Journal Excerpts: Global Village with Shana

By | Global Village, Volunteer | One Comment

Shana Lewis, volunteer coordinator, takes you day by day through our recent Global Village trip to El Salvador.

Day 1:

During our ride to the hostel, I was in awe of the landscape. The mountains and volcanoes, the sugar cane fields and the clear skies. It’s beautiful here. People sell fruit from stands on the side of the road. There are buses and trucks that transport people back and forth and a lot of people walking with baskets. The homes outside of the town are set up kind of like neighborhoods. There are several concrete homes surrounded by fences. In San Vicente the houses are right beside each other. Other than the signs you can’t tell the shops from the houses.

Day 2:

After a trip to the lagoon, we came back to the hostel for lunch and to meet the family. A husband and wife (Jaime and Cindy) and their three children! Cindy is due with their fourth child on Tuesday! Jamie will be working with us on site this week. They were a little shy at first but started to warm up during lunch…

Each time we go someplace, I catch myself being surprised at the similarities. People are nice when we pass by, their children smile and wave at us, people take selfies together and crack jokes. I also look at the homes and notice the differences. Built with concrete, usually gated, some have electric/barbed wire on the roof, the floors are tiled throughout the house instead of carpet, and there is very little grass. But I’m also challenging myself to see the similarities. AC in the bedrooms, a kitchen area for making meals, a solid structure that protects from the elements, running water, and grocery stores and ice cream shops in town.

Day 3:

Our first day on the job site was a good one! The home we are working on is almost done. We spent the day working on the floor of the house by breaking up chunks of concrete, adding dirt, spreading it out and tamping it flat. Also, Cindy had her baby today and Jaime was able to go see her at lunch time! We are all very excited for them. Right now they are renting a room but in a few weeks they will be homeowners!

I’m so excited for Estela (also a Greater Indy Habitat homebuyer) to build her home with us. I am impressed that she is helping another family in her home country with the same need: decent, affordable housing. I feel like the mission has come full circle and it’s only Monday.

Day 4:

Another day of laying dirt in the kitchen and living room floor. We moved at least 180 5-gallon buckets of dirt today. Maybe now we are done in these rooms! We did have some great team work and a lot of laughs on site today. Jaime showed us pictures of his newborn. She has a lot of hair! He didn’t know the weight but knows she is healthy.

Day 5:

I’ve realized today that we all have similar aspirations. I’ve also realized that people don’t need lavish, 6-bedroom homes to be happy and comfortable. While we are addressing a very real need, these homes provide the basics and are comfortable. There are 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and washroom, a kitchen, and a living room. The floor will be tiled and they will have a steel roof over their heads…The homeowner is even planting trees on the property, which I think is awesome! I’ve been humbled by this trip and am grateful for the comforts I have back home.

Day 6:

We worked on adding another layer of block around the house for the walls. I was terrible at filling in the gaps so I mostly ran mortar back and forth to everyone on the scaffolding. It was a much easier day than the rest of the week since we weren’t shoveling dirt and sand.

Day 7:

Today was our last day on the work site and it was bittersweet for me. I’m happy that we got so much accomplished. We sped up the build by 2.5 weeks in 5 days. I’m happy that we will get to relax tomorrow and I’m happy that I will be home soon. I’m also sad that we won’t pile into the van to go to the work site again. I’m sad that we won’t be here to finish the house and that we are leaving such a beautiful country. I will be making the most of our last full day tomorrow.

Day 8:

At dinner, our team gathered around the table one last time before going home. We ate, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. The restaurant at the resort had karaoke after dinner and the girls sang several songs while the rest of us cheered them on. It was such a nice day of relaxation after a week of such hard work. These people who were strangers one week ago are now friends who take care of each other. It’s amazing how serving others can bring people together.

Learn more about the Global Village program and share your interest in our next trip.

Maintaining the Spirit

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Meredith Canfield reflects back on her first year in the role of Volunteer Manager for Greater Indy Habitat.

Being that this was my first year on the Greater Indy Habitat team, I’ve had many opportunities to share of my new job with friends, family or even strangers. I can usually guess the response I will get after I tell someone I work for Habitat. It’s usually something like, “Oh wow, what an exciting job! What’s it like to work on the build site?” Most – if not all people – are surprised when I say that I’m mainly in the office working with our corporate sponsors to coordinate volunteers. Over time I’ve even noticed that a fair amount of people look disappointed after I derail their Disney-build site version of what it’s like to work at Habitat. I have learned to quickly respond with “I’m meant for an office setting. I don’t like getting dirty,” which helps to make people laugh. While getting dirty doesn’t actually bother me, the other part is true. I am meant for the office. I came from the corporate world, so emails and spreadsheets are my jam.

