Building Hope for the Future with Habitat for Humanity

We all know that homeownership is considered the cornerstone of the American dream.  But many of us take that dream for granted.  I was reminded of this when I attended the dedication and blessing of a home with Habitat for Humanity in Chester, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.

As a corporate sponsor of what we have come to refer to as the “CertainTeed House” because of the many CertainTeed products incorporated into the building envelop of this two-family house, I participated in the dedication and blessing of the house.  The family, a single mother with two daughters who will occupy half of the house, seemed simultaneously overwhelmed and excited.

The group of family, friends, sponsors and supporters clustered into what would soon be the family’s living room as the Reverend began the dedication and blessing.  The group traveled from room to room with the family carrying a candle as each area was given a special blessing – from the kitchen where nourishment is prepared to the dining room where bread is broken and shared to the bedrooms where sleeping safe and secure is desired.  Once the blessing was completed, the keys were presented to the family marking the final transformation of this building from simply a house into a home.

It was beautiful!

But there was an added sense of pride that I felt standing in this completed house that would be the dream home for this family. Over ten weeks during the building of this house approximately 80 of my co-workers volunteered time on the site to help with the build.  The opportunity to gain hands-on experience with CertainTeed roofing shingles, housewrap, vinyl siding and railing, insulation and gypsum products was as valuable as the satisfaction of giving back to the community in this very special way.  In some cases it brought employees together whose paths would not cross at work and in other cases departmental teams used this as a teambuilding exercise.

In the end, it was a learning experience for all and a lesson in community that has no equal.

Giving Back Feels More Like Getting Back

Habitat for Humanity House, Chester, PA

How often do you get the chance to help two young, deserving families build their dream homes, improve a community and learn to use a product manufactured by the company you work for? A group of us from CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain  had a special opportunity while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Delaware County, Pennsylvania

CertainTeed has a long history of supporting Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the country with donations and volunteers, but the Delaware County Habitat for Humanity twin home in Chester, PA is the first house covered with a brand new CertainTeed weather resistant barrier – CertaWrap™. It was great to be part of the premier installation of this product. We will also be installing CertainTeed Newtown™ vinyl siding over the next few weekends.

But the real “value-add” of this experience was:

Habitat volunteers and families

• Working alongside families who were putting in “sweat equity” in order to realize the American dream of home ownership.

• Teambuilding and relationship building with individuals across departments and making new friends.

• Helping a great organization by doing whatever was needed to be done.

For Lillian Horvitz, one of our crew, who is part of CertainTeed’s Sales Support Group, this hands-on, real life experience will help her answer questions from customers when the product is introduced in the marketplace.

But the best feeling was standing back with a group of new friends after a day of hard work and sweat and viewing the fruits of our labor. I highly recommend it!

Do you have any volunteer stories? Feel free to share them, in the comments section below.

Builders Reach from the Heart Even in Tough Economic Times

John McClintick (left), event coordinator with Peter Dachowski, president and CEO, CertainTeed Corp. at Builders' Competition

John McClintick (left), event coordinator with Peter Dachowski, president and CEO, CertainTeed Corp. at Builders' Competition

If I could go retro on you for a moment—about 10 years ago I got a call asking for a donation of building products to a Habitat for Humanity Easter Build in Georgia.  “No problem,” I said.  CertainTeed has always given to Habitat and is a firm believer in its goal of building affordable housing for people.

Not long after I get a call from this very nice woman who identifies herself as the secretary for former President Jimmy Carter, who by the way has been a major supporter of Habitat for decades.  She was confirming our donation.  The next thing I know, she asks me to hold for the President!  After about 10 seconds of shock, I stumbled to myself as to what to call him.  After all, it’s not everyday you get to talk to a former US president! 

The bottom line is, (by the way, I referred to him as Mr. President), an event I attended this week benefitting Habitat, reminded me of my brief encounter with the “peanut farmer from Plains.”  But, it also struck me, that despite these grueling economic times, there are still people out there, builders as a matter of fact, who are helping the less fortunate.

Case in point:  fast forward to present day in a small suburb of Philadelphia where a wonderful event took place.  The 4th annual Builders’ Competition brought together builders from across the region to see who could build a framing package for a 1200-square-foot home in the shortest time. 

Nine teams of 10-12 artisans, professionals and weekend warriors participated in this two-day event.  John McClintick, a painter by trade, started this event in 2006 at the height of the building boom with five teams.  But, this year, in a down economy, he nearly doubled the team participation for the event.  Why?  “This competition allows these contractors to showcase their skills in service to a great cause,” said McClintick. “Unlike other competitions this one appeals to human nature, being of service to others, with the fruits of their labor being nine framing packages that will benefit Habitat for Humanity families in Delaware and Pennsylvania.” 

Unbelievable!  In a time when housing starts have dropped from over two million a few years ago, to barely 500,000 last year, these men and women gave their time, gratis, to help less fortunate families.

It doesn’t end there. Most of the teams volunteer to complete the build-outs of the homes they have framed even if it means traveling to Delaware or New Jersey from as far away as Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The winning team receives the Devon Builders’ Cup to keep until the next competition as a reminder of the outstanding service they have provided.  But the biggest reward is sharing their skills for the benefit of others whom they may never meet but who will benefit greatly from their labor. That is inspiring.

Since its inception, the Builders’ Competition has participated in the construction of 15 homes (and soon another nine), eight of which were sent to Habitat for Humanity Baton Rouge on the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast.

CertainTeed salutes John McClintick and all the teams for their efforts.

Mike Loughery by-lineMike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.