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... Scott Baharis!
Scott Baharis, Playhouse Project Volunteer
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!
Previous Volunteer Spotlights
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!
Tom has been involved with Habitat for Humanity on and off for about 11 years. He first caught the “Habitat bug” while living in Wilmington, Delaware, and was a regular volunteer for the New Castle County Delaware affiliate for two years. Since becoming a regular here at the MidOhio affiliate, Tom has put in over 700 volunteer hours, mainly on new home construction and deconstruction projects for the ReStore. Most recently, he has been a regular presence on Minnesota Ave, working alongside project lead Mattias and other volunteers to build two new homes.
Tom enjoys the “hands on” experience of volunteering with Habitat. Some of his favorite memories include hearing the stories of each partner family and seeing how those families’ lives are bettered though Habitat’s efforts. He also finds it interesting to see the whole process come together— “how the different project leads, support staff and administration make it all happen with the number of volunteers involved.”
Prior to retirement, Tom worked at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for over 30 years and spent several years as a consultant. Outside of Habitat, he is a member of several professional organizations related to his past work. He also enjoys tending to his garden, feeding humming birds, visiting family, and trying to stay in shape.
Tom’s words of wisdom for future volunteers are simple: “Give it a try, you will enjoy it.” He notes that all skill levels are needed for the various projects, and that volunteering with Habitat is also a great workout!
A huge thank you to Tom for choosing to share his time and talents with Habitat for Humanity!
Keith Gatewood first volunteered with Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio about 10 years ago on a few builds in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood, and he’s enjoyed volunteering Habitat on occasion ever since. After recently taking a more reduced role at work, Keith has found the ReStore to be a good option, and we’re glad that he’s found it fulfilling so far. When asked what he likes best about volunteering, Keith says, “It’s the small things. It’s having the feeling of getting something done so that the staff doesn’t have to worry about it. What I like best is that it’s a little different each time I come in.”
Keith was a huge help this past summer at the annual Flower Sale, and remembers how the rain made things interesting… “It was a monsoon out there. I will never forget that day, carrying plants out to people’s cars…” We’re glad he didn’t let that scare him away! In addition to ReStore, we can always rely on him to fill in at other events, including the Dispatch Home and Garden Show, the Home and Remodeling Show, and Vintage Market Days. If you have even one doubt about whether you should volunteer or not, just listen to Keith: “It’s for everyone! Anybody can do it—[the staff] will find something for you. Come in and give it a try!”
Away from Habitat, Keith is a Hospice volunteer and an active member of St. Thomas More Catholic Church where he helps prepare and serve monthly meals at the YWCA and Faith Mission. He is also an incredibly talented woodworker, having started in high school building furniture and bookcases. He has since moved on mostly to decorative sports logos and American flags and has made hundreds of them to give away to friends and family. Keith has been in the business of software sales for 30 years now, and he is working toward retirement at the end of the year. We are so thankful for his continued support, and we’re hoping that ReStore and Habitat can continue to be part of his life as he heads into retirement!
Chaz got involved with Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio just over a year ago when he came out to volunteer with Nationwide. For that day, he participated on a build site during Winter Warriors season, and he’s been steadily acquiring more and more Winter Warriors swag ever since. It’s been wonderful to see him grow from a quiet to active participant and then to a knowledgeable and confident lead on our deconstruction projects. He’s seen the Habitat process from new build site to dedication and has seen what a difference a new home makes to a family and to a neighborhood.
In more recent months, we have come to rely on Chaz as a volunteer lead for ReStore deconstruction projects. Chaz fondly remembers his first solo deconstruction as a lead when he had a group of OSU students volunteering with him. He noted, “When they arrived, they did not seem very motivated or into it. But I got them working in teams as a learning project on how to remove and repair doors, cabinets, light fixtures, faucets, etc. It was really rewarding to see how excited and eager they got.” Chaz says his first volunteer experience was fun and very educational, and as a deconstruction lead, he’s been able to give other volunteers that same positive impression. As a frequent “Winter Warrior,” Chaz wants to let other volunteers know that the cold shouldn’t get in their way of giving back. Just grab your sturdy, comfortable shoes and plenty of layers! “If you don’t know how to do something just ask. Site leads are always willing to help.”
When he’s not helping us lead deconstructions or swinging a hammer to help a partner family, Chaz is putting his construction skills to use personally as well, as he is on the final stretch of a full remodel of his home. He also works full time at Nationwide, volunteers at Shadowbox Theater and United Way, and is a member of Nationwide’s Pride ARG and the Stonewall Columbus Pride Committee. With all of these great commitments, we’re thrilled that Chaz has also chosen to join our Habitat family!
