My primary responsibility at Habitat for Humanity Fresno County is recruiting volunteers for the ReStore, the non-profit retail outlet we operate to fund construction of new Habitat homes. (By the way, if you haven’t been to the ReStore, come check us out. We’ve got great prices, and you might be surprised by what you find there. We’re right behind the Lowe’s Store in Clovis (1631 Railroad Avenue, north of the Clovis/Shaw Avenue intersection).
I’ve found that it’s easier to get people to work on a construction site than it is to enlist them to stock shelves or help with e-waste. There’s just more self-esteem in driving past a Habitat home and thinking, “I built that!” than there is in seeing the ReStore and thinking, “I stacked stuff.” I want to change that.
Retail isn’t really about building tangibles (i.e., houses). Retail IS interested in building credibility and clientele. Restore manager Torin Blount gets VERY excited about our reputation and customer base, but that’s hard to communicate to volunteers. Our high school volunteers want to build houses, but since many aren’t old enough (18 years is the cut-off), they “settle” for stocking shelves, helping customers, or working in recycling. It’s just “busy work.” They’re not "building" anything.
I heard a story when I was a kid that has been rewritten several times for leadership books, but I still like it the way I first heard it, and I’m too set in my ways to change now, so hear it is, the way I first heard it:
In 1079, Bishop Walkelin began work on a completely new cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire, England. The story goes that one day he was walking around at the construction site, watching the workers. He approached a mason who was chipping away at a block of limestone. He asked the mason what he was doing and the mason replied, “I’m cutting a stone for the wall.” He next saw a carpenter hammering on a scaffold, and asked him what he was doing. The carpenter answered, “I’m building a scaffold.” Then he saw a man picking up construction rubbish and carrying it away from the site. The bishop asked the trash man what he was doing; he smiled and announced, “I’m building a cathedral!”
Every donation to the ReStore puts a roof on a house. Every stocked shelf pays for a porch. Every piece of cardboard we recycle buys a faucet. Every ReStore volunteer BUILDS A HOUSE.
The PROCESS is critical- every single piece. Building a house is incremental, and funding comes first. Habitat for Humanity Fresno County doesn’t borrow money. We have the cash before we ever turn a spade of dirt for a construction project.
Paul the Apostle never missed the point of the daily, trivial, piecemeal things in life. They are GROWTH: “By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it” (Philippians 3:14-16, The Message).
So what’s the point? Every used desk donated, ever dollar donated, every hour volunteer in any of our volunteer positions, every tweet with #WELOVEFRESNO hammers another nail into a Habitat home.
Every ReStore volunteer who drives past a Habitat for Humanity Fresno County home can smile and say, “I built that!”