Weekly Feature



2007-10-24 / Lifestyles

Ongoing Habitat Buffalo projects seek volunteers

by ELIZABETH TAUFA Reporter

Habitat for Humanity Buffalo volunteer Emily Paulson, of Williamsville, concentrates on hanging fixtures in a Habitat house bathroom. Habitat for Humanity Buffalo volunteer Emily Paulson, of Williamsville, concentrates on hanging fixtures in a Habitat house bathroom. Regardless of your construction experience - or lack thereof - Habitat for Humanity wants you.

Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity has built and rehabilitated hundreds of thousands of homes worldwide and has been championed by former president Jimmy Carter.

Habitat for Humanity Buffalo has been in existence since 1985 and have dedicated almost 200 homes since then, providing home ownership for 681 people, including 388 children.

However, as for any nonprofit organization, volunteers are always needed.

"The city donates lots for new houses and we rehab houses too," said Don Marx, a Clarence resident and Habitat Buffalo board member and a chairperson of construction. "And people donate houses and lots as a tax write-off."

So how does it work?

Any family that could not obtain a conventional mortgage but can afford low-cost housing and is willing to work in partnership with volunteers, can apply for a Habitat home.

Bill Miess, of East Amherst, installs a lock on a door at a Habitat for Humanity house on the East side of Buffalo. Miess has been a volunteer for nine years and met his wife of seven years while volunteering for Habitat. Bill Miess, of East Amherst, installs a lock on a door at a Habitat for Humanity house on the East side of Buffalo. Miess has been a volunteer for nine years and met his wife of seven years while volunteering for Habitat. Materials are donated or given at a discounted price to the organization and volunteers assemble throughout the week and weekends to construct the house.

"We build from the foundation up," Marx said. "We had some architecture students assist in framing the house for three weeks."

Volunteers range from retired residents of communities to students to church, corporate and civic groups.

Habitat Buffalo currently has 13 construction sites, including those houses that are being rehabilitated.

Each site has a construction supervisor, who is a paid employee of Habitat. The supervisors organize volunteers and ensure that the Habitat house will pass inspections.

Site supervisor Tom Strausser of East Aurora noted that teaching others aspects of house construction makes his job enjoyable.

"We get thousands of people a year volunteering and businesses donating," he said. "There are a lot of generous people out there."

Strausser noted that the families who receive Habitat houses must work on the house alongside the volunteers, which creates a positive experience for all involved.

"It's nice to meet the people who will get the house," he said. "You know they're going to take care of it and it's nice to be able to give an opportunity they wouldn't have otherwise."

Williamsville residents Emily Paulson and Laura Markley agreed.

"It's great to be helping the community and to help people get on their feet," Paulson said. "And it's a great tax base for the city."

"I like doing little projects at home," Markley added. "But doing trim molding and framing a wall, I would never have done on my own."

Mechanical engineer Larry Dudek, another Williamsville resident, agreed with Markley that the construction experience he has gained continues to grow.

"Not a day goes by where I don't learn something," he said.

Dudek's partner, Dale Strausser, son of site supervisor Tom Strausser, commented on the positive attitude of the volunteers because there's no competition.

"Everybody's good here because one doesn't get paid any more than the other," he joked.

For more information on Habitat Buffalo, call Marx at 633-7902 or visit www. habitatbuffalo. org.

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