There are many perks to being an AmeriCorps service member, but one of the biggest highlights is the annual Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon. Build-A-Thon brings together all the AmeriCorps serving at Habitat affiliates around the country, to build in one area for a week. This year over 300 Habitat AmeriCorps gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina, to help build 12 new homes.
My name is Thega-Alem and as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I’m typically in the office as our Digital Marketing Coordinator, working on new projects to help Habitat grow in innovative and diverse ways. Build-A-Thon gives me the opportunity to get out from behind the computer, grab a hammer, and join the rest of my fellow Habitat AmeriCorps for a fun week of building on the construction site. And if it were to be anything like last year, I knew this would be quite the journey – filled with exhaustion, new friendships, and a lasting impact.
As we got on site, we broke into our assigned groups:
- Yellow Block - Getting the home started and completing the exterior. This includes framing, siding, roofing, installing windows, and landscaping.
- Green Block – Working on framing, siding, roofing, installing windows, Interior trim/doors, interior paint, cabinets, and landscaping.
- Blue & Red Block – Finishing the home by working on interior trim/doors, interior paint, cabinets, siding, roofing, and landscaping.
- Purple Block – Landscaping new and existing Habitat homes in the neighborhood by planting flowers and plants, installing grass and mulch, and completing other landscaping tasks to beautify the neighborhood.
- Hospitality – Making sure each house crew has what they need to stay energized and hydrated!
I was part of the Yellow Block and worked on House Three. With just the foundation set, my group’s goal was to complete the exterior of the home. From framing to siding to installing windows, we had our work cut out for us. Looking at a bare foundation, it was hard to believe we’d complete the home’s exterior by the end of the week!
Over the course of the week, I found the bond my group formed growing stronger as the days grew tougher. With the heat working against us, we pulled together and raised the frame of the house. We put up the walls, nailed down all the shingles, installed the vinyl siding, and exchanged stories, memories, and laughter through it all. We stopped for snow cone and water break victories after a hard push throughout the day, and when the day was done we exchanged high fives, came back the next day, and did it again. It was a tiresome activity, but rewarding to say the least.
But, throughout the week I also found motivation from a house a few doors down. It was the house my team and I built last year.
It was fully complete. A family was now living in that house I helped build. The house that taught me the difference between a roofing nail and a framing nail. I was in awe of how it transformed. There was something special about seeing a child running into his house after school that made me proud to be back as a second year AmeriCorps member. In that moment I was reminded of the difference we’re making, even if we don’t see it every day. We’re showing up and building more than a home. Whether in the office, on the construction site, or in a ReStore. Families are growing in these communities, filling them with dreams and aspirations, and turning them into reality. It reminded me that this is why I build. This is why I am a Habitat AmeriCorps service member.