AVONDALE, ARIZ. – While other families were rubbing the sleep from their eyes or turning on Saturday morning cartoons, 13 U-Haul volunteers gathered in front of a partially built Habitat for Humanity house that will soon become a home.
Team U-Haul, hard hats on and hammers in hand, gathered around Habitat for Humanity house leader Dave Elston on March 14 for a hard but gratifying day of manual labor. Elston has been with Habitat for Humanity since 2008. This will mark the seventh home he has built.
“It doesn’t work without our volunteers,” Elston said. “I used to tell people we don’t get paid, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. I get paid in the smiles of the people I work with and the joy on a family’s face when they move in.”
Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona has created a “Habitat Community” near 127th Avenue and Florence. The Hillcrest Village subdivision will include 37 single-family detached homes and a community park when it’s completed.
The project began in 2009 thanks to the Maricopa County Consortium HOME grant award which assisted with land acquisition costs. But it takes more than land to build a home.
With Elston’s motivating voice and helpful hints, Team U-Haul gained confidence and was able to show Habitat for Humanity what teamwork looks like.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to your community,” said Alonna Ross, Marketing Specialist for RepWest and 2013 U-Haul Volunteer of the Year recipient. “Not everyone can donate money, but you can almost always donate your time. And in most cases your time is more valuable to an organization than your money.”
Jeff Ross, Alonna’s husband, climbed ladders making sure the blocking of the house was correct while Alonna measured and cut each piece of wood with precision.
“It’s great being able to share these experiences with my family,” Ross explained. “For my son, I’m able to show him the importance of giving back and hopefully that’s something he will continue to do. When I mention I am volunteering with U-Haul, he always asks me if he is allowed to go with me.”
Saturday started out with a chilly morning breeze, but Team U-Haul wasn’t fooled. Once the Arizona sun was overhead, the shade disappeared and the temperature spiked to 89 degrees.
The heat didn’t faze Team U-Haul. In fact, the group hammered away for hours, stopping only to hydrate and reapply sunblock.
Eva Franco, an analyst for the Utility Billing Department, has been giving her time to U-Haul volunteer projects for almost 15 years.
“What greater gift is there then to help make a difference in someone’s life?” Franco asked. “I feel blessed to be a small part of making someone’s day, and I think it’s great that a company like U-Haul uses its resources to reach out and help less fortunate people.”
Although U-Haul Team Members like Ross and Franco have been participating in community efforts for years, newcomers to the U-Haul family are just as dedicated. Mack Haggerty had been with U-Haul for less than a week before joining the volunteer list for Habitat for Humanity.
“I am a big supporter of giving back to the community,” said Haggerty, a RepWest accountant. “Not everyone is placed in an ideal living situation and anything you can do to help out really goes a long way.”
Jason Bressler, U-Haul Manager of Community Relations, is in his first month of employment but was among those to jump into action.
“I have been volunteering and serving our community for over 22 years,” Bressler said. “Volunteering is one of my passions and there is no feeling more rewarding than helping someone else. Habitat for Humanity is an amazing organization that continues to make a profound impact in the lives of others and communities across the country.”
While Team U-Haul won’t know the family that will eventually call Lot # 50003 home, it can rest assured knowing its time and effort was greatly appreciated.
Thank you to the Team U-Haul Volunteers and their families who braved the heat to make a difference: Luz Aniles, Andrea Batchelor, Jason Bressler, Lola Duncan, Eva Franco, Mack Haggerty, David Lipetz, Rod McDowell, Alonna Ross, Jeff Ross, Zarin Sells, Zofia Sells and Daniel Varela.