Allen is Coming Back to Habitat!

Allen just finished first Americorps term recently with Habitat for Humanity Seattle – King County and is coming back again in September. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him out on the build-sites again! Allen has a long history with Habitat for Humanity. His mother was on the Habitat board of directors in Minnesota and North Carolina, and his brother did an internship with Habitat for Humanity in NC. Allen did some work on a build site in North Carolina in high school, and later worked at a re-store when he was in college.

Before graduating from college, Allen worked as an intern at an architectural firm for about a year. He had taken the position because he wanted to go into construction, but after being there for a while he realized that sitting at a desk did nothing for his spirit. Later when two cousins signed up for Habitat AmeriCorps and told him how great the program was, Allen decided to make a change in his life and sign-up.

I asked Allen why he joined Americorps and he had several reasons for joining. He tells me he wants to be an architect, and so the construction knowledge is good to have. Allen also believes in service and helping other people. Habitat is an organization that his values align with, and he believes in their mission.

“With habitat even on the worst days when its 40 degrees and raining you go home knowing you made a real difference. You go home knowing what you are doing is important. This is easily the best job I’ve had in my life.”

Welcome Back Ben!

Ben Wolstenholme Helping out at a Habitat Booth

Our resident Homeowner Services Specialist Ben just completed his first year of service and took the step of signing up for his second term at AmeriCorps.  It’s thanks to the hard work of people like Ben that Habitat for Humanity Seattle – King County can continue serving our community.

After graduating from college, Ben lived with his parents working service jobs to slowly pay off his student loans. He did that for a few years and was considering heading off to law school but made the decision to join the Habitat for Humanity – AmeriCorps program instead.

Ben learned about Habitat for Humanity when his career counselor in college mentioned it as an option, he likes the idea of helping people and several friends he knew had already applied.

As our resident Homeowner Services Specialist, Ben explains the housing application process to potential homeowners and helps them through their applications. Essentially, Ben acts as the liaison between the applicants and the staff in homeowner services.

Ben told me about a time about a year ago when he was tasked with helping people with SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas) from Afganistan. Basically, an SIV is someone who helped out the United States Government (for example as a translator) who was then given a visa to thank them for their service. When people with SIVs come to the US they are coming from a wartorn country, and usually have no financial support or family to lean on. Ben reached out to a lot of non-profits that work with immigrants and found a group of SIV holders who needed help finding affordable housing for themselves and their families.

Many of the SIV immigrants were working 9-5 jobs while also taking night classes to get their lives back to the point where they were when they were living in Afganistan. Ben was able to place many of them in houses with their families, and he remembers being struck by just how grateful they all were for his help.

Coming from a comfortable middle-class family, Ben tells me he never had to worry about rent or housing. He tells me he always knew intellectually of course that people struggled with housing, rent, etc – but knowing that and actually seeing it are very different things. Joining AmeriCorps allowed him to learn about other cultures and backgrounds and really opened his eyes to the need for affordable housing and the importance of all the work Habitat for Humanity does.

Thanks for all the hard work Ben!

AmeriCorps to Habitat: The Danielle Lavy Story


Why did you choose AmeriCorps and was the Non-profit industry always something you wanted to be a part of?

I chose AmeriCorps because I always wanted to help people. My parents always volunteered and I did lots of volunteer work as a child. I also was the philanthropy chair for my sorority. My sorority sister completed AmeriCorps in Connecticut and encouraged me to apply.

Where are you from originally and why Seattle?

I am originally from a small town called Yuba City, California. I chose Seattle because of the weather, because I love to hike and ski/snowboard, I really enjoy the pacific northwest vibe, and because I really really wanted to work for the ReStores.

Why Habitat for Humanity? Were there other organizations you considered going to?

I applied for Habitat specifically because I knew the organization and because I built houses during high school with my youth group in Mexico. I applied to many organizations before picking Habitat, actually. Most of them were housing related, family related, or otherwise people-oriented (something like College Access Now) as my degree was in Psychology. I thought it made the most sense. J

How has the AmeriCorps experience helped you when you transitioned over to Habitat staff?

AmeriCorps prepared me for the workforce in many ways. I wasn’t ready for a full-time job when I started AmeriCorps in 2015. I think I had a basic idea of what I needed to do, but working in an office setting for 2 years really prepared me for the soft skills required to work full time. There are so many things that you don’t learn while in college that you gain from working in an office. I also NEVER would have said yes to supervising AmeriCorps members; I was terrified to lead volunteers when I first started as a VISTA. Now, I love it. Supervising AmeriCorps members is one of my favorite parts of my job.

What is one piece of advice you would give to those considering the AmeriCorps program?

I wouldn’t say that everyone is cut out to make the commitment to AmeriCorps. Think long and hard about your financials, what kind of position it will put you in after your term, and really think about the pros and cons. Plan for the unexpected. But really, if you’ve thought it through, TAKE THE CHANCE. You never know what will happen.