How big is your team?
Volunteer Services is a small team of three. Our team consists of myself, Angie Rizzo, Volunteer Coordinator and Deanna Moore, AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator. Although one of the smaller departments, Volunteer Services recruits, manages and engages more than 15,000 construction volunteers each year.
What is your department’s top priority right now?
It is hard for us to see our neighborhoods not filled with the large groups of volunteers we have become accustomed to, but we are working on new ways to engage volunteers in this unprecedented time. We are focusing on creating new programming to involve youth in Habitat’s mission, cultivating relationships and working with other large Habitat affiliates to create a plan to bring volunteers back to our sites in a safe and effective way.
How has COVID-19 impacted your team, and how are they working around it?
COVID-19 has had an extreme impact on our department, as our main focus is volunteer and community engagement. We made the difficult decision in early March to cancel all volunteers on site through the end of April when Governor Cooper first recommended social distancing. We will continue to follow State, CDC and national recommendations to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This may lead to further sites closures and delays in volunteer days through May and beyond. Our team is working remotely, meaning we are missing out on the camaraderie and encouragement that comes from working shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues and volunteers. We really miss getting to tell our construction team, “Hey, we’ve got a team of 20 eager volunteers heading your way to help build that house!”
What are some examples of the day-to-day work you are doing?
We are connecting through Zoom to meet with other departments and other affiliates to strategize what reopening to volunteers looks like. We are reaching out to volunteers to capture volunteer stories and are working on a virtual LEGO build for our youth in an effort to contribute positivity to your newsfeeds and emails.
We know this pandemic will end (there’s a downward slope to that curve we are flattening!) and we want to help try to keep our volunteers’ spirits up during this time, because they keep our spirits up by their bright smiles and enthusiasm on the work site in our day-to-day operations.
How is your work impacting Habitat homeowners and homebuyers?
Keeping our volunteers engaged and connected helps us to be ready to redeploy their efforts on the worksite to get the homes finished. Additionally, our volunteers’ spirits are a force to be reckoned with, their encouragement and prayers stand in the gap when they aren’t able to be with us physically. We and our homebuyers are encouraged by their unrelenting dedication to supporting the mission of building homes, community and hope!
What is the biggest challenge to your department during this time?
It has been incredibly inspiring to see the outpouring of support from nonprofit providers in our community. As the virus escalated, everyone was understandably concerned for nonprofits and the populations that they serve. Rather than become discouraged, several nonprofits joined together to share resources, advice, and well-wishes. I am so thankful to be working in such an empathetic and caring field. The shared support that I have felt makes me hopeful and confident that we will all bounce back stronger than before.
What is making your team feel hopeful?
We cannot wait to have volunteers out! Whether it’s back in the ReStore, out on the construction site, on the phone or in our inboxes, we miss being able to connect the wonderful hearts and souls in our community to ways they can serve and support Habitat and our partner families. We still have an incredible community, which you can see everyday on social media by folks feeding their neighbors and making masks. We still have a great organization, which you can see by staff working and adapting to continue to serve our partner families and community. When we get our incredible community members and our great organization together.