March 28, 2002

Volunteering: A habitat for learning construction

  • Laid-off apprentice hones his skills while giving back to the community

    Habitat for Humanity
    Photo courtesy of CITC
    Helmut Hummes, left, working with volunteer Maurene “Mo” Swanson, a retired nurse, and David Delap, senior site supervisor, at a Habitat for Humanity project in NewHolly.

    The construction industry has a rich heritage of giving back to the community, which is one of the things that the Construction Industry Training Council instills in its students by encouraging them and providing opportunities to volunteer for projects in their communities.

    Not only does it help the community, the students often have the opportunity to utilize and hone skills under the tutelage of seasoned professionals that they might not use in their regular jobs.

    An early program gave carpentry and painting students the opportunity to design, build and decorate playhouses that were displayed in Factoria Mall and raffled off to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That program resulted in two wishes being fulfilled, two years in a row — a total of $10,000 raised.

    For several years, CITC carpentry, painting and plumbing classes have donated time to Rebuilding Together (formerly known as Christmas In April) to facilitate repairs for low-income families and community centers that have no other means of getting the repairs they need. Classmates working together with their teachers, and in many cases their job supervisors, not only accomplish meaningful tasks, but also build bonds that will be with the volunteers throughout their careers.

    In the current economy, with workers are being temporarily laid off, one student that we know of began volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity project at NewHolly in South Seattle.

    “I wanted to keep busy and feel useful,” said Helmut Hummes, a second year apprentice at CITC. “A bonus for me is that I not only keep my carpentry skills sharp, but I’m learning new skills to boot.”

    A native of Germany, Hummes entered the construction industry four years ago after having been in the restaurant business for 11 years. He began as a laborer and moved up to framing with a residential contractor before joining his current employer, W.G. Clark. Although temporarily laid off, Hummes is continuing his studies at CITC and finds that volunteering gives him numerous opportunities to both practice his trade and learn new skills from the on-site supervisors employed by Habitat.

    Jennifer Strasburger, volunteer coordinator for Habitat, notes that skilled volunteers are greatly needed on the sites to help direct the activities of unskilled volunteers, as well as perform some of the more technical aspects of the work. Hummes encourages all of his fellow students to take the opportunity to volunteer. “It is fun to work on these jobs and it affords the opportunity to work on everything from foundations to finish carpentry,” said Hummes.

    For information on volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity, contact Jennifer Strasburger at (206) 292-9617.

    Sandra Olson is the executive director of the Construction Industry Training Council, a state-licensed, nationally-accredited, open-enrollment construction training program. CITC offers apprenticeship, craft and task training, plus continuing education for most construction professions.

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