IMG_3064This year, Habitat’s Portland AmeriCorps members had the opportunity to participate in this year’s annual Build-A-Thon, held in Charlotte, NC. Below, read AmeriCorps Volunteer Engagement Specialist Kelli Linton’s recap of the week.

This year was my first Build-a-Thon experience. All the Americorps members from our affiliate joined over 175 other members and alumni to build side-by-side with future homeowners and community volunteers in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had heard countless stories of past Build-a-Thon events and was both nervous and excited for my first one.

When we arrived in Charlotte, we headed straight to Queens University where we would be staying all week. The neighborhood around Queens University was well-maintained and had several extravagant houses. Most of the houses were made of brick and had large white columns in front of the grand entrances. I immediately knew we were staying in one of the more wealthy neighborhoods of Charlotte. The site I built on all week, however, was extremely different.

I was on a block with several other Habitat homes. They were mostly small, one-story homes in a neighborhood outside of the city. While walking to the build site, we passed by at least 12 people sitting on their porch each day. The families in the neighborhood were curious and excited to have us there building. This neighborhood, though not as wealthy, was a lot less intimidating than the houses near where we were staying.

I got to work on a home for a woman and her five children. Her mother was also on site every day helping her build her house. After getting to know our group, the homeowner’s mother starting bringing us each snacks and drinks to keep us energized throughout the hot day. She immediately embraced our help and expressed gratitude every chance she could. This provided a tremendous amount of motivation for many of us on site.

My biggest surprise was how much we accomplished, not only on her house but on each of the houses we worked on. All together, we built 7 new homes and repaired 4 more in just five days. Seeing the progress each day was surreal. We started with just a concrete foundation and by day four we were finishing the roof. Because I am non-construction and I work mostly with volunteers, I was worried I would not be able to help out as much as I would have liked. To my surprise, I was able to help with everything from installing windows, to using different power tools and learning about roofing.

Another thing I had not anticipated was the relationships I would build while building homes. I was able to meet people from all of the U.S. and share stories and experiences with other AmeriCorps members and alumni. This helped me feel secure about my future and reinforced my pride with being an AmeriCorps. I think an event like this is something all people should experience.

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