Habitat for Humanity relies on our volunteers to help us make homeownership affordable, and we count especially hard on our regulars, like Don Shafer. Don was looking for a way to stay active and productive during his retirement, and he found it at our Playhouse Workshop in Oakland.“What else am I going to do, vegetate?” Don jokes. He comes to the workshop every week, he says, because “it’s a worthwhile thing to do. I feel better doing something than not doing anything, and people benefit from this.”
He’s right; plenty of people benefit from the gift of Don’s time. Because volunteers like Don are with us in our Playhouse Workshops to prepare materials, we’re able to give creative, hands-on team building experiences to groups when they sponsor a Playhouse build day. Those build days create adorable, custom-designed playhouses for local children and families. And those build days create something even bigger – they raise funds to build affordable housing right here in our neighborhoods.
Frequently, our playhouses are donated to military families through Blue Star Moms, a support organization for our active duty service members and their families. As a Veteran himself, Don says, “It’s great to know where these playhouses are going!”
Don served in the Navy, stationed in the Philippines in the 1950s as a part of the “Seabees,” as the US Naval Construction Battalions are known. It was this experience that whet Don’s appetite for being in workshops, and upon leaving the Navy in 1955, he continued on to jobs in machine shops.
At the Oakland Playhouse Workshop, Don says, “I feel like I’m a good fit here. I have a toe-hold knowledge of construction – just enough to get me in trouble!” He loves working with Gus Cancro, Habitat’s Site Supervisor for the Playhouse Program. “I enjoy it here. Gus is great, and boy, is he bullish on safety!” Don appreciates that, and working in a shop that “doesn’t cut any corners. The tools are great, and it’s a pleasant work atmosphere here.”
On top of enjoying his time in the workshop, Don also appreciates the fact that his contribution makes homeownership possible for more families here in the Bay Area. “Homeownership is money in the bank,” he says. “It’s even better than money in the bank. That’s the best move a person can make, buying a house.”
Don purchased his first home after leaving the Navy, and he recalls paying just $14,000 for a home in South San Francisco. “But nowadays,” Don laments, “what do you need to make to be able to buy a place? It’s impossible! Even to rent here. What kind of income does it take? What are you supposed to do? Pitch a tent?”
The housing crisis is no small challenge, as Don knows. Habitat rises to the challenge family by family, home by home, to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live. And with volunteers like Don, we are moving the needle on this crisis. Thank you, Don, for being a part of this movement!
Volunteering is an opportunity to join us in combating the affordable housing crisis. See how you can get involved today!