Volunteering with Habitat NYC is a hard day’s work! Sometimes all that work can intimidate first-time (or even repeat) volunteers.
We’re here to tell you that there is nothing to be intimidated by – volunteering with Habitat NYC is as fun as it is rewarding. To put your mind at ease, we’ll walk you through a day on site with Habitat NYC.
The volunteer day begins the moment you wake up! Make sure to eat a good breakfast – carbs and protein for energy, but remember to not have too much coffee. Coffee can dehydrate you, especially in the summer, so no more than a cup or two please. And make sure to have some water before you come to site too.
Time to get dressed! If you’re working outside in the summer, wear long pants (we know, we know, it’s hot outside, but it’s for your safety) and loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays. If it’s winter, multiple layers are key, even though Habitat NYC provides warming stations. No matter the season, you want to wear comfortable work clothes since you will definitely get dirty! Bring a bandanna or skull cap to wear underneath the hard hat. For construction projects wear thick-soled shoes or work boots (got to comply with those city & state laws!), and if you are working on A Brush With Kindness projects, sneakers are okay. No problem if you don’t have work boots – we have various sizes that you can borrow. But bring your own socks, because our boots are the bowling shoes of construction footwear.
We provide gloves, tools, and safety equipment, although you are welcome to bring your own tools and safety equipment if you prefer.
Before you go, pack your bag. Habitat NYC provides plenty of water for volunteers, but you can keep our sites and our city cleaner and greener by bringing a reusable water bottle. And don’t forget your lunch and a few snacks to keep you in high spirits all day long! Bring your phone (duh) for lots of safe selfies to post on social media (don’t forget to tag Habitat NYC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). We do suggest you leave other valuables at home, as we can’t always guarantee a safe place for them.
Now you have to get to the construction or A Brush with Kindness site. When you registered for your volunteer day on VolunteerHub, you should have gotten an email with the address of the site. We strongly suggest you check the directions before the morning of your volunteer day. Our projects are located all over the city, so travel time can vary widely. (If you are building on our single-family homes in Queens, shuttle service may be available). Play your pump up jams or your favorite podcast on the way.
Okay! You made it to site with plenty of time to spare! Our workdays begin promptly at 9am, so we ask that volunteers arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in and prepare for the day. (Running late? It happens. Please contact the site staff via the number we provide you and let them know. If you expect to be more than 30 minutes late, you may want to consider rescheduling your volunteer day.)
After you get checked in and fill up your water bottle for the day, it’s time to get oriented. Introduce yourself to your fellow volunteers. Maybe some of them are with the same group you are, or maybe they’re strangers to you. But you know what they say, ‘A Habitat NYC volunteer is just a friend you haven’t met yet.’ Now it’s time for an overview of the day’s work as well as critical safety information. You listen as Habitat NYC’s professional site staff tell you everything you need to know – a little about Habitat NYC, about the home or community space you are in, what you will be doing today and how to safely use the equipment.
Very important! Picture time!
Now it’s 9:15 am and it’s time to get to work. The Habitat NYC crew – the site staff or core volunteers – will lead you through the morning’s tasks. Maybe it’s priming and painting, maybe it’s digging trenches, maybe it’s installing windowsills. Whatever the task may be, you will always be with a trained member of our crew. If you’re ever uncomfortable with a task assigned to you, just say so and we will find you another task. Don’t worry – there’s always something to do on site!
Wow – noon already! Let’s take a lunch break. As you sit down to rest – drinking lots of water! – you can get to know your fellow volunteers, or ask questions of the site staff. Seems like a good time to post that selfie to social media too. If you need the restroom, portable toilets are available on all construction sites and bathrooms are available on A Brush with Kindness sites.
1:00 and back to work! Getting back together with your group, you will continue the morning’s task or be assigned something completely different. Maybe you’re hauling dirt, or taping down paper to protect a tile floor before painting, or installing sheetrock. If the site staff haven’t brought out the radio, this is a great time to ask them to play some music!
Before you can believe it, it’s already 3:30. That means time to clean up your area. It’s important to us that we leave our sites as clean as possible both for tomorrow’s volunteers, but also for any residents or community members who may use the space after we’re gone for the day.
Now it’s 4:00pm. Time to leave already!? After saying goodbye to your new friends (who were just ‘fellow volunteers’ at the beginning of the day), the site staff hand you a thank you post card. We would appreciate it if you took a moment to fill out the survey at the link on the card. It helps us make the volunteer experience better for everyone.
Ahh, finally home and time to rest your tired feet! We told you volunteering would be hard work, but we know you’ve got a smile on your face. Now the only thing you are left wondering is…