It’s hard to remember that moment on Friday, March 13th, 2020, when we made the historic decision to support the health and safety of our people and closed all volunteer construction and Brush with Kindness sites. We took this unprecedented step in order to protect our staff, volunteers, donors and customers, the families we seek to serve and the region that we love.
Volunteering is central to the lifeblood of Habitat NYC and Westchester, and to local Habitat organizations in counties and countries across the world, and we were lonely without our volunteers. Without the sound of volunteers popping open paint cans, hammering nails into wall frames or ringing up items on the ReStore cash register, everything felt too quiet at Habitat NYC and Westchester.
During the shut down, we engaged volunteers on a hyper-focused basis with our partnership with the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck and through our Emergency Housing Response Fund to meet some of the most pressing community needs, but it wasn’t the same. We were dedicated first to keeping our people safe, and secondly, to opening our volunteer program the moment that it was safe to do so.
Then, in June of 2020, as New York City entered Phase One of re-opening, we re-opened the ReStore on a limited and distanced in-person basis, with our most dedicated volunteers by our side. Then, in August, A Brush with Kindness sites re-opened to volunteers. But our construction sites stayed closed to volunteers…. Until now.
After 19 months, three weeks and one day (but who’s counting!?), we were thrilled to welcome our volunteers back to our construction sites on November 4th, 2021!
Over the course of three days, we welcomed 36 volunteers from LibreMax, Credit Suisse and the RTW Charitable Foundation, who worked to prepare the site of a single-family home in Queens.
Maybe it was the nearly two years of pent up energy, but these folks worked hard! They completed exterior land grubbing and started to demolish the walls and baseboards of the home’s cellar, first and second floors. All that demo filled up two 20-yard dumpsters – that’s about 12,000 pounds of construction debris!
It could have just been all the dust, but seeing New Yorkers out on site, getting their brows sweaty and their boots dirty brought a tear to our eye.
In the coming months, even more volunteers, alongside our experienced site crew, will gut-rehab the home and rebuild a new, safe and affordable home for a hard-working New York City family.
Of course, the safety of our staff and volunteers remains our absolute highest priority. In that spirit, we have just updated our COVID safety and vaccination protocols for any and all persons participating in a Habitat NYC and Westchester event, including volunteering, attending an event or coming into our Manhattan headquarters.