Habitat for Humanity on track to build 17 homes in the Fox Cities

When Jodi Isom joined the Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity as volunteer services manager in 2000, the agency was building two to three newly-constructed homes a year.

Marco Rodriguez of VISTA works on systems at the Habitat ReStore in Appleton, while Harriet Robson, volunteer coordinator, recruits volunteers.

This year, they are on track to build 17 homes, three of which are older structures that will be rehabilitated in conjunction with the agency’s home buyer program.

Making that happen are Retired and Senior Volunteer 55+ Program (RSVP) volunteers. In the last 12 months, 41 volunteers have provided 14,844 hours of service at the agency. Isom said that since Habitat has grown so quickly, its greatest challenge is keeping up with the constant need for more volunteers.

In addition to new home construction and rehab, volunteers also have the opportunity to work in the Habitat ReStore in Appleton. The non-profit retail outlet accepts donations of new and gently used building materials from individuals and businesses in the community and sells those items to the public at a reduced cost. All proceeds go directly to Habitat for Humanity to help fund affordable housing in the Fox Cities. Last year, $950,000 was raised, including donations from local companies.

Harriet Robson, ReStore volunteer coordinator, explained that when Restore sells inexpensive building materials to the general public, it is keeping those items out of the landfill.

The store also is a resource for people working for a Habitat home. “A family trying to get a home can do some of the sweat equity at the ReStore,” Robson said.

There are many volunteer opportunities at ReStore, from pricing and cleaning, to organizing displays, data entry, deconstruction, trailer flipping, cashiering and many more.

Marco Rodriguez is an AmeriCorps Volunteering in Service to America (VISTA) who is working on systems at ReStore for its online donations, volunteer scheduling and its Point of Sale system. VISTA is a national service program that is the domestic version of the Peace Corps. It is a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

VISTA members sign up with an agency for one year and receive a stipend and other benefits. His term ends in September.

“Hopefully, when I leave, things will run more efficiently,” said Rodriguez, who is a member of the Wisconsin National Guard and is working on a master’s degree in project management.

Rock the Block is another Habitat program that targets exterior home repairs in specific neighborhoods.

Isom said the six-day event uses the efforts of more than 500 volunteers. They might paint or replace a porch or work in a park, school or church.

Habitat also works with low-income families who already own and live in their homes through a home repair program.

“It would be anything from replacing a roof, to a porch, to installing new windows and siding,” Isom said. “Critical repairs that need to be done to keep them safe.”

The Senior Crew is a group of dedicated volunteers who fill leadership roles and commit to a regular volunteer schedule, whether it’s once a month or once a week. To be included in this group, volunteers set a schedule and commit to it. While the majority of volunteers in this group are retired, teens also come in after school.

Want to help? Habitat for Humanity ReStore is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and the store is busier than ever! They need afternoon volunteers from 2-6 p.m. or 4-6 p.m. daily, Monday-Saturday. Contact Harriet Robson at harrietr@fcrestore.org or 920-967-8901 to set up an orientation and training.