you will continue to do furthering Habitat’s mission!
Dave Zuehlke first began volunteering with Habitat MidOhio in the late 1990’s through his church and his employer, who sponsored a home. At that time volunteers brought all the tool needed for that day. When he retired, Dave started volunteering 2 or 3 days a week with a regular crew. By this time Habitat MidOhio had begun improving its organization and planning. One way this was done was through Habitat providing tools and a staff lead to teach volunteers what to do if they did not know. “Habitat has come a long way in making this enjoyable for everyone. It is a group of great people that tease each other a lot and have a great time. It sometimes surprised me the amount of work we do get done with all the fun and laughter that we do have. It continues to be a learning experience on each home and we work on with a great lead, Dan, that makes it fun for all and still gets a quality home built. Everyone helps each other in whatever we do in completing the tasks. It is a real team effort in the construction process.” When asked if he had any particular memory that stood out, Dave could not think of any, “There are many great memories.”
As a longtime volunteer, Dave has learned many skills; including methods to frame and side a home and to install stairs, windows and doors. He also has been able to refine his interior finishing skills like laying flooring, hanging cabinets, and adding trim. With these skills, Dave has been able to grow his confidence in completing home repair projects for himself, family, and friends. New skills are not all that is gained while volunteering. Dave also gain a sense of accomplishment each day on site. “At the end of each work day at Habitat, I can look at what we did that day and be proud of what we accomplished that we have progressed a home for a great family one more step to completion. It just feels great to be with others and also help others.”
Outside of Habitat, Dave continues to give back! He has been involved with the Boy Scouts in different positions for 30 years, is a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels once or twice a week, and assists at the Furniture Bank by cutting out pieces that can then be assembled into furniture. When not giving back, Dave enjoys walking, making things for friends and family in his woodshop, working in his yard or home, and travelling and cruising with his wife. He and his wife try to spend as much time as possible with their 5 grandkids.
Dave encourages others to volunteer. “Habitat is what you will make it, but Habitat and the other volunteers help make it a great experience. They will teach you what you need to know to do the tasks of the day. They are also very open that you can come to work as your schedule permits. If you need to miss a few days or weeks to other commitments, like traveling or family appointments, that is no issue. You volunteer as you want and can and are welcome back when you return.” We are grateful for all Dave has done for the community and Habitat. We look forward to many more years serving with him!
Phil Sawich started volunteering in the early 90s with his employer, AEP. He was able to work on several new builds and deconstruction projects. After a hiatus from volunteering, he returned in 2015 upon retiring from AEP and began volunteering with the Hilliard Adopt-A-House group, as well as with AEP and DAKlectric. Over the years that he is volunteered, Phil has seen Habitat MidOhio change and become more organized and able to provide a high quality home to partner families. As a volunteer, Phil feels that he grows and learns new things every time he is on site. “Everyone has a little bit different spin on how things can be done. From that, I keep the best practices and use them going forward. This also helps me to guide other volunteers in new ways of doing things.” When asked what makes volunteering with Habitat a meaningful use of time, Phil mentioned a common Habitat phrase: “It’s a hand up, not a hand out.” Our partner families work on their own homes. Phil feels that this helps them have more investment in the process and helps them grow.
Outside of Habitat, Phil is a frequent volunteer at the Greek Orthodox Church where, at least twice a month, he helps prepare meals for those experiencing homelessness. He helps with festival preparation and execution. He also helps facilitate an outreach program that provides a meal and a quiet place for college students to come study. Phil loves to cook and make bread. He learned how to make bread from an artisan bread maker that was over 90 years old. Phil loves to be able to spend time with his daughter, son-in-law and their3 year old son. “My grandson keeps me young and engaged. He constantly reminds me of things that are new to him and I get to see a new world through his eyes.”
Phil suggests to anybody interested in volunteering to “come and learn. Even if you have never done anything like this before, you can learn. Don’t be afraid to try. We all learn something new and it just might be about the person next to you.”
