Habitat needs help

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2005

House-building group short of volunteers

By Jason Norman

His back hurts every time he carries a few boards. His knees are sore from climbing up and down the ladder several times a day. His elbows have been hurting all week.

Email newsletter signup

And to think, of all the regular Habitat for Humanity workers, at 66, Al Newsome is the youngest.

&uot;I’m doing something to help someone else have a home,&uot; said the Newport News Shipbuilding retiree, taking a break from work on the Charles Street home, the organization’s current project. &uot;I feel good, because I have a part in that.&uot;

It’s a feeling that John Gabriele has experienced on 17 of the 18 homes Habitat has built for Suffolk residents Their most recent one opened in January on Smith Street.

&uot;We’ve lost a few workers,&uot; says Gabriele, 75. &uot;Some of them left because of age, another had heart problems, some of the others’ wives have gotten sick. We used to have seven or eight workers three or four days a week, now we only have three or four.&uot;

The work shortage could quickly and severely slow down the organization’s intentions to house as many needy families as possible. The work is relatively short, as a typical workweek is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 8 to 11:30 a.m., plus Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. with lunch provided. Cold drinks are always available. Volunteers are especially needed during the week, for one to three mornings. Saturdays usually bring workgroups from area churches.

And those aren’t the only perks of being a Habitat volunteer, Gabriele said.

&uot;I like the camaraderie with my fellow workers,&uot; he continued. &uot;They’re all good people, and it’s satisfying to see new people move in.&uot;

Norman Senechal first quit working 13 years ago. Then he came to Habitat.

&uot;I started, and I enjoy it,&uot; he says, &uot;and if you’d told me that when I was 62 and ready to retire, I’d have said you’ve got a problem! But I really enjoy coming out here. Believe it or not, you meet some beautiful people.&uot;

Since 1990, the group has been building homes for Suffolk’s needy and underprivileged. After the Smith Street home opened, Angela Koncz took over directing duties from Fran Alwood.

&uot;It’s been awesome,&uot; Koncz said of the construction. &uot;The workers are so excited. They can see the progress they’ve made when they leave for the day. These guys have so much fun; it’s more than work, it’s more of a social club. They laugh and joke with each other. There’s so much we can learn from the older generations, and that they can learn from each other.&uot;

Interested in being a new addition to the crew? Call Koncz at 923-3210.