Meet a few of our volunteers
When Ron Bailey volunteered at Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County for the first time, picking up donated furniture in the Habitat Store’s moving truck, he found a familiar face in the passenger’s seat.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he asked the cheerful woman sitting next to him.
Theresa Schenck had cared for Ron’s late mother in a local nursing home. He recalled being touched by her kind manner.
He learned that Theresa had been accepted into Habitat’s home-ownership program, and was working to fulfill several hundred hours of volunteer “sweat equity,” to qualify her to purchase a simple, decent home with a zero interest mortgage.
The hard-working single mom worked late shifts and hours of overtime at the nursing home yet struggled to afford her small apartment. She wanted something better for her two daughters. Moved by her story, Ron committed to help make her dream a reality. When construction on Theresa’s home began, he rallied members of his church to donate money and labor.
Theresa’s home in Ferndale was finished in 2011. It is the first single-family house her children have ever lived in.
Ron continues to volunteer at the store and recently became a member of Habitat’s board of directors. For him, service is an expression of his faith and gratitude.
Habitat’s program has a profound and lasting impact on the lives of the families it serves.
“The people we’re helping to serve – we’re helping them to help themselves,” Ron says. “It has the potential to be life-changing rather than moment-changing.”
When Betsi Fitzgerald and her husband moved to Whatcom County, they found their new house was a little smaller than their old one. They found themselves with some items they no longer needed.
Some acquaintances advised her to the give the Habitat for Humanity Store a call. Betsi was familiar with Habitat’s mission and happy to support the organization. After donating, she decided to check the place out. She quickly became a regular.
“I’ve gotten furniture here. I’ve gone over to the hardware side. I’ve fixed all kinds of things at a fraction of the price.” The passionate home decorator also found numerous ornaments for her multiple Christmas trees!
One day, when she stopped in to peruse the store, Betsi showed Store Manager Susan Blatz some pictures of things she had done around her home with items the Habitat Store. Susan was impressed by Betsi’s decorating savvy and invited herto help design the store’s Christmas displays. Betsi jumped right in, and began volunteering twice a week.
The store’s successful Christmas sales in 2011 had a lot to do with Betsi’s dedication and keen decorating eye, Susan says.
Lately, Betsi’s job has kept her from volunteering as regularly as she used to. She continues to both shop and donate regularly at the Habitat Store and she’s looking forward to volunteering more when her work slows down.
“(The Habitat Store) is a circle for me,” she says. “I donate, I shop, I volunteer.”
Rick Smith spent most of his working life behind a desk, crunching numbers. He was never much of a handyman, he says. When things broke around the house, he usually called a professional.
Now that he’s retired, that’s begun to change. A couple of years ago, Rick began volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Store in Ferndale and occasionally on Habitat’s local home-building projects. There, he’s been learning lots of construction and repair skills that he never had time to learn before.
“I’m not as leery of taking something on as I used to be,” Rick says. “I never did think I liked doing (hands on) stuff. But I can tell you, I enjoy it!”
He’s taken to prowling the hardware store, looking for new tools. This Christmas, Rick was thrilled to receive a top of the line drill set from his wife, something he would never have asked for or expected a few years ago. He often brings it with him when he volunteers and has already used it to build fixtures at the Habitat Store.
There are a number of things he appreciates about volunteering with Habitat. He can help out on his schedule. Plus, he can choose what kind of work he does. Rick has back problems, but can find plenty to do at the Habitat Store that doesn’t require heavy lifting.
And he appreciates the relaxed environment. Whether on a Habitat construction site, at the store, in the office or special events, volunteers can get friendly help. People of different ages, abilities and motivations for volunteering can pursue many existing interests or new skills at Habitat and have fun doing it, he says.
“It’s an opportunity to learn without a lot of anxiety.”