Being that I spend most of my time in the office, it’s easy to get laser focused on emails, meetings, and quick clicking strategic thoughts. I know, I know. There has to be someone in the backgrounds coordinating volunteers so the build site can come alive with groups of eager and excited people to walk alongside our homeowners. For this behind the curtain girl, these day-to-day tasks are totally my strengths but don’t always fuel my spirit like people, their stories or their hearts do. Earlier this year I decided I needed to find ways to maintain the spirit instead of just maintaining spreadsheets!

Getting out of the office to periodically serve as a build site volunteer was just what I needed! I helped to raise the walls of Danyelle’s home, carried heavy pieces of sod for Miranda’s yard, and used a nail gun to hang up siding on the front of Christine’s house. I loved hanging with volunteers, spending time with our homeowners, and learning the ins and outs of home construction from our Tiger Team. Not only did it fuel my spirit in ways a crossed off to-do list could never do, it gave me a new found appreciation for the hard work put in by our homeowners, volunteers, and construction staff, who work together to build beautiful homes.

Reflecting back on my first year, working for Habitat IS an exciting job and I feel very blessed to be a part of a team that encourages me to find ways to maintain the spirit behind a computer and on the build site. It’s hard to believe that 2017 is nearly over and I feel excited for another year of yes… emails, meetings, and spreadsheets but also a year of purpose, spirit, and joy.

To schedule your own out of the office build day in 2018, sign up for our monthly updates by registering here!

Volunteer Spotlight: Scott Anderson

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It takes more than 6,000 dedicated volunteers to make our mission possible each year in Greater Indy. Though many folks spend just one day serving through their work, church, or civic organization, some individuals keep coming out to the build site to give their time and talent for our homeowners. Volunteers like Scott Anderson. Scott has spent 15 days volunteering on Habitat build sites so far this year!

Q&A with Scott:
Scott Anderson, on left, on a recent rehab project.

What is it about Habitat that keeps you coming back for more? I enjoy supporting a cause that help the community and I like building things.

What’s something new you have learned recently while you were volunteering? I have been exposed to remodeling and construction for years with Habitat and my own home. I was surprised this spring when we installed that hurricane straps. Do not know if its code now in Indiana.

If you had to use one word to describe your volunteer experience with Habitat, what word would you use? Gratifying.

What advice would you give to first time Habitat volunteers? No matter what your construction experience is come and enjoy the day. Plus there are opportunities in the office and ReStore.

Thank you, Scott, for all that you do to build strength, stability and independence through homeownership!

A Look Back: Hope

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Jonathan was a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

Mission Part 3: Hope

[When someone does not know how to start writing about something, a common trick is to Google the subject on which they are writing, and use the first thing they see as an opening line. That is a cheap trick though, and I believe that the people reading this post deserve something different. If not something better, at least something unique. Anything other than just another Google quote.]


A brief Bing search of the word “hope” yields the definition, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” When we use that definition of hope in conjunction with Habitat’s mission of “building hope,” we are brought to an interesting question:

When we build hope, what is that hope for? What are we expecting? What is the “certain thing” which we desire to happen?

There are plenty of great surface level ways to answer this question. “Hope for a better tomorrow,” for instance, is a fun cliché to throw around. But it hardly means anything. By itself, it is too vague to help unite people into actually creating a tomorrow that is any different from today. If we want to give people hope for a better tomorrow, we need a real vision of what that tomorrow will look like.

So what is Habitat’s vision? “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

That is what our hope is for. That is what our better tomorrow will look like. Habitat exists to build homes, communities, and hope for a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

It sounds a little too grand. Not a lot of people think something like that is possible. If they did, we wouldn’t have to build that hope. Our mission statement would be two-thirds of its current length, and we would probably never have any difficulty recruiting volunteers ever again. It seems that the people who first described Habitat’s vision were either delusional, or they had much better eyesight than most of the rest of us.

