2020 was a slow year for Habitat for Humanity. Doing its usual work — building homes, rehabilitating homes, landscaping — seemed unsafe with a pandemic spreading across the globe. Now that more people are getting vaccinated, Habitat for Humanity is taking on more projects and slowly getting back to the way things used to be.
“In light of COVID, there’s been a little bit of reluctance,” said Vickie Hamilton-Allen, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Capital Region. “We have been managing everything very carefully. We’re making sure our volunteers are safe.”
On April 29, the organization partnered with Home Depot to provide free landscaping for Iraqi refugees and Lansing residents, Fatima and Salah. Salah is a new homeowner and single mother.
The volunteers were limited to outside work so they could still follow the proper COVID safety precautions.
“Our local Home Depot has chosen to support the work we’re doing. They support a lot of our projects,” said Hamilton-Allen. “Landscaping at Salah’s house was hard work. They had to hand-shovel and level the ground, start seeding and getting everything ready.”
Angie Knudstrup, the merchandising assistant store manager and volunteer coordinator at Home Depot, considered that outing a success. She said it felt good to get back to work after a long dry spell. She said that members of Team Depot — the store’s fleet of volunteers — spent the whole pandemic asking when they could get back to work.
When a nonprofit partners with Team Depot, they apply for a grant through the Home Depot Foundation. If they get the grant, the store passes around a sign-up sheet asking for volunteers to work on the project.
“Whoever wants to volunteer, even if they don’t have special skills, it’s great,” said Knudstrup. “Especially when we work with Habitat, they help us out and show us exactly what to do. It’s something that anyone who works at Home Depot can get involved in”
Knudstrup said that Home Depot is in contact with Habitat for Humanity, excitedly planning their next venture.
With all these projects on the horizon, Habitat for Humanity is going to need an influx of volunteers. The organization lost a lot over the past year. Hamilton-Allen doesn’t like to turn down projects, so she hopes that volunteers start drifting back once the anxiety around COVID has died down a bit.
“We need hands-on people right now because we’re really lacking in that,” said Hamilton-Allen. “We also need people with expertise. Engineers, interior designers, landscapers, architects. Even if they don’t have the time to come on-site, they can still help us out by being an advisor.”
She appreciates companies like Home Depot because they help out with supplies and provide construction experts. With lumber prices skyrocketing, Habitat for Humanity needs all the help it can get.
Stay-at-home orders are complicated, too, because some homeowners have houses in need of repair. Some need help keeping the lights on and the water running. The ability to stay at home is a privilege that not all people have access to.
“We have folks stuck in these homes. And we’re seeing a rise in requests for help,” said Hamilton-Allen. “I would love to be able to bring this back into the conversation. We need to pay attention. When homes deteriorate, there are long-term consequences.”