Jim Siebert started volunteering with Habitat MidOhio on occasional Saturdays through his Church, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, many years ago. After retiring in 2015, he started volunteering regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was clear to him that there is a critical need for affordable housing and that Habitat can change people’s lives. By volunteering, he has a hand in that. “I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I'm helping provide affordable housing; a stable home environment in a house has an extremely positive impact on the quality of life for the adults and children.” Jim is a part of our “A-Team”, a group of retirees that volunteer together on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. They “get along very well; there is a lot of comradery.” His volunteering has given him the chance to learn new skills and more about home construction. He has been able to apply what he has learned to his DIYing. While volunteering has been a great learning experience, the fact that Jim can help provide affordable housing is what makes it a meaningful use of his time.
Outside of Habitat, Jim is very involved with his church and has been for over 45 years. Professionally, Jim was a civil engineer and has used those skills as a member of the local chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) since 2009. EWB works to improve the standard of living in third world countries through small infrastructure projects. They recently helped build a 3-room school building in central Guatemala. His chapter helps raise funds for materials and local skilled laborers, then helps build the project. Jim has been able to travel to Central America 8 times through EWB. While Jim’s sons were in Scouts, he served as an assistant Scout Master. Both sons were able to become Eagle Scouts. He always has a DIY project to work on when he is not volunteering or travelling with his wife. They enjoy travel in the US and Europe, especially to Minneapolis to visit their younger son and young grandchildren.
Jim suggests to “try it, you’ll like it” to anybody interested in volunteering. Thank you for your many years of volunteering with Habitat MidOhio and your commitment to making the world a better place!
Upon retirement from his IT position at Columbia Gas, then NiSource, Terry Baughman was looking for something to do. He saw an article in the gas company credit union’s newsletter regarding the sponsorship of a Habitat home in Columbus. Terry came out to volunteer on site one day and through chatting with longtime volunteer and site lead, Ben Freudenriech, decided to continue coming out. In 2005, Terry spent most of that summer on site and eventually became a regular volunteer with Habitat MidOhio’s Tuesday and Thursday Crew.
Prior to volunteering, Terry held several misconceptions about Habitat. Like many others, he thought homes were given away. He also did not realize that you do not need to know what you are doing to volunteer on site. In his 15 years volunteering at Habitat MidOhio, Terry has learned that Habitat homeowners both work towards and pay mortgages for their homes. Working with the partner families is one of his favorite parts of being a Habitat volunteer. “The memories that stand out are working with the families and getting the feeling of how appreciative they are and how hard they work.” Another thing Terry has learned as a volunteer has been more patience. “Things on site don’t always happen as fast as you’d like.” This patience has been tested as Terry undergoes treatment for pancreatic cancer. Terry has been keeping himself busy with fellow volunteer, Don Spoelker, by planning various jigs that can be used on site to create a safer environment. This has been a practical way he can continue to be a problem solver off site. Working with other to solve problems on site is another one of Terry’s favorite parts of volunteering. He also has been able to do brief drive by visits to site to those he has built friendships with while volunteering. It is clear that volunteering is seen as a meaningful use of Terry’s time. In addition to working with the families, Terry enjoys the friendships he has gained, the joy of seeing something take shape, and seeing the improvements being made into a home. “It really is a rewarding experience in so many ways. It makes you feel valued again.”
Outside of Habitat MidOhio, Terry is involved with many affiliates while travelling. He has volunteered in Arizona, Mississippi, and as a colligate challenge leader. When not volunteering, Terry enjoys woodworking, Ham Radio, and traveling in his RV with his wife, Sue. Terry and Sue have grandkids that they love dearly, though only seeing them through Zoom has been difficult. They are looking forward to trips to the Colorado River for rafting and to Manitoba, Canada to see polar bears and the Northern Lights.
When asked for advice for future volunteers, Terry suggest to “Just give it a try, you’d be amazed at what you will learn.”