When I first started here, I certainly wouldn’t have been likely to piece together something so distant from our current reality. However, after almost a year of peeking at the all ways in which Habitat tackles their mission, I am no longer convinced of the impossibility of their vision. I’ve witnessed people from different faith backgrounds smile as they served alongside one another, listening to and learning from one another. I’ve seen children run across their new bedroom floors, all the while grinning from ear to ear. I’ve listened to brand new homeowners tearfully describe the joy they never thought they would be able to experience which has now become a reality. After seeing Habitat’s work change so many lives right in front of me, it is hard not to be hopeful for their vision.

Because we build homes, we have hope that we can change the lives of families who need a hand up.  Because we build communities, we have hope that we can change the way people look at one another, and we empower people to love their neighbors in meaningful ways. Because we have seen these homes and communities blossom beyond even our expectations, and because of the incredible opportunity we’ve been given to change so many people’s lives in our 30-year existence, we have hope for a world where everyone has a decent place to live. That is why hope is the final piece, and total sum, of everything Habitat builds.

Thank you, Jonathan, for your service to Habitat’s families and mission this past year!

A Look Back: Communities

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Jonathan is a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

Mission Part 2: Communities

Community lies at the very foundation of what Habitat is. To be more specific, the foundation of Habitat actually took place at “Community.”

Habitat for Humanity was founded at a place called Koinonia Farm. Koinonia is the Greek word for authentic Christian fellowship or communion. So when I say, “community lies at the very foundation of what Habitat is,” I mean it literally as much as figuratively. Habitat was founded at Community, in Community, and for Community. It is an integral aspect of who we are, where we’re from, and where we hope to go, and for that reason, community is an incredibly crucial part of our mission.

From the very first steps we take with our homeowners, to the home dedications and beyond, the process we facilitate is oriented so that it builds communities. We strive to make sure our homeowners are supported throughout their journeys, and we work to affirm that each homeowner knows they won’t be doing this alone. The staff, mentors, fellow homeowners, volunteers, board of directors, and sponsors all come together to make our mission possible. Every group and every individual is appreciated, and every group and every individual is vital to the journey of homeownership.

When the poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island,” he was referencing the preponderancy of communities. When we succeed, we succeed because of the support of those who worked alongside us. Our lives and our actions are intrinsically woven with the lives of everyone we meet, as well as those of others we will never know. Communities enable us to experience joy, triumph, compassion, and love, in ways unimaginable in solitude. In order to do everything we can to ensure the meaningful success of our homeowners, we build communities.

But the communities we build don’t just benefit the homeowners. Ask anybody who has ever had the privilege of working alongside one of our homebuyers on their future home. To witness firsthand the motivation, resilience, endeavor, and joy of someone building their own home, and especially to step alongside them in that missional cocktail, can be an eye-opening and life-altering experience. Not only is it true that together we are greater than the sum of our parts, but I believe that each of our parts becomes incontrovertibly and interminably greater as a result of recognizing our combined greatness.

This significance gets particularly emphasized in builds such as our Interfaith Build, wherein people from an abundance of backgrounds, and with a plethora of perspectives, come together in a combined act of service. It proves that these builds aren’t just about houses, or about helping one person, though that alone would be spectacular enough. In perhaps the most commendable display of “E Pluribus Unum” I’ve had the honor to experience in my life, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and more, all came together to build one magnificent, impactful, loving community.

The good life is a product of good communities, and communities are the product of lives well-lived.  Nothing good is attainable alone, and the best things in life become better when shared. Habitat builds homes that change lives, but it is the communities that make all of that possible. The foundation of every home we build is laid in the communities that built it, and that is why Habitat builds communities.

Read Jonathan’s first post on Homes and check back next month for Jonathan’s final post reflecting on hope.

A Look Back: Homes

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Jonathan is a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

Mission Part 1: Homes

I’ve been with Greater Indy Habitat for ten months now. In a “year-long” volunteer program that actually only lasts eleven months, I already have ten elevenths of what is meant to be a life-altering program on which to reflect, and I’m not sure where to start. So, in trying to begin to reflect on how my experience here has influenced my understanding of service, I recently asked a few friends how they would describe Habitat’s work.

“Helps habitate humans?” my brother, who studied linguistics, suggested. My friend Mikey, responding in a group chat in which I’d posed the question, said that they “build houses for low-income families.” Moments later, another friend in that group posted, “I second Mikey.”

If I had asked myself the same question a year ago – a clichéd premise, I know – I probably would have seconded Mikey as well. In my mind, at that time, Habitat was just a particularly generous construction crew. That was before I’d ever heard their mission statement, and more significantly, before I became a small part of the mission in that statement.

