There are many good people in Arizona.
Several weeks ago, a group of them stood in searing summer heat celebrating the completion of another Habitat for Humanity home-renovation project for a deserving family.
We are often asked how we’re able to build or renovate homes during Arizona’s oppressive summer months and despite the economic challenges. Sometimes I wonder that myself, particularly about the heat.
And then I look around and the answer becomes very clear: because of our volunteers. In fact, at this particular event, one of our Bank of America volunteers, whose support was phenomenal on this house, commented that they’re ready to start the next company-sponsored home in September, but in the meantime they’re looking forward to volunteering on other home projects this summer.
How can we not succeed when we have that support from across the community from volunteers readily committing to a weekend project when the mercury would touch 119 degrees?
Support from the banking sector has been particularly strong and allowed us to continue our work during the severe economic downturn we’re now climbing out of.
The Corporation for National Community Service reported that Arizona’s 1.3 million volunteers donated an average of 28 hours each during 2011 for a total financial contribution of $3.1 billion in service. Phoenix represented the largest percentage of those numbers with 850,600 volunteers donating 94.1 million hours valued at $2.6 billion.
Nationwide in 2011, 64.3 million volunteers – the highest level in five years – contributed 8 billion hours. Three out of every five volunteers were between 25 and 54 years of age and were parents of children under 18.
Last year, Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona served over 400 families, a tenfold increase from where we were in 2008 before the real estate market crashed. We’ve also expanded our products to include home repairs, deepened our relationships with collaborative organizations and extended our reach with recent approval for an expanded service area to now include Pinal County.
We expect to complete about 60 homes from Buckeye to Apache Junction this year with a staff of 80 and nearly 10,000 volunteers.
But it’s during the summer that we can really measure the commitment, the passion and selflessness of the community and our volunteers. Their desire to make a positive impact on the community says a lot about the character of the men, women and young people who choose to engage in this type of work.
I recently read that a volunteer is “a person that has a spirit of service, creativity, sensitivity for human pain, strong moral values, the ability to work in a team, and a social conscience.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
Roger Schwierjohn is President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. For information about how to volunteer, visit www.habitatcaz.org.