Habitat MidOhio volunteers often start as a part of a group. This was the case for Vicki Nichols. She started with the Hilliard Adopt-A-House when she retired about 10 years ago. She chose to volunteer with Habitat because “The Habitat mission embodies what I think a mission’s work should be about. I don’t like giving things to people because it doesn’t have a long term effect. The Habitat view of working and learning how to maintain a home and be a good neighbor is an essential part of making the world a better place.” She has mostly worked on new build construction projects and a little bit on deconstruction projects and with our ReStores. “I liked Habitat from day one. I like the construction and I liked the group of people I was working with.” Since beginning as a volunteer, Vicki has shifted to be a part of our Women Build crew. Initially Vicki liked being involved in all aspects of the construction process. She has gravitated more towards teaching other, giving new volunteers tips, and making sure others have a task that they want to do. The best advice she can give volunteering is that “volunteering with Habitat is not just about the work, it is about the opportunity to share with other volunteers and build relationships with them. Take the time to talk and relate to them, you never know what you might learn.”
Outside of Habitat, Vicki is a part of an Early Response Team through the United Methodist Church. This team goes into disaster areas soon after a disaster to help with clean up and stabilization of houses. She also participates in the Disaster Recovery Team by going in to help rebuild homes affected by a disaster. Vicki enjoys sports and being active as well. She is a frequent biker, hiker, and walker. She and her husband travel often as he is a background actor for TV and movies. They recently returned from a trip to Atlanta where her husband was a background actor for the TV show Ozark.
We are grateful for the past 10 years Vicki has volunteered with Habitat MidOhio and are looking forward to many more!
Don spent 35 years as a pharmaceutical sales team member at Pfizer Inc. and got to see improvements on quality of life and, in some cases, lifesaving procedures. He knew that upon retirement he wanted to continue in that same spirit: improving quality of life. After attending an event to learn about volunteer opportunities at Habitat, Don was surprised to see just how many volunteer opportunities there were and the scope of the mission, which goes beyond just building houses. He was impressed and signed up to volunteer twice a week that day. During his professional career, he didn’t have a lot of time to use his hands to make things happen. As a construction volunteer, that changes. Don, over the past 17 years, has been able to see the results of his, and others’, labors; and the eventual smiles on the faces of the new homeowner family. His time at Habitat has also allowed him to grow to accept change because “with change comes patience and understanding.”
Despite having limited free time in his career, Don found time to volunteer as a little league baseball coach, baseball umpire, and in later years, President of his Home Owners Association and President of the Westerville North Athletic Booster Club. Don reflected on his time volunteering in his youth and how it relates to his time now at Habitat. “My experiences as a volunteer taught me a lot about life beyond the environment I lived in. In the 1950’s when I was 13 or 14 years old, I volunteered at a weekly Church Bingo in Louisville, Kentucky. Unfortunately, at that time segregation still existed and I volunteered in the gym where the people of color had to sit. That experience taught me to treat everyone the same. That is the same experience I have witnessed with Habitat for Humanity. As Habitat’s mission statement begins, ‘Seeking to put God’s Love in Action HFHMO…’ has no room for discrimination whether a volunteer or a future homeowner.”
Another key part of Don’s volunteer experience at Habitat MidOhio has been his work on a Critical Home Repair Project for a military veteran. “I have never forgotten what a Veteran sacrifices for all of us. Volunteering with HFH to help repair this Veteran’s home was the ‘feel good’ feeling that had me wanting to do more.” This project is a way for him to continue his service 52 years after his time with the US Army Reserves, which included 6 months of active duty in a medical clinic pharmacy in Ft. Lewis, WA where Don witnessed the suffering of those returning from duty in Vietnam.
Outside of his time at Habitat, Don shares his time, talent, and treasure with the Homeless Families Foundation, Smokey Row, and Dublin Food Pantries. He also enjoys following Buckeye football and basketball as a season ticketholder, travelling, attempting projects in his beginner’s basement workshop, and playing Scrabble and other word games with his family. He and his wife, Betty, have 5 grandchildren, who are ages 13 to 21.
Don encourages others to volunteer. His words of advice are to “enjoy it, value it, and share the spirit of it with others.” Whether it is a big and memorable accomplishment like Don’s two-week Habitat build in Awaso, Ghana, West Africa in 2005 or the day to day enjoyment of “comradery, new friends, shared values, and an appreciation for Wendy’s and Subway at lunch to share adventures, family life and stories from the past,” Don has enjoyed his time volunteering at Habitat MidOhio and we greatly appreciate him sharing his time and talents with us!
