I’m Kind of A Lifer:

An AmeriCorps Experience

This post is part of a series dedicated to our AmeriCorps members who have donated a large chunk of time as well as their skills and willingness to learn to the Habitat for Humanity – Seattle King County mission. You can find more stories like this one by clicking on the “AmeriCorps Experience” tag. 

Angela AmeriCorps Critical Repair Group Pic
Angela with volunteers preparing to do roofwork on a South Seattle home.

     Angela volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for the first time while serving another AmeriCorps term assisting FEMA-Corps. The long-term service member has donated 3.5 years of her time and skills to the AmeriCorps program with various organizations. She started out based in Sacramento and traveled with a logistics team to New York where she worked for a fleet office issuing cars for FEMA employees. After that, she served in a warehouse in New Jersey assisting in mobilizing their disaster response programs more efficiently. From there she went on to a planning department in Oakland redacting disaster plans for public viewing. During her time in California she volunteered with the Silicon Valley – East Bay Habitat affiliate and found out about open AmeriCorps positions with the Seattle King County affiliate. After taking some time off, she moved to Seattle and started serving for Habitat-SKC in 2015 as a Construction Volunteer Lead. “I’m kind of a lifer… It’s something that was a little bit crazy to do another year and half with Habitat because you don’t get an education award but I really love the work and I love my supervisors and all that so… I stuck around and got paid very little. It worked out.”

      Despite Angela’s first job being with her brother’s construction company, she came to Habitat with very little knowledge about the industry. At 15 she was not allowed to use power tools, so she spent most her time cleaning up trash. “I’ve gained a crazy amount of knowledge and all these people and supervisors are really great. They teach things so effectively. It might take a while to come around and really feel comfortable doing these tasks but now I feel like I’ve pretty much run the gamut and I can pretty much work in any phase of construction, besides maybe foundations, and do a pretty good job.”

     During her time as a Habitat AmeriCorps member, most of her duties fell within the scope of the Home Repair program. While she occasionally works on new construction sites, she doesn’t mind sticking to the rehabilitation projects because the impact can be seen in a very different way. “You are able to help a lot more families over time and even if it is something as simple as replacing some siding or painting the house, if it makes them proud or feel more safe in their home that’s pretty powerful.” Because of the nature of the typical repair site, which is smaller than the multi-unit construction developments, she doesn’t host the large volunteer groups that tend to work on the new construction sites but she does work a smaller group of regular volunteers. “I love working with the regulars and developing and fostering those relationships. I think those are also really important because they turn around and support us in a variety of ways, not just monetarily but advocacy and stuff like that.”

Angela Speaking At A Homeowner Dedication
Angela speaking at a homeowner dedication

      The relationships Angela’s developed throughout her time serving with Habitat have been a leading reason in her decision to continue working with Habitat as a contractor. “My first year I had a really solid [AmeriCorps] team. We all started at the same time, 15 or 20 of us started at the same time. Now we’re all kind of staggered and that was awesome cause you kind of just fall into this community, like here it is, you’re all together, you’re all broke, you just moved here, that kind of stuff. That being said, at least three of them are still very good friends of mine… And to be able to get to get to know everything together and gain the skills together and form those friendships was pretty incredible. It just feels like a family, and Lisa is why. She’s like a mom, maybe she wouldn’t want to be called a mom but she’s the best, the greatest.”

      Angela was also very moved by her interactions with homeowners. She did get to see one homeowner in Snoqualmie start and finish their homeownership process. “I worked with her from the beginning until the end. I got to be there when her kids saw the house for the first time and they like ran in and were opening all the doors and the windows and the drawers and were so excited. It was incredible to see, incredible. So that really stuck with me… I spoke at her dedication, got to give her her keys. It was really awesome.” She also spent 6 months wrapping up a new construction development in 2016. “It was pretty great to see all of them finish their hours and get to move in. And also to go back there and drive through and see them wave and say ‘I got a dog, I couldn’t have a dog before!’”

Angela at the 2016 Delta-build

In addition to her appreciation of her work relationships, Angela also understands that the work she gets to do at Habitat is unique. “Most other affordable housing nonprofits don’t usually do the work themselves, they almost always contract it out. Habitat’s kind of… if you want to do this work, you’ve got to work for Habitat… I’ve been kind of bopping around since I graduated from college a few years ago and this is the first time that I really felt like ‘yea I want to do this’. I feel pretty solid in this and good about it. I like my job and supervisors and coworkers.”

      Her time with Habitat-SKC has taught her to rely on her team but also take the time to be patient and flexible. “They’re just so many unknowns you can’t plan ahead for everything. So you just have to roll with the punches, do what you gotta do and make it work. Work hard. It is gonna be hard work but it’s rewarding work.”