Howard first got involved with Habitat for Humanity 18 years ago, when he was newly retired and looking to do some construction-related mission work in the Columbus area. Soon after, Howard’s church was asked to join the Hilliard-Adopt-A-House (HAAH) group, and he’s been volunteering ever since!
Over the years, Howard has worked on 22 Habitat projects and counting. Howard credits his three mentors, Harold Rausch, Bob Radcliffe, and Ron Danals, for teaching him all that he could absorb about construction, noting that they each showed him “the patience of Job”! Beyond construction, Howard has also taken on numerous leadership roles within Hilliard-Adopt-A-House, including currently serving as its President, Volunteer Coordinator, and Webmaster. One of his proudest accomplishments over the years has been formally registering HAAH as a 501(c)3 public charity, allowing the group to increase its impact on affordable housing.
Outside of Habitat, Howard is involved with a variety of other service activities. He has spent many years volunteering with Appalachia Service Project, a home repair ministry, and leading his church’s United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams. Collectively, he has spent over a year in mission in Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Appalachia and the Gulf Coast—wow! Howard’s hobbies include grandparenting, tennis, and family history. He has also sung in adult church choirs for 56 years, beginning at the age of 9.
Howard’s advice to future volunteers? “One of my favorite Bible passages is 1 John 3:17-18: ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’ Take these words to heart and serve willingly! You will develop friendships with other volunteers and homeowner families that will last a lifetime!”
Thank you, Howard, for many years of putting faith into action through your volunteer work! We can’t thank you enough for building both homes and relationships in Central Ohio.
About 3 and a half years ago, Riley came across the Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter listed on Ohio State’s page of student organizations and decided to join the group. Having grown up installing hardwood floors with his dad, Riley missed working with his hands and helping with construction when he went to college, so the Habitat chapter seemed like a perfect opportunity for him. Riley began volunteering regularly and now serves as the president of the OSU Habitat campus chapter. Since becoming president about a year ago, Riley has helped the chapter expand their membership and organize volunteer opportunities, leading the chapter to collectively serve over 500 hours with Habitat for Humanity.
Since Habitat MidOhio builds homes year-round, weather is often a challenge on the build site. Riley, however, views one such weather challenge as one of his favorite memories as a Habitat volunteer. He recounts, “I was volunteering with three other members of the Habitat OSU campus chapter. We helped load walls of three homes in the back of a truck and drop them off at the build sites. It rained the night before, and all the build sites were all mud. By the time I unloaded all the walls from the truck to the build site, at least 3 inches of mud was stuck to the bottom of each boot. I was surprised that we were able to move all the walls for three houses in one day, and how all day, the volunteers and staff were in a great mood and happy to be helping. The positive environment made it all worth it.”
Riley’s advice to future volunteers is to continually ask questions and learn new things on site. In his experience, this has helped him become more involved with the build and take on new tasks. In his time volunteering with Habitat, he has helped at the ReStore and on various tasks at builds or repairs, such as siding, framing, touch-up work, and painting. His favorite part about these builds is working alongside partner families, Habitat employees, and regular volunteers.
Outside of his involvement with the OSU Habitat campus chapter, Riley does biomedical research and is a peer mentor for incoming first year students. Since beginning this research during his freshman year, he has helped find improved treatments for multiple sclerosis, lupus, and liver cancer. After graduation, Riley hopes to attend an MD/PhD medical scientist training program and one day lead an academic research lab.
Thank you, Riley, for lending your talents to Habitat MidOhio and helping the campus chapter grow at Ohio State!
Marquell and Ned Segelken
Marquell and Ned have been involved with Habitat MidOhio for 11 years, ever since Mifflin Presbyterian Church came on board as one of our faith partners. At the time, Marquell was serving on the church’s service committee, and she remembers that Mifflin was able to raise the money to sponsor their first Habitat house due to a church member donating her home to the church. Since then, Marquell and Ned have worn many hats in their involvement with Habitat. Ned enjoys working on site and helping to coordinate construction volunteers, while Marquell recruits volunteers, coordinates lunches, and takes photos on site to document the progress.
For Ned and Marquell, one of the most memorable parts of being a Habitat volunteer is attending home dedication ceremonies, where the new homeowners receive the keys to their new home. They both enjoy working alongside the future homeowners and getting to know them throughout the build process. Volunteering with Habitat also provides the Segelkens with a way to put their faith into action. Marquell explains, “Helping those who are less fortunate is an important part of our faith. Providing safe, affordable housing through volunteering with Habitat allows us to live out that faith.”
