The Habitat Senior Crew
Its been 22 years since a group of concerned citizens came together to create something bigger than themselves. Since 1993, we’ve seen a lot of changes in our organization: name changes, location changes and lots of program changes. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the quality and camaraderie of our volunteers, our Senior Crew in particular. This year, our Senior Crew is partial sponsor on our 200th home.
In 1999, our affiliate was one of three chosen in the US to pilot a program designed to give seniors the power and capability to play an active role in strengthening Habitat’s organizational capacity. When the pilot program began, we had 13 seniors involved. We now have over 250 active Senior Crew volunteers who volunteer regularly at the Habitat ReStore, on our build sites now doing new construction, rehab construction, home repair, Rock the Block®, in our warehouse, on our driving crews, in our office, doing site support, meal donations and much, much more!
Laying the Groundwork
The beginning groundwork involved a key person from Habitat (John Weyenberg, now Executive Director) sitting down with a key person from RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) to review needs and objectives. Together they then made a prospective plan, budget, needs, and a method for reporting. The Habitat representative was able to use the local connections that RSVP had already established with target groups like senior community groups, senior centers, and senior living residences to recruit volunteers. These new volunteers then went on to help recruit their friends and family members, making the project grow into what it is today.
Getting Involved, The Early Days
In the early days, there were three primary ways to be involved. The first was our senior construction team. This team of builders has been the key to our affiliate’s growth. We used to build only on Saturdays from typically April through January. When the initiative was created, Monday workdays were added. Currently, we build four days a week – Saturdays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays year round. The initial group not only worked diligently to build homes, they became the cornerstone of our construction leadership team and many are still involved today. Members of this group also designed our first construction manual. This tool is updated annually and still used regularly in our new home construction. The construction manual is on our website and can be accessed by anyone and many other US affiliates reference it regularly.
The second way the initial group helped was through our Senior Advisory Council. This group met monthly for many years to offer advice and wisdom to our staff and Board of Directors on a variety of issues and helped us develop many of the policies and procedures still in place today. We looked to this group to share from their life experiences and expertise. This initial group helped us create policies like our sweat equity requirements, our delinquency plan, they offered great fundraising ideas and outreach as well as other large issues.
The final group of initial senior crew volunteers were assigned to help with special projects. This group helped us on committees such as fundraising and family selection and support as well as developing our site support system still in use today. They also advised on good communication and helped develop the weekly email updates that are still crucial to our great and regular communication with all volunteers about our needs and events.
In 2006, Volunteer Services Manager, Jodi Isom, wrote a nomination of the Senior Crew to Habitat for Humanity International’s Clarence Jordan Award. Clarence was one of the founders of Habitat International and known to be a master innovator. The award is based on affiliates doing something innovative than can easily be replicated at other affiliates. That nomination was chosen to be the winner of that year’s award making our Senior Crew truly “award winning”.
Photos of Senior Crew members from the early days. (Photo Below)