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Home is Where the Heart is: Lessons Learned while Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity

By Nayeli Rosales.

At the Heart of the Matter

Even though we’re in the business of financing investment property, and look at houses on a daily basis, we don’t often think about them in the same way that a person who eventually lives there might. To them, a home can be a central part of their existence—where the heart is. Physical surroundings, whether we are conscious of it or not, play a huge part in our everyday lives. A stable office, a stable home can help us feel more secure about our place in the world. It can help shape our outlook for the future.

Some of us may have a special place to call home. Others, are not as fortunate. It’s no secret that purchasing or even renting a home, especially in California, is becoming increasingly difficult due to the rising costs of living. In many regions such as in Orange County, CA, families are spending up to 50-70% of their income on housing alone.

What is Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries. Their mission is to build strength, stability and self-reliance in partnerships with low-income families in need of decent and affordable housing.

The group takes a “hands up” and not a “hands out” approach to service. In order to be considered for their homeownership program, all families must go through a lengthy qualification process to demonstrate three things in order to be selected: need, ability to pay, and willingness to partner. Each family must have their living situation evaluated, have the ability to pay 30% of their housing costs, and complete 250 hours sweat equity—otherwise known as volunteer hours towards building their home and their neighbors’ homes.

What did the CoreVest team learn by helping?

The CoreVest team quickly learned that working with Habitat for Humanity OC is unlike any other volunteer experience out there. The work we performed in just one day had a permanent impact by creating a future stable and affordable home for a family in need. This helped many of us to realize the amount of work that goes into building a home, and how important these houses were to the families that would soon inhabit them.

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Below are a few quotes from our CoreVest volunteers on lessons learned:

“Building a house definitely takes a long time and I was glad that I was able to help, even if what I was doing was such a small portion of the whole project. I felt like each of us that volunteered got to leave a mark on the house. It was a really rewarding experience and I was grateful that I was able to take part in it.” – Emily
“I learned how important these houses are to the families who have been chosen to move in. I often take factors like food and shelter for granted, focusing instead on the things I don’t yet have or the achievements I haven’t yet made. Volunteering opportunities like this one are essential to grounding us and reversing that rather pessimistic train of thought.” – Connor
“Being a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity opened my eyes to how wonderful this organization is and how much they do to afford those of modest means the opportunity to finally become homeowners and provide a safe and warm environment for their families. A place to make life long, happy memories.” – Ginette
“I learned that there is much more to building a house, let alone someone’s home. It really made me realize how much care and hard work is put in by every individual, whether it was just one day from a volunteer, or weeks from devoted personnel.” – Brandon
“I learned that giving back to the community means more than simply writing a check. It sometimes means getting down and dirty with the cause.” – Jonathan

How did the CoreVest team feel after a day’s work?

Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is not easy, each volunteer had to put in a full day of labor-intensive work under the hot sun. As part of team building, CoreVest employees were split up into smaller groups to help with projects instructed by Habitat for Humanity leaders, who were also volunteers themselves and most of them had years of construction experience. Each project was dependent on the successful completion of another.

Our volunteers shared their sentiments regarding their workday:

“It felt very gratifying and invigorating to know that I was a part of building an actual house, someone’s future home. Even though it was a lot of hard and physical work, I couldn’t help but envision the smiles on the faces on the families the first time they walk through “their” front door, jumping up and down with excitement.” – Ginette
“I felt grateful for everything I have. It really put everything into perspective when you realize how lucky you are to have a nice home.” – Trenton
“I felt very thankful for this opportunity – it was a rewarding experience. It was rewarding to know that we helped ensure someone a home in the end.” – Peter
“I felt a sense of accomplishment. Knowing I was able to help a family get one step closer to fulfill their dream of owning a home was something special. Additionally, being able to see tangible changes from the start of the day to the end was a rewarding moment.” – Graham
“After just 8 hours of working outside I felt exhausted, but also a huge sense of accomplishment knowing my team and I took our job seriously and completed our project without making any mistakes. I felt very happy I got to help a future homeowner’s dream become a reality.” – Nayeli

What was everyone’s most memorable moment?

Fourteen CoreVest employees, including some of our summer interns, took part in this volunteer opportunity with Habitat for Humanity. For them, it was a memorable and fulfilling experience to devote their time and efforts to a great cause. The volunteer work also brought them closer together in a new environment. All volunteers stated that although it was labor-intensive, they would definitely participate again in the future.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the team:

“My most memorable moment was walking through the interior of the houses and imagining the families living in the finished product. It was fulfilling to think about people eventually calling these places “home” and sharing memorable moments with each other.” – Connor
“My most memorable moment was the team photo at the end of the day. I think everyone felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from their goodwill efforts throughout the day and that was a great moment for me.” – Mario
“My most memorable moment was working closely together with a few of our colleagues to put up the siding of this home. This work would not have been possible without everyone pitching in and carrying their weight. It was great once we were done, to take a step back and see the good work we did that is going towards providing a family a great home.” – Dan
“A memorable moment was when I caught Johnathan as he almost tripped over a pipe while he was holding a nail gun—I got to use my cat-like reflexes to save a fellow teammate.” – Liz
“My most memorable moment was being able to eat lunch with the CoreVest team and new interns and really get to know them outside the office. This event not only helped the local community of Fullerton, it hosted a positive, team-building experience that allowed us to get to know our colleagues more.” – Greg

What can you do to help?

Habitat for Humanity representatives encourage others to volunteer and/or donate to the organization so that they can continue their mission to provide affordable housing to those in need. Shopping at one of their local ReStores, where you can purchase new and used furniture, appliances, and home improvement tools, is another great way to help contribute to the foundation if you don’t have the opportunity to volunteer. One last important element to their mission is the need for advocacy of affordable housing in your local area.

CoreVest Thank You

We would like to thank all the volunteers from the CoreVest team. Thank you for offering your “hands” and “hearts” to serve others in need. Thank you for your valuable feedback of the experience. We would like to also thank Habitat for Humanity OC for working with us and the CoreVest management team for sponsoring the outing. We look forward to more opportunities to lend a helping hand and make a positive impact in the community.



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