Outside of Habitat, Marquell and Ned are very active in their church, including teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, and leading the Health Ministry. With their busy schedules, Marquell and Ned wanted to set aside time to spend with each other, so they took up square dancing lessons last fall. Since then, they now dance several times a week and even spent Labor Day weekend at a square dance convention!
When providing words of wisdom to future volunteers, Marquell and Ned cite Habitat’s variety of volunteer opportunities: “There are ways for anyone to get involved with Habitat -- working onsite, coordinating volunteer teams, preparing and delivering lunch as well as helping with the office, the ReStore or Speakers Bureau. It is very rewarding to work with other volunteers and Habitat staff.”
Thank you, Marquell, Ned, and Mifflin Presbyterian, for many years of fruitful partnership with Habitat MidOhio! We couldn’t serve nearly as many families without your support.
Church of the Resurrection Leadership Team
The Church of the Resurrection in New Albany is another one of our awesome faith partners! They joined the Habitat MidOhio family about 5 years ago, when the church auction raised money for a social concerns project. Linda and Scott Taylor, heads of the auction committee, recommended that the project involve parishioners, make a local impact, and have the possibility of impacting a wider community. Luckily for us, Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio fit these criteria, and the Church of the Resurrection has been involved ever since! Volunteers from the church are currently helping to build their 6th Habitat home as a house sponsor.
The Habitat Leadership Team within the Church of the Resurrection is passionate about the work they do in partnership with Habitat, as it allows them and their fellow parishioners to give back to the Columbus community, get to know one another, and answer the call to love one’s neighbor. Leadership Team members also enjoy seeing the building process from start to finish and being able to hand partner families the keys to their new home—a moving moment for all involved. Another fond memory involves a fundraising event—“At a tailgating fundraiser we invited the current partner family we had been working with. They came, enjoyed themselves, and to our delight, won the 50/50 raffle!”
Words of wisdom from the Leadership Team all have a common theme: get involved! They advise, “The more you do, the more rewarding it is… it is in giving that we receive…volunteer once and you’ll be a Habitater for life!”
From planning fundraisers to recruiting volunteers to raising walls on the homes, this group of volunteers does it all! Thank you to John & Marybeth Auletto, Bill & Elaine Holehouse, Linda & Scott Taylor, Ed & Sarah Kitsner, Pat & Teresa Heinzman, Mario Macioce, Joe Golian, Ann, Maggie, & Mark Mecklenborg, and the rest of the Church of the Resurrection team for helping 6 local families (and counting) achieve the dream of homeownership!
Trish Van Zandt
Trish started volunteering at ReStore East in September of 2017 and has quickly found a place here as a valued and loved volunteer. Her first exposure to Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio ReStore was as the faculty advisor for a student group that came last fall. Since then, she has been volunteering steadily, coming in nearly every Saturday morning and staying for 4-5 hours. She says she’s always believed in the cause and is now going on 1 year of volunteering with us. Since last fall, she has already contributed over 100 hours of service to Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio!
Trish starts her Saturday mornings at 6am to bake something for all the ReStore employees. She’s a wonderful baker, and often tries out her new recipes on us, which we truly appreciate. Then she just tries to keep moving and working hard. “It’s wonderful to not sit at a desk and work up a sweat for a good cause,” she says. She never hesitates to jump in with other volunteers and really does bring out the best in so many of them. “Everyone here is great. I love meeting all the other volunteers with all of their different stories.”
There are a few ReStore experiences that come to mind as especially memorable for Trish. She notes that her first time coming out with students was fun, as it was her first time using a pallet jack or cardboard bailor and the first time meeting all of the ReStore staff. Trish had an air boot for about two months this spring and summer, and while that would be a great excuse for the rest of us to stay home and rest, Trish never backed away from a project. She fondly remembers cold days in the side lot pulling weeds and smashing pallets and working with the ReStore staff throughout the ReStore East remodel, taking down metal racking, putting up shelves, and doing whatever else was needed that week.
Trish is just as incredible outside of Habitat as she is in the ReStore. During the school year you can find her on campus at The Ohio State University where she is chair of the Committee on Academic Misconduct and professor of mathematical psychology. Trish also is a frequent volunteer at Columbus Humane and loves to bake, sew her own clothes, and spend time with her family and dogs. What’s happening in her life right now? “My daughter is going to be getting her temps soon,” she says with a grimace.
Trish’s advice to interested volunteers is simple: “It’s really important to give back. If you see something that needs done, DO IT. It’s not rocket science. Don’t stop moving.” We are incredibly appreciative of Trish’s time and positive attitude, and we’re so glad that she feels the same: “I love this place. It feels like home.”