Kirk began volunteering with Habitat MidOhio through his employer’s, American Electric Power, community volunteer program thirteen years ago. In that time, Kirk has been able to invest his time and energy into a mission he is proud of, providing affordable housing. He especially appreciates the emphasis on the “hand up, not a handout” approach. He sees it as a holistic way to ensure partner families can be successful homeowners. Kirk enjoys working with his hands, helping others, and working as part of a team. As a construction volunteer, he gets to do all three. He also has been able to improve his construction skills, “or at least I’d like to think my constructions skills have improved” he joked. He is particularly grateful for the comradery he has developed with other volunteers over the years, as well as the opportunity to be a part of building affordable, energy efficient and quality homes for homeowners to call their own. Kirk is currently working on a home for his thirteenth family.
Outside of Habitat, Kirk spends most of his time with family, at work, or at church. Kirk encourages others to “just do it” when it comes to volunteering. We hope Kirk continues to enjoy sharing his time with us and are thankful for his continued support.
Mary first volunteered at Habitat 20 years ago through Nationwide Insurance. When her job and home life (raising 3 children as a single parent) got too hectic, she stopped volunteering for a while. Prior to her recent retirement, she needed to find useful activities to engage in after she quit working. She narrowed my various interests to basically three – Habitat, the Columbus Zoo and legal aid. Habitat was of special interest due to the physical activity which she knew she would need after sitting at a desk for so many years. Another big influence in her interest in Habitat was a mentor of hers that had worked many years at Habitat before moving to a retirement center in Willoughby OH, James (Jim) W. Boyd Sr. Prior to COVID, she would visit him and she described how his eyes would light up when they discussed Habitat activities. “I think he appreciated his part in encouraging my involvement” Mary reflected.
After retirement, Mary began her Habitat involvement working mostly on the repair projects. “I enjoyed those projects because you almost always get to meet the people you are helping and I think I more directly felt the assistance I was providing.” More recently, at the recommendation of one of the project leads, she has worked with the Women’s Build team. “This past year’s group of women got along extremely well. We have maintained our friendship during the separation through e-mails and frequent texts. These communications have been very supportive during this time of isolation.” Mary feels that volunteering at Habitat has probably given her more than she has given Habitat. She’s learned many helpful skills that she can use around her house. She also learned things that she later decided she did not want to do for herself, like digging up storm drainage pipes and replacing them. “I hired that done at my house after being up to my shoulders in mud on a repair project!”
Mary has always felt that she and her children have had everything they need and some of what they want. Through her involvement with Habitat, she has seen how others may not be as fortunate. She also has seen that lack of “things” don’t mean anything when it comes to a person’s character. “I think I always knew that intuitively but Habitat has reinforced that knowledge. I wish others in the world could appreciate that.”
Due to COVID, Mary stays at home now most of the time. Her favorite pastime activity that she has had to give up is going to movies. Thankfully, Mary has several streaming services on her TV. “Sitting in a dark theater and watching a newly released movie was my pleasure. (Yes, newly released. I usually couldn’t/wouldn’t wait more than a week to see a new release.) My motto was “Few movies are worse than no movie at all!” Now that movie theaters are open I haven’t felt safe enough to venture out. One day!!” She has ventured out to drive to each of her children’s houses in the past 4 months. She reminisced on what she considers her scariest trip “through NYC to my daughter’s house on Long Island. But for wonderful talking GPS no doubt I would still be on the Central Park Expressway. I certainly could not have read a map and driven at the same time. When I was doing it I said “never again” but now, well maybe!” Any day now she will be heading to her son’s house Pennsylvania to welcome the upcoming birth of her 6th grandchild to make 3 boys and soon 3 girls. That drive is one Mary is excite to make.
Mary wishes to end with this advice: “The only thing left to say is something that matters more than anything right now – PLEASE VOTE!!!!”
Columbus Gives Back
Columbus Gives Back is a local nonprofit organization that partners with different Central Ohio organizations to provide social volunteer opportunities. They are a completely volunteer-run group that is truly dedicated to giving back to the community, and we have been thrilled to work with them over the past 10 years.
