Dropping in For a Day at Missoula Habitat for Humanity

I have been following Missoula Habitat for Humanity for awhile and have been continually impressed with number of community groups they recruit to work on their houses. Since us Care-a-Vanners generally work with affiliates that need labor I was interested in what exactly Missoula HFH was doing right. My first inkling of how they were so successful with building a volunteer base was the excellent communication we received from their volunteer coordinator Frankie who was enthusiastic that we’d have some time to help them build. Due to the shortened holiday work week and some previously-booked special groups we were only “needed” to work a single day, but even before the morning break on our single day it was apparent that the affiliate had yet another gem in Construction Supervisor Mike who made us feel quite welcome and got us involved and right to work. I’ve come to find out that Missoula is even more of a volunteer-oriented community than I had thought after discussions with Frankie and their Executive Director Naomi, but even with the high participation rate of their citizens it’s easy to understand how volunteering for Habitat became popular among Missoulans. I should also mention that they have a fantastic crew of locals who volunteer regularly; their lighthearted approach and senses of humor were an added bonus.

We arrived to work the day after the concrete had been poured for the basement walls; our first task would be too dismantle the bracing and scaffolding used to erect the forms and then remove all the material from the interior of the house. We ended up needing to do it a bit quick too since the crushed stone for underneath the floor was due to arrive. With drills and hammers in hand we took apart the scaffolding and worked together to empty the space. While the stone was being distributed across the interior we loaded and unloaded a few truckloads of what we had taken apart and transferred it to a storage area around the block. Once the stone was in place we returned and began removing the bracing along the exterior of the walls and also the window frames before moving on to pry apart the formwork around the foundation.

As it was pointed out by multiple people during the day, dismantling forms and moving the material isn’t the most interesting of jobs but I am hard-pressed to remember many other days when I’ve had more fun the entire time. The saying goes that the people you are working with make all the difference and in this instance I couldn’t agree more. I always enjoy the work we do with Habitat and I really do enjoy just about everyone I’ve volunteered with on all my builds, but the atmosphere on site was, for a lack of a better word, joyful. I am truly grateful Missoula Habitat was willing to host us as we passed through and I’m already looking forward to the next occasion when we can work with these fantastic folks.

Construction Supervisor Mike

Mike and Tom reviewing the game plan

Dismantling begins

Tom knocking out the stakes that anchored the scaffolding braces

College student Julia who was volunteering on a free week before leaving for her exchange program

Mike and Tom checking the plans as we mark the walls before the stone arrives

Mike and Tom checking the plans as we mark the walls before the stone arrives

Stone laid

Me removing window bracing

Prying the forms off the foundation