Driven by a love of travel and heart for service, Lisa has set an ambitious goal for herself: to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in all 50 states. Since 2015, she’s already helped build homes in nine states, spanning from Maine to Oregon. She said it’s like a vacation, only better – she gets to travel the country while making it more meaningful by giving back.
In March, she flew from her hometown in Minnesota to build alongside local volunteers and partner families in Northeast Portland. Fifty degrees warmer than where she lives, the sunshine was a welcoming addition to the days’ projects, but Lisa has served under harsher conditions.
Her very first time volunteering was in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy devastated the entire eastern seaboard, hitting New Jersey and New York the hardest. During her week-long stay, she roomed with a partner family whose home had been hit by 10 feet of water. She helped Habitat rebuild what they had lost and was witness to the family’s testament of strength.
Every day, the grandmother would visit the build site, bringing tapas and empanadas for the volunteers to enjoy. She wanted to thank the people who were helping to rebuild her home. On the day her house was finished, Habitat revealed a brand new home and surprised her with donated furniture from Lowe’s. It was a day that would stay with Lisa; this first volunteer experience still rings as the most impactful and drives her to help more people.
“I’ve always been a big advocate for serving others,” Lisa said. “Take some time out of your day to help your community. You don’t have to have some special skill, you don’t have to have a lot of know-how, or even a lot of time. Just going out there and doing it; pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, being willing to be vulnerable and do something you’re uncomfortable with and seeing what you can do to help others.”
Every time she volunteers, she tries out a new task; she’s done everything from digging out rock beds, to building a driveway, to doing sheetrock, putting up roof trusses, and more. A large component that attracts her to Habitat is learning how to accomplish the day’s project.
“The teaching aspect of Habitat really speaks to me; I like learning things,” she said. “Someone will take you aside and say, ‘Let me teach you how to use a saw,’ and I get to learn how to do that for myself.”
Lisa was also impressed by the educational aspect of Habitat’s sweat equity partnership with homebuyers. In addition to volunteering on the build site and at the ReStore, homebuyers complete several financial wellness classes to prepare them to be successful homeowners.
“It really is a hand up, not a hand out,” Lisa said. “It’s not just handing you a house, here’s the keys. The families put in a lot of work and are surrounded by like-minded people who are trying to take care of their community.”
Lisa’s advice to anyone who may want to volunteer with Habitat:
“Just sign up and do it. You can start locally and see what you can do for your community. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t know anything about construction, but once you get over that fear factor and just jump in and do it, you meet so many people and it’s just a really great experience.”
Next up on Lisa’s volunteership with Habitat: Washington state. It will be her tenth state so far as she builds her way across the country.