Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Day Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity North Shore

Volunteering at First Street Ipswich
On August 26, I got to take a break in the middle of the work week to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity North Shore's First Street Build in Ipswich.  My company is sponsoring the project, which means that employees can sign up to volunteer during work time. Craig and I have a special place in our hearts for Habitat, as our compadres in Guatemala live in a home that was built for them by the organization. When I heard about the company-sponsored build, I was excited for the opportunity to give back to this amazing program in my own small way.

Habitat is renovating a duplex which was originally built as housing for Ipswich mill employees during the 1890's. Don Preston, the President of Habitat North Shore, welcomed us to build site and told us a little bit about the history of the program. He told us that they had already selected two families to live in this duplex. They will get a 0% loan from Habitat to purchase them as condos, and they also put sweat equity into the construction.

Don explained that they were in the demo phase, and they got us suited up with hardhats, safety glasses, masks, and gloves. There were around 11 of us volunteering from work, as well as Don and two retired gentlemen who volunteer frequently.

Prying up the tiles and subfloor in the second story bathroom
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
Don set us up into two teams - interior and exterior, The exterior folks ripped off the front porch and aluminum siding. The interior folks pried up floors. I was on the interior team, and Jim supervised us. I really enjoyed working with him. It was so hot and humid! Even though it was a bit stuffy in the house, I was at least glad that I wasn't outside working in the direct sun.

We pried up old tiles in the second floor bathroom, removed some nails (given the age of the house, some of the nails were very old-school: square with no real nailheads.) It felt  like I was on This Old House, which I used to watch religiously with my dad when I was a kid. Once the bathroom floor was removed, we nailed down some temporary plywood over holes in the subfloor for safety.

Prying up MDF and hardwood in the downstairs kitchen with Jim (center)
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
When we were done with that, we headed downstairs to work on removing a layer of MDF and a layer of hardwood on the kitchen floor. This was really tough, as any attempt to pry up a large section would result in a very small chunk of MDF splintering off, leaving the rest intact. After half an hour of Jim and myself making futile attempts with prybars and hammers, Jim suggested using the Skillsaw to score the floor, and then pry it up in strips. A couple of the other guys joined us to help with the sawing and prying. My job was to extract nails to leave the floor clear for the saw, and there were a lot of them!

We managed to get the entire kitchen floor removed just before quitting time. The large dumpster, nearly empty when we arrived in the morning, was now full to the brim!

Volunteers from my workplace after a long, hot, and satisfying day of demolition
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
Don (center) oversees the rehanging of the sign
It was really a great experience. Thanks to the Habitat folks who mentored us (Don and Jim) and thanks to my company for sponsoring that day's build and allowing about a dozen employees to participate!

While cleaning around the house this weekend, we found a lot of ceramic tiles left over from our last renovation. We will be donating them to Habitat North Shore, and Don says they may even be used for the very same bathroom where I pried up the old floor!

The exterior of the house after our day of work