We value our volunteers, who come from many different backgrounds and have a variety of experience. One of our star volunteers is Greg Jipson, who you can see frequently in the Habitat Store.
A native of Bellingham Washington, Jipson graduated from Sehome High School in 1970 and then jointed the Air Force. He enlisted to learn more skills and to travel. His actual career began after his 4 years of military service, when he took a job at Intalco Aluminum in Ferndale, Washington, as a laborer.
This humble beginning inspired Jipson to remain in the trades, enrolling in an apprenticeship program to learn how to become an industrial electrician. He remained in that field for his entire working life, finishing a 40-year career at Intalco in 2014. It was a fulfilling work-life in the trades that directly flowed out of an apprenticeship program, programs that exist widely today.
Trade apprenticeships can be found in nearly every building trade. These programs often pay student trainees while they work, growing their skills through hands-on experience. At graduation, students not only have certified skills that they can take anywhere to find work, they frequently complete their training without any school debt.
After retirement, he decided to become a regular Habitat Store volunteer (and he’s been volunteering in our Receiving Department for over 5 years). Oh, and he also brings his little dog Cody to the Store. Jipson and Cody can frequently be seen at our Habitat Store (and on our Store Instagram – and if you follow @HabitatStoreWhatcom on Facebook, you’ll see regular #hfhcodyapproaved photos where Cody personally tests out comfy chairs, sturdy worktables, and lovely nap-ready sofas).
“When I retired, I decided Habitat was a good place to give my time and to do some important work as a volunteer, to keep me busy, to keep me active,” Jipson said. “I discovered Habitat as most people do – I came to shop. I walked through the Store, and one of the Store employees talked to me one day about volunteering. He worked in Receiving and did a lot of pricing of donations.”
Jipson was intrigued. “It sounded like a fun thing to do, the way he explained it. That conversation is what drew me in. One of the benefits for me, in doing this work, besides helping an organization like Habitat that does so much for the community, is that I come across all kinds of unusual items that people donate to the Store for sale.
“There are so many vintage household items and unusual tools. I like the challenge of pricing these older things,” Jipson continued. “The pricing of items is important because Habitat gets a substantial amount if its operating funds through Store sales. I like to help the Store get the right price for every donation, a good price for shoppers and a good price for the Store. It’s a stimulating challenge.
“My claim to fame, if I can say that, is repurposing items,” he continued. “That’s my new buzzword: ‘repurposing.’ I just love restoring tools that need a little oil or something, maybe they’re just a little rusty. I like getting things like that working again. And then out they go into the Store to customers who will use them!”
Jipson is currently reorganizing a large area in the hardware section of the Store. Given the Store’s emphasis on gently used or surplus building supplies, customers interested in home DIY projects need to be able to find what they’re looking for easily and quickly. We try to keep packaged items together as any hardware store might. It takes creativity and care from someone like Jipson to make sure that our customers can find what they’re looking for.
“I have around 2,600 hours in now as a volunteer,” he added. But there are many ways to support the work at Habitat in addition to being a Store volunteer. We need people to donate items to the Store for sale, and also to donate to and participate in our Annual “Raise the Roof” Auction (this year, on Friday, April 24th). Of course, Habitat welcomes cash donations as well.
“Obviously, volunteering is part of my healthy lifestyle. Habitat is a place where anyone can find big challenges. The Store keeps growing,” Jipson added. “My philosophy is that I have enough. I think people should let themselves be happy,” he says, laughing.
“Instead of thinking about more, more, more, I like it when things in my life just fall together nicely, like they were meant to be that way,” he concluded. “For example, I go up to Vancouver regularly and stay at a very nice hotel downtown. I’m friends with some of the employees at the hotel. Now that hotel has donated a weekend stay to Habitat’s Annual Auction.”
Everyone at Habitat is deeply grateful for all our volunteers. We can’t do the life-changing work we do without every one of them.
[Every cash gift we receive at Habitat, no matter how small, returns when each Habitat home buyer makes their monthly mortgage payments. This enables us to purchase more supplies for another home. Habitat’s core value, “a hand-up, not a hand-out,” means that every penny is repaid. Please consider pledging $5 per month.]