Volunteers are the center of the Habitat Mission. Everything we do, every step we take toward ending the housing crisis in Whatcom County, from running our Store in the heart of Bellingham to running our affiliate office inside the Store, and especially on our job sites where we’re building homes every week of the year, it’s our volunteers who are the heart and soul of our work. One by one, they carry the Habitat passion into the world. They make our work possible. Every day they enrich our community through their selfless dedication to others.
Every volunteer, like Steve Abell, who’s been making a valuable contribution to Habitat for more than six years, also brings a personal story, merging it with a river of generosity and the heartfelt connections made with every partner family who joins our program. All these lives are changed forever through the sharing of one goal: creating decent, safe, affordable housing for the working families in Whatcom County.
You’ll probably recognize Steve. Every week, you’ll find Steve at the front desk, volunteering his time, ideas, phone skills, and good cheer in the offices of Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County. His is a neighbor’s story of sharing.
Originally from New Rochelle, New York, in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City, it was Steve’s interest in chemical engineering that took him all over the world. “I graduated from Clarkson College, now Clarkson University, in upstate New York in 1967 with a degree in chemical engineering,” Steve told us in a recent conversation. “Then I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois, also in chemical engineering. I finished my master’s degree and got drafted into the army.”
Steve served in the army for two years, from 1969 to 1971. Then he finished his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1974. “I went to work for Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri,” he added. “I worked there for about 13 years. Then I went to a small corn-processing company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was hired as Vice President of Research and Development. I worked there for 22 years, until I retired in 2008.”
So how did Steve come to call Bellingham home? “I enjoyed coming out here because I liked the area. I liked the climate and the scenery. So when it came time to retire, it seemed like a good place to go. And I had another friend who retired out here. He kind of recruited me to come out here [laughs]. And it’s worked out really well. I think it was a good choice for me.
“My brother and his wife used to go off for a couple of weeks every year to build homes for Habitat,” Steve said, as he explained how he came to choose Habitat as the place to dedicate so much of his time. “He always talked very favorably about his Habitat experience. He said it was one of the best experiences he and his wife had ever had. So, I got interested.
“I think the Habitat Mission is a very noble one,” says Steve. “I think it’s something the country needs. I wish more people were doing it. In Bellingham right now there’s a great deal of concern about housing in general, affordable housing and low-income housing. I think it’s a wonderful thing that Habitat does.
“I feel good about volunteering at Habitat,” he added. “I like making a contribution to people who wouldn’t find the resources to get housing on their own. If you like doing things for other people, if it makes you feel good, like I do, this is a great place to be.”