Environmental Factor, June 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Employees Pitch In with Habitat for Humanity Project
By Eddy Ball
Continuing a tradition of community involvement with the non-profit group Habitat for Humanity, members of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) Community Builders group donated an afternoon of their free time in May to help complete one of the final homes in Hope Crossing, the group's first "green" neighborhood in Durham, N.C. The volunteer crew spent a little more than three hours installing vinyl siding on the home and cleaning the cul-de-sac to keep Habitat from receiving a fine from the building inspector.
All the homes in Hope Crossing feature solar panels on the roof for heating water, rain barrels to collect water from downspouts, energy-efficient appliances, and building materials made from recycled products, including the certified lead-free materials used in the children's playground structures. Reflecting Habitat's dedication to building community as well as infrastructure, the residents of Hope Crossing share a large community garden.
The DERT crew was part of a volunteer labor force working with homeowners in the community, who supply "sweat equity" as part of Habitat's interest-free loan program. Many of the materials are donated - helping ensure that the houses average a very affordable $50,000 each.
Veteran crew member Jerry Phelps attended a home dedication just prior to his shift and said he was gratified to see that the entire neighborhood was on hand - many of the residents having satisfied some of their "sweat equity" by helping construct their new neighbors' home. Phelps and co-worker Heather Henry also had an opportunity to revisit some of the houses they had worked on earlier and see new residents enjoying the fruits of their collective efforts.
As Phelps said afterwards, "It was a fun day in the sun doing something with our hands that will truly make a difference in the lives of a worthy family." Phelps encourages anyone interested in volunteering or contributing to Habitat for Humanity to contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) or former NIEHS employee Roxanne Hall (email@example.com), who now works for Habitat, or visit the group's Web site (http://www.durhamhabitat.org/) .