Columbus Gives Back has been volunteering in the ReStores since soon after their founding in 2009, coming out on the second Saturday of every month to help process donations, assist customers, and work on store projects. CGB started helping out on Habitat build days in 2018 and has recently answered the call to assist with other events like Vintage Market Days, deconstructions, and the Spring ReStore Craft Day. Richard Sanders, Event Leader and former board member for CGB, has been volunteering with Habitat MidOhio for four years now, both in the stores and out on site, and he keeps coming back because “there’s never a boring day!” He notes that he has met some of his best friends while volunteering with Habitat and has had the chance to learn new skills.
For future volunteers who might be intimidated to volunteer on a construction site, Columbus Gives Back says, “Don’t be! Even if you have zero experience in building or construction, you’ll be more than welcome to volunteer, and it is always a great time!” Richard says that he still learns something new every time he volunteers with CGB at Habitat! He also notes that it has been meaningful to volunteer with Habitat because whether you’re actually swinging a hammer or working in the ReStores, you’re helping to build a home for someone.
CGB has collaborated with over 250 organizations throughout Columbus since their founding, and we are so pleased that they have included Habitat MidOhio in that number. We missed working with them while the ReStores were closed, and we are so glad to have them back! Thank you for all that you do with us at Habitat MidOhio and for the Columbus community at large. Columbus is lucky to have you!
Another volunteer that is relatively new to the Habitat MidOhio team is Steve Weygandt. He first got involved with Habitat for Humanity about 10 years ago while volunteering with his church on a build site. Over the years, Steve would volunteer sporadically as time allowed on weekends or vacation days. Upon retiring in the summer of 2019, he started volunteering regularly during the week. Soon, Steve joined a crew of regular volunteers called the Tuesday and Thursday Crews and has become a consistent member of their team.
Since joining the Tuesday and Thursday Crews, Steve has worked on a variety of projects in North Linden and has contributed over 200 volunteer hours to these homes. During this time, Steve has enjoyed learning from other volunteers, noting, “Having only average skills as a home DIY’er, those on the work crews were very helpful and patient in providing me hints and help on the various tasks of the work. I have enjoyed the work and the camaraderie with the ‘regulars.’ Everyone works very hard to help each other, ensuring a quality job is done while keeping it fun.”
Prior to retirement, Steve worked as a supervisor of a fleet of semi-truck drivers for 25 years. He also spent 17 years as a manager of a building material center, so Habitat gives him a chance to return to the world of building materials. Outside of Habitat, Steve is an active member of his church and enjoys reading, gardening, and spoiling his grandkids. Now that he has joined his wife in retirement, Steve happily reports that they “have not yet driven each other crazy!”
Steve knows first-hand that a willingness to work and learn is all that is needed to get started volunteering with Habitat. From there, “the veterans will help you learn as you go!” We are so glad that Steve has found his place on the Tuesday and Thursday Crews. Thank you for all that you do!
Although Craig is relatively new to the Habitat MidOhio team, he has already made a great impact, especially with our home repair program. Craig recently retired as the Fire Marshal of the Genoa Township Fire Department and was looking for something to “keep him out of trouble.” He chose to volunteer his time with Habitat because it brings two of his loves together: serving people and construction.
After volunteering at a few different work sites, Craig found his niche volunteering on repair projects with HFHMO project lead Tom. In less than a year, Craig has put in over 300 hours at various repair sites around Columbus. One of the first repair projects that Craig worked on started out as a siding replacement job. They soon discovered, however, that much of the underlying wall structure had rotted away, and the project became much more in-depth. Craig explains, “Much of what I have learned in repair is that you just never know what you are going find when you start the repair. Lots of damage is often hidden.”
By working on owner-occupied repair projects, Habitat volunteers get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the families being served by the program. Craig reflects, “My eyes have been opened to ‘how the other half lives’ and the importance of what Habitat does. I was unaware of some of the challenges that our clientele have to overcome; things like theft, lack of follow-through of contractors, lack of knowledge about home maintenance, and general economic hardship.”
Outside of Habitat, Craig volunteers with Preservation Parks of Delaware County and is an active member of his church, where he plays guitar on the praise team. He also hosts a monthly music night in his barn, providing a space for musicians to gather to sing and play together. His hobbies include music (guitar, banjo, and violin), IT (desktops, servers, and networking), electronics, and photography—which he sometimes puts to use on Habitat sites!