Jim has been volunteering in the ReStore since December 2017 as a way to give back to the community after retiring. He comes in once a week for a 4.5 hour shift. He walks through the front door promptly at 9AM with a huge grin on his face, puts on a blue volunteer vest, and does not stop moving until he leaves. He is always a pleasure to work with and never hesitates to help anyone who needs a hand, be it a customer, donor, or fellow volunteer. Jim says that “the diverse number of people that I encounter at the ReStore is fascinating, and to be able to interact with them makes me appreciate all individuals for who they are.”
Before volunteering with Habitat, Jim volunteered part-time during his “semi-retirement” years at Lowe’s through AmeriCorps and notes this experience as another reason why he came to volunteer at the ReStore. He loved helping customers find that particular item they needed and carries that through to the ReStore. “I remember one instance when a customer was looking for a replacement bedroom door. He was only concerned with the width, but I reminded him that this wasn’t Lowe’s so he had to consider height, door knob placement, etc. as well. He returned later with those items considered and, amazingly, we found a perfect match. That was rewarding for both of us.”
Jim was with us through the whole ReStore remodel and recalls how the store changed every week, saying, “Each week [the store] got better as the direction of the organization moved toward a total remodel. Today, it’s hard to recognize it as the same place.” Jim’s steady pace, work-ethic, and dedication to helping people was so valuable during that whole process.
Away from the ReStore, Jim is enjoying his recent retirement. He and his wife own a small travel trailer, which they take week-long trips in. He enjoys fishing and watching his grandchildren’s activities. Another hobby of his is home brewing, which he’s been doing for the last 20 years. This hobby seems to have rubbed off on the rest of his family, as his daughter homebrews and his son is now a professional brewer in Colorado.
We’re so happy that Jim’s time with us so far has been fun and rewarding, and we’re grateful for his time and dedication. He advises that anyone who feels the urge to give back that they should just “do anything because just the experience alone can give you a different outlook on people and the life we’re all thrown into.” Thank you, Jim!
Jennifer first found out about Habitat MidOhio when she saw her friend Sarah Ortman’s posts on Facebook. When Jennifer was searching online for volunteer opportunities involving photography in Columbus, she came across a Habitat MidOhio posting and decided to get involved. While Jennifer has been volunteering with Habitat MidOhio a little less than a year, having started in September 2017, she is already one of our regular photographers and has helped out at numerous photography opportunities, ranging from progress shots to a Rock the Block!
One of the reasons Jennifer chose to volunteer with Habitat is because of her belief in Habitat’s mission. Having had a career dedicated to public policy that was centered on women and poverty, Jennifer was impressed with the way Habitat helps individuals with low incomes improve their circumstances.
Jennifer enjoys volunteering, and her time on site has even helped expand her knowledge about the home-building process! She mentioned that Habitat MidOhio’s crew leads update her on the home’s progress when she stops by for photos and answer any questions she has about the work.
When reflecting on her experience, Jennifer shared, “It brings me great joy to see the families receive the keys to their new home and to see the dedicated volunteers use their expertise and hard work to build beautiful houses.”
When asked about a particular memory of volunteering that stood out, Jennifer recounted a surprise from Habitat’s Rock the Block event, a few weeks back, “I walked into the house on South 6th Street and there was Jay Tatum, my next door neighbor growing up in Columbus!!! Jay was in town from Michigan and wanted to volunteer, I believe through the Harmony Project, he found his way to the house on 6th Street. When I walked in, he was helping to clean up. It had been decades since I last saw Jay. It was such a great surprise to see him when I walked through the door.”
Jennifer is no stranger to serving others. Before Habitat, Jennifer volunteered through the Peace Corps in Thailand, taught as an English teacher, and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working with women who were incarcerated in Central Ohio. She then dedicated her career to politics. Jennifer used public policy to improve the lives of women, people with low incomes, and people of color.
In her career, Jennifer is in the process of transitioning from public policy and politics to a more creative enterprise involving photography. Outside of Habitat, Jennifer enjoys photography, reading, travel, family genealogy, and (of course!) politics. Jennifer describes herself as a “quasi empty nester”, as one of her sons is a sophomore in college, and one will be starting 11th grade this fall.
We at Habitat are thrilled to have Jennifer as part of our group of photography volunteers, and are grateful for her talent and dedication!
Kathy was looking for a way to give back to the community when she remembered hearing about Habitat MidOhio through her church, All Saints Lutheran, in Worthington, Ohio. A friend of hers had volunteered with Habitat, and their experience inspired Kathy to look into the organization herself. Kathy wanted to find a way to combine volunteering with her love of photography, and thought what better way to do that than become a photography volunteer with Habitat?
