If you were lucky enough to work alongside any of our Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps members over this past year, then you already know of their tremendous work building communities across Portland. Here’s a look back on a year full of memories with the construction crew leaders at Cully Place.
Caitlyn entered into AmeriCorps during her final year of grad school at Portland State University. With her studies entrenched in community development, she wanted to experience nonprofit operations first hand. What she was surprised to learn was how many different service jobs are available to AmeriCorps throughout the country – from NCCC to doulas, the opportunities are wide-ranging. As a Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps in Portland, she led diverse groups of volunteers toward the common goal of building homes.
“Just to witness how willing the community is to come together and work on something for the betterment of the community,” she says. “It is really powerful.”
This summer, she will graduate and take the next step into her career in real estate development. She plans to apply all of the problem solving and construction skills she’s learned on the build sites to her own home, working with her partner to troubleshoot home improvements.
Noah also plans to use the many skills he’s acquired on site as he dives into a career flipping houses back in Pittsburgh. Although he’s excited to get started, he said he’ll really miss his fellow AmeriCorps and a city he grew to know and love.
“I’ve changed a lot as a person through this experience,” Noah says. “It will shape how I move through the rest of my life.”
But construction skills aren’t the only things he’s acquired here. It was his first time moving out on his own; he celebrated his 21st birthday on site and found a mentor in Construction Crew Supervisor John. He said the skills he’s learned here are vital to what he’ll do next.
“Part of the reason I moved across the country is to learn how to be alone,” he says. “I’ve learned about being an adult and being responsible for yourself, but also just emotionally being content with being my own person.”
For his road trip back home, he’s decided to not go solo and instead, trek across country with fellow AmeriCorps member, Elizabeth.
Also from the east coast, Elizabeth moved to Portland seeking to put her skilled hands to work in a new way. She said she loves working with her hands and applied her knowledge of fashion design to construction work. It’s that shared passion she found in the volunteers she met and led at Cully Place.
“It’s so much more than just building homes,” she says, “Everyone’s touched by Habitat’s work whether they realize it or not–everyone is affected by the housing crisis. Bringing people together to work on a common goal is really inspiring to see.”
The skills and confidence she gained while learning to lead large crews of volunteers has pushed her to be more assertive and expand her interests. After visiting family in South Dakota, she’ll return to Portland and begin studying for her CAD certification from Portland Community College. She will also continue serving her community as a part-time Construction Crew Leader for Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East.
Mitch will also continue building strong communities as he embarks on his second term of AmeriCorps at Habitat Kauai. What he’ll remember of his time in Portland is learning to overcome his shyness and rise to the position of leadership. He said there are a lot of memories that go into every space they build; that each home is touched with warm memories even before homeowners and their families move in.
“A lot of hard work goes into these homes,” he says. “But there are a lot of in betweens that people don’t always see: the small steps, the experiences of everyone who helps build, and the sense of community.”
In addition to the long lasting bonds he formed with fellow AmeriCorps and staff, he’ll cherish the friendship with Manuel, a weekly volunteer who helped build homes while he was awaiting the final hearing on his asylum case.
“It was inspirational to work alongside him,” Mitch says. “To have gone through so much and still want to give back and be so optimistic, it blows my mind.”
It’s bonds like these that are indicative of our entire Habitat community at large. Every volunteer, every staff member, every homebuyer, and every donor and supporter has a hand in building long lasting impacts across Portland. As our AmeriCorps sail off in their new paths, we look back on a year full of memories.
“I’m incredibly grateful that everyone was so open and so patient with us, with me, and I’m super thankful that y’all took us under your collective Habitat wing,” Mitch says. “It’s been real. It’s been awesome.”
We can’t thank Caitlyn, Noah, Elizabeth, and Mitch enough. We wish you the best in your journeys!