When asked to provide words of wisdom for future volunteers, Craig responded, “Get in there and get your hands dirty. The leads are good at finding tasks for all abilities. Moreover, if you are not careful, you just might learn something.” We are very grateful to have Craig as a part of our home repair team and look forward to many more projects in the future!
Scott and his wife have been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for over 15 years, starting in Des Moines and continuing with MidOhio when they moved to Columbus. Their employer, Nationwide, is a strong supporter of Habitat and community service. Scott was impressed by the passion and dedication of the MidOhio staff and loves the philosophy of the homes and repairs being “a hand up, not a hand out.”
Scott found it easy to volunteer with many different opportunities with MidOhio such as helping on new builds, Rock the Block events, and various committee work. He is a framer by trade, so he especially enjoys opportunities to work with wood. His day-job at Nationwide is as a Project Manager, so when The Playhouse Project was being launched, he knew designing and building the kits while also leading the Construction Pros would be a perfect fit for his skills and passions. He has taken the role head-on and has lead his crew in building over 50 kits in the past 6 months!
One of his favorite memories from volunteering with Habitat was the first Playhouse that was built by MidOhio as a pilot. The MidOhio Board members served as the volunteers, so they too could have a hands-on experience. That first playhouse was designed with a princess theme for a little girl named Joelle. Scott recalls, “It was a very special moment for all of us when we unveiled her new playhouse for her. The look on her face was priceless - she was delighted with her new ‘castle’!” Another memorable accomplishment was going a whole session without Deb having to remind him to put on his safety glasses!!
In reflecting on his growth as a volunteer, Scott mentioned his appreciation of the various skill sets that need to come together to make an effort like The Playhouse Project successful. He stated, “I would like to thank the following team members for making this possible: EJ for his leadership and support of this fabulous staff and the future ride in the Stearman; Brian for his vision, enthusiasm and words of inspiration; Erik for his guidance and support; Deb for making sure the volunteers are complying with health and safety guidelines; Jeff for the ordering and the delivery of materials; Phil for his assistance on the assembly instructions, by adding images; and of course Maggie and Lauren, who keep me focused on our deliverables, schedules, and assistance in making this possible. I would also like to thank my team members, Adam Thompson, Bryan Tamulonis, Matt Hayes, George Kalec and Keith Dufrane. I couldn’t have met our timelines without their help.”
Outside of work and volunteering with MidOhio, Scott has many talents and passions. He is working on remodeling a 100+ year old home in Marble Cliff and likes the challenge of working with vaulted ceilings and plastered walls. He also enjoys downhill skiing, boating, motorcycling and snowmobiling. He loves working on classic cars, and is a private pilot. He recently took welding classes at a local vocational school and plans to apply his new skills to replace the floorboards on the 1970 VW Bug he’s restoring. Another hidden talent of his is baking. A first generation Greek, he enjoys making some of his mother’s fabulous recipes including baklava and other pastries for the holidays. He even has friends who start calling in October to make sure they’re still on the list to receive his holiday treats!
To future volunteers, Scott says, “Do not be intimidated by the idea of working on a construction site, or with tools that you may have never used before. Habitat’s utmost concern is your safety, and they do a fabulous job to ensure you are assigned to a role that suits your skills and comfort level.”
We are thrilled to have Scott as a leader on our Playhouse team and we can’t wait to bless more families through the work he has done. He reflected on his service saying, “I am blessed to have a roof over my head, a warm place to rest, and a safe place to play. It makes me feel good to share my talents and time to help others achieve their dream of having their very own home, and a sense of safety and security.” Thank you, Scott!
Deb and Jeff Matthaes
Deb and Jeff Matthaes first became involved with Habitat for Humanity by volunteering with our neighbors at the Delaware and Union County affiliate. After a friend invited them to help out in 2015, they volunteered at the Delaware ReStore for 3.5 years before joining us here at MidOhio in the spring of 2019. Since then, the Matthaeses have been a wonderful and steady presence at the ReStores and have even jumped in to help out a deconstruction and at Vintage Market Days.