Kathy’s first experience volunteering with Habitat was at a Rock-the-Block event in April 2017. Before starting a new build, Habitat will “rock the block” by cleaning up litter, removing graffiti, and offering light landscaping services to residents on the block. “…My first impression was the high level of dedication I saw among the construction volunteers. And they seemed to have fun and absolutely love what they are doing. I thought: I want to be a part of that, even if it’s just photography. I say ‘just’, but I really enjoy capturing the joy on both the volunteers’ and the families’ faces, especially the families’.”
A particular memory that stands out to Kathy is the first home dedication ceremony she photographed. “The family members where literally glowing with excitement, with a lot of happy tears, and I think there was a little bit of humbleness as well. There was a lot of love that day.” When asked about her experience as a volunteer, Kathy emphasized the joy of the families and the spirit of the volunteers, “I get to capture those special moments and share them with the organization. In this political climate, I can’t even imagine the hardships some of those families have seen so it’s wonderful to know that they are being taken care of by people who genuinely care and love what are doing. It’s like the volunteers see the big picture and know that their work is for a higher calling. It’s neat to capture that spirit in pictures.”
Outside of Habitat, Kathy is a full-time Administrative Assistant at Field and Stream at Easton, and a part-time student working on an online Master’s Degree through Ohio University. After 10 years of teaching history as a ‘hobby’, Kathy is looking forward to making her interest a paying-gig and teaching as an adjunct professor. Kathy will be graduating this December!
Even with her busy schedule, Kathy always tries to make time for her first love: kayaking. She has been kayaking for 15 years and owns three boats. “It helps keep me balanced.” When asked about her other interests, Kathy named, “…Nature photography, reading, history, cycling, hiking, fishing, and caring for my two amazing kitties.”
Kathy has also been a member of All Saints Lutheran Church for 20 years, and a part of their two adult choirs for almost that long. She has done some photography for See Kids Dream, a nonprofit with a mission to empower young people to develop the skills they need to be successful in school and in their communities. One thing someone may be surprised to learn about Kathy is that she plays the Irish drum, called a Bodhran!
Richard’s journey with Habitat started in 1994 at the Knox County affiliate in Mount Vernon, Ohio. While the situation was less than ideal, “My older son left college under unpleasant circumstances at the end of his freshman year, and was required to complete some community service as a consequence of his actions,” this meeting had a big impact on both Richard and his son. “…As luck would have it, a flyer was passed around noting the founding by President Clinton of a national service program to be called AmeriCorps. People accepted into AmeriCorps could apply to work with various organizations that sought volunteers, and Habitat was one of these. My son applied, was accepted, and spent two years working with (Habitat for Humanity), one in Miami and a second in Cleveland, before returning to college.” Upon returning to college, Richard’s son became a Dean’s List student, as well as captain of his soccer team, and went on to graduation with honors. Richard was also inspired to get involved, and began volunteering on construction sites regularly and serving on the board of the Knox County affiliate.
Prior to Habitat, Richard had been involved in several other volunteer activities. In the early 1980s, when Richard’s wife, Rita, a professor at Kenyon College, took on the role of breadwinner, Richard took on the role of a house spouse and primary parent. During this time, he first started volunteering as a soccer coach for a new program sponsored by the YMCA, an activity he continued for two decades. Two years after he started coaching, he joined the board of Knox County Head Start, followed by volunteer work for New Directions, a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse in Mount Vernon.
In the spring of 1998, Richard signed up for a week-long blitz build near Americus, GA, home to the operational headquarters of Habitat for Humanity. Known as “The Easter Build,” it was a project for which around 600 volunteers came together to build 26 new homes, while staying in dorms, vacated by students on spring break, at a nearby college. “What an incredible week! I recall that when I woke up the second morning, having spent the previous day framing the house all day with hammer and nail, my hands were so stiff I could hardly move my fingers. Somehow, things improved so that by the time we had finished breakfast, I could once again hold onto a tool.”
Since retiring in 2010, Richard has been a regular volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. Before moving to Granville nearly two nearly ago, Richard lived in Freehold, New Jersey, where he volunteered at build sites three days a week, and he has since been able to resume the same kind of schedule here at Habitat MidOhio.
“I think that many folks approaching retirement these days worry about that transition: What will I do? How will I keep busy? I've found that my three days a week with Habitat is just the right amount of time to keep me busy while giving me ample opportunity to do other things I think also important.”
When asked why he continues to volunteer with Habitat and considers it a meaningful use of his time, Richard said it gives him a chance to pay forward the good luck he’s had in his life, while working alongside like-minded individuals, who also find it personally rewarding to lend a hand to those who need it.