The following article was written by Lynn R. Parks, for the Seaford Star, published on February 27-March 5, 2014 edition:
Company Benefits when Employees Help Habitat
On a pleasant February day, under bright blue skies, Keyonda Weston stood in what will soon be her front yard, watching her new home being built. Volunteers with Atlantic Aluminum Products in Greenwood, were putting on the siding, nailing on roofing tiles and installing deck railings.
Weston's new home, just off German Road east of Seaford, is being constructed through the efforts of Habitat for Humanity. Construction started in October and is expected to be completed late in March.
Habitat for Humanity is an international organization whose mission it is to build simple, decent and affordable housing in partnership with low-income families. Habitat holds the interest-free mortgage on the home and the new homeowner pays it off in monthly installments.
As a part of her agreement with Habitat, Weston has to put in 250 hours of "sweat equity", volunteering to help with the construction of her home as well as other home builds. That day, Saturday, was the third time that she had worked on her home site. She has already put in a number of hours at the other sites, she said.
Weston, who is employed at the Tate Service Center in Laurel, said that she is looking forward to moving into the home with her three children, Darrell, 12, Kiarra, 6, and Ro'Zae, 3. Now, they are living at the home of a friend. Before that, she "has gone from lease arrangement to lease arrangement", she said, living in complexes including Caravel Gardens and Hollybrook Apartments, both public housing in Laurel.
"Living out here will be much better for my kids", she said. "It is a safer neighborhood than both of those places".
Dan Schlabach is the owner of Atlantic Aluminum. He said that this is the second time that his workers have volunteered on a Habitat project.
"It is my opportunity to give back to the community and invest in my personnel in the process", Schlabach said.
Schlabach estimated the value of the services and material that Atlantic Aluminum provided to the Habitat build at nearly $5,000.00. But its value to his company is worth more than that, he said.
"The impact that it has on the employees is great", he said. "They enjoy being able to help people and to give back to the community. After the last time, they talked about it all the time and often ask when they would do it again. It was a great experience for them."
Schlabach said that he appreciates the fact the Habitat for Humanity requires recipients of its homes to volunteer in the program. "They understand the value of the time that people put in", he said.
He also appreciates the fact that Habitat is a "God-and-Christ centered organization". And finally, he said, going out on a perfect Saturday morning and working together on a project fits in with the eighth and last of the company's governing principles: Build Camderie through Fun.
Adam Grahn is a volunteer with the AmeriCorps program and is posted with Sussex County's Habitat group through September. A recent graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in civil engineering, he said that he fist became acquainted with Habitat when he volunteered in Sussex County though his church in Columbia, MD.
"That was such a remarkable experience that I wanted to come back after I graduated," he said. I knew that volunteering here was something that I didn't want to regret not doing".