From June 2019 through January 2020, many of the ReStore volunteer opportunities revolved around the opening of our newest store on Bethel Road, and Deb and Jeff were both extremely helpful throughout that whole process. They note that one of their most memorable accomplishments with Habitat so far has been being a part of that opening, helping both with interior demolition at the very beginning as well as with finishing touches at the end. From clearing debris to assembling racking and stocking shelves, these two were there for it. Prior to ReStore Bethel Road opening, Deb and Jeff helped out regularly on Saturdays at ReStore Westerville Road where they enjoyed assembling furniture, stocking shelves, assisting customers with purchases and donations, and organizing store sections. They have since transitioned their regular Saturday shifts from Westerville Road to Bethel Road, lending their time and talents to the new store.
The Matthaeses note that they enjoy volunteering with Habitat MidOhio and the ReStores because it helps hardworking people in need and promotes the reuse and recycling of goods. They also note that “volunteering with Habitat has made us realize that there is a great need for affordable housing in Columbus” and that “our volunteer hours helps Habitat to efficiently use their resources to offer affordable housing to families in need.” They are absolutely right, and it means so much to us that they are willing to help contribute toward this mission.
Away from Habitat, Deb and Jeff are both still working full time and enjoy spending spare time with family. They like to travel and especially love to visit Disney World. Deb and Jeff plan to continue volunteering for many years to come, and we couldn’t be more glad to hear it. Thank you for all of your help!
As an AEP employee, Bill first heard about Habitat at work back in 2006, when AEP was sponsoring a wall build at the Ohio State Fair. He signed up to help, and since then, he has done a little bit of everything! For the past 13 years, he has helped build the AEP-sponsored home every year and has recently begun helping on other projects in the off-season.
Over the years, Bill has learned a lot while volunteering on site, although he’s too modest to call himself an expert! He enjoys working with and learning from the other volunteers, particularly the AEP House Lead, Jim Rosing. He also values the time spent working alongside the future homeowners and the opportunity to work in some of the same neighborhoods year after year.
In addition to working with fellow AEP employees and retirees on site, Bill has also gotten to work with many other wonderful volunteers who represent various companies and organizations in Central Ohio as well as students from the Ohio State University.
In his spare time, Bill enjoys reading and journaling. On site, Bill can often be found doing some of the thankless jobs that are nevertheless essential to keeping a site running smoothly, like cleaning up debris and using a magnet to keep the area clear of loose nails and screws. Many of us have Bill to thank for preventing flat tires or injuries!
Bill’s words of wisdom to future volunteers? “Remember that the work we do today means that the world is better than yesterday.” We are so grateful to have Bill’s positivity and work ethic as part of the Habitat team!
Jordan first got involved with Habitat about 6 years ago while in college at the University of Kentucky, through one of his fraternity brothers who organized builds for the local Habitat affiliate. During his time in college, Jordan participated in about 7 or 8 Habitat build days in Lexington and also went on a week-long Habitat trip to Deland, FL during spring break. During that trip, his group was able to transform a concrete slab into a fully framed house, all while working alongside the partner family. Jordan credits this experience as the moment that he first fell in love with Habitat’s mission, noting, “It is a process that brings diverse people together, creates thankful hearts all around, and empowers human potential.”
After moving to Columbus, Jordan attended an interest meeting about our Habitat Young Professionals chapter, and it wasn’t long before he took on the role of HYP Chair! When he isn’t busy attending HYP build days or organizing happy hours, Jordan enjoys fly fishing, being outdoors, exercising, and reading. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and dog and finding opportunities to build relationships. Outside of Habitat, Jordan is also a member of the Columbus Rotary, Columbus Young Professionals Club, and the US Bank Development Network (although he has managed to get these groups involved with Habitat too!).
One of Jordan’s favorite memories as a Habitat volunteer centers around a home dedication for a Muslim family, where the primary house sponsor was Thrivent Financial, a Christian organization. He explains, “About 40 people were in attendance and everyone was holding hands, praying, and shedding tears… one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.” Jordan is also proud to have built a gazebo at his house, a feat he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the skills he’s picked up by volunteering with Habitat.
Thank you, Jordan, for your commitment to engaging more young professionals in Habitat’s mission!