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Post-CTIA Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Effort: Giving Back to New Orleans
The day after CTIA 2012, iQmetrix -- along with client Connectivity Source and partners ProtectCell and Phobio -- donated money and volunteered time to Habitat for Humanity, to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The following is a blog post written by Kelly Markewich, iQmetrix Enterprise Account Manager, about his experience volunteering that day.
Last Friday (May 11), we arrived at our build site (1810 Eagle Street, New Orleans) around 8:00 a.m. on a warm but slightly overcast day and were met by four Habitat for Humanity staff, who appeared to be reviewing the blueprints: Ben, Pee, Christina and Bay. I was happy to see they also had shorts on!
It was a corner lot with an elementary school on one corner and a local mom-and-pop convenience store on another corner. I remember everyone getting a kick out of the slogan on the front door that went something like, “We have the best breakfast in town” followed by “You heard me!!” and then in black spray paint on the door it said “small break fast 139.”
We had a group of volunteers made up of staff from iQmetrix (25), one of our clients (Connectivity Source - 10) and a couple of our partners (Phobio - 5 and ProtectCell - 2). Once we all assembled, Ben, the building manager, gave us a few simple instructions for the day:
1. Ask lots of questions. If you’re not sure about something, ask one of the Habitat employees before you get the wrong information about what you should be doing.
2. Ask before using any power tools! Even if you are an expert.
3. Drink lots of water. If you’re bored, drink water. If it runs out, they have more, so please ask.
4. The “Johnny Pot” sometimes will get used by the locals. So, before you commit to anything make sure you have toilet paper –- if not, please ask.
We broke into two groups, one larger group that would be working on the house we were presently at and another smaller group of eight people that would build the modular walls for another house, a couple blocks away.
I was included in the smaller group that was building the walls, and from what I could see it was a better task than where the large group started. That group had to first remove all of the concrete foundations forms from the walls (usually this is done before the volunteers arrive onsite).
This job consisted of digging out the form boards and then prying them free from the concrete walls. This task alone took almost the entire morning, which set us back on starting to build this house. Nonetheless, I heard zero complaints, but I did hear many cheers of success as each board broke loose, lots of laughter and smart aleck remarks –- a typical day at iQ.
By lunchtime (which was your standard meal in a box – a fantastic sandwich, fresh strawberries, chips and a cookie), we had completed most of the walls for the second house, the form boards were all off, the foundation was being backfilled with dirt.
In the afternoon we were onto the next task, as we merged into one big group. We were off to the races putting together the main subfloor joists.
We really hit our stride in the afternoon and it didn’t seem to faze most people that it started to rain quite heavily -- heavy enough that I did not have an single piece of clothing on me that was not wet, including my underwear.
Even so, everyone really just figured things out, where they should go and pitched in with whatever they could. It was definitely a team effort, with an edge of competitiveness that seems to run in our culture. In fact, despite our initial setback with the form boards on the concrete, Ben said we were top 15 in his books for the amount of progress we made in one day.
I also have to say that the staff at Habitat for Humanity is really impressive. To have a master plan so this house does not fall over once we leave and yet still manage to keep 40 inexperienced volunteers on task and answer every question that came up (sometimes multiple times) takes incredible patience! Something that also stood out for me about the staff was their level of trust, giving a group a task and then just letting them run with it, with little or no checkup. Very cool.
Although we didn’t have much if any interaction with the local residents, we managed to attract a few glancing stares from car windows as they drove by and saw a sea of orange “Deliver Wow!” shirts busily working across the site.
All in all, I felt a collective a sense of pride and accomplishment in our group. Whether you've considered doing something like this in the past or not, I would highly recommend doing it. I want to thank Anne Weiler for coming up with the idea to give back to the community of New Orleans after CTIA and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate. I heard a number of fellow volunteers mention they would have liked to stay another day and would jump at the chance to do it again. Thank you Anne and iQmetrix for an epic day in NOLA!
Oh and a shout out to Tanya Floer also who organized feeding us throughout the day. Not only that, but the restaurant that we went to for supper actually donated a percentage of our bill to Habitat for Humanity. A win-win and a great meal with some good company!