That mission is this:

“Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

It seems like a simple enough statement. I don’t think most people with a passing familiarity with Habitat would be surprised by anything in it. But if one really takes the time to dissect and consider the pieces of it, they may realize there’s more to it than initially appears.

With my final three blog posts as this year’s Greater Indy Habitat YAV, that’s precisely what I want to do. This being the first installment in the series, I want to start by looking at the first object of Habitat’s missional building: homes.

Perhaps Bill Withers put it best when he sang, “And this house just ain’t no home, anytime she goes away.” There is a distinct difference between a house and a home. For the esteemed Mr. Withers, a house is where he lives, but a home is where he and this woman who brought sunshine to his life could be together. For many of our homeowners, the structure we build together is a place where their families can be safe. It’s a place where they can find respite and revitalization. It’s a place where they can find fellowship and freedom. It’s a place where love can thrive.

Habitat forms relationships with their homeowners. They take the time to understand the needs of the homeowner, and demonstrate the necessary investment to care for those needs. It’s not that difficult to build houses; to run a blueprint through a conveyor belt and give people four walls and a roof. It’s not cheap, but it’s available almost everywhere today. What makes them homes, and what Habitat takes the utmost care to do, is the compassionate attention given to each family in the program, and each structure they build.

The homes these families build change their lives. They provide a brand new foundation from which things seem possible which may not have even been considerable before. A house cannot do that on its own. It needs to be made into a home, and that’s why homes are the first thing Habitat builds.

Check back later this month for Jonathan’s next post reflecting on communities.

Volunteers, By the Numbers

By | Tiger Team, Volunteer | No Comments

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Habitat’s work here in Greater Indy and across the country. Our volunteers may spend a day with us once a year or come back every week. Regardless of the amount of time spent on a build site or in the ReStore, our volunteers bring the Habitat mission to life.

Though we haven’t hit the halfway mark of the year yet, our volunteers are hitting some impressive numbers! Thus far in 2017 we’ve seen:

  • 2260 volunteer shifts completed in rain, snow or sunshine
  • 104 volunteer shifts completed by future Habitat homeowners
  • 14,312 hours of work completed by volunteers (4,094 hours by Tigers!)
  • 139 days where volunteers built/rehabbed homes or worked in the ReStore
  • 1,832 new accounts created since January, meaning 1,832 new individuals have or will join Habitat’s work in Greater Indy
  • 3 new homeowners now living in their first home and 7 homes under construction with volunteer support

And we have more to accomplish in 2017! Help us reach our goal of serving 27 first-time homeowners by signing up today. With questions, please contact

Cover Indiana-Discovering What I Can Do: Lauren

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This year I’m serving as an AmeriCorps A-Team member with Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity. Before this trip, I had never ridden my bike over 45 miles. Yet, on the first day of the Habitat for Humanity Cover Indiana ride, I rode 72 miles! We started the day in Lafayette and worked our way down and around Clinton Co. to Thorntown. During that first half of the ride I had the pleasure of riding beside all kinds of riders – young athletic riders, a couple on a tandem bike, and a woman who is so dedicated to riding that even after breaking her hip on a bike ride, came back and rode on a recumbent bike! After reaching Thorntown, the majority of our team rode on to Crawfordsville. However, Paul (a Tiger with Greater Indy Habitat and pictured below), Ted (Director of Development with Greater Indy) and I turned around and headed back to Lafayette to finish out our day ride. We faced some serious headwinds and steep hills! But we forged on, got a little off path and then found our way back to base camp.

The amount of pride and accomplishment I felt was second to none! It was because of the support and strength of Paul, Ted and my fellow Habitat riders that I was able to accomplish this mileage goal of mine and feel this great sense of personal empowerment. Whether you are a future homeowner, a volunteer or supporter, Habitat does that to you – strengthens you, helps you discover what you can do and is there to cheer you on as you reach your goals.

National Volunteer Week-Finding Your Fit : Meredith

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“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

A friend told me recently that she set a New Year’s resolution to find an organization where she can consistently use her skills in a volunteer opportunity. With a little guilt in her voice, she told me that she hadn’t even begun to find the right volunteer fit, and we are already 4 months into the year! Lucky for her, April 23-27 marks National Volunteer Week, and it’s perfect timing to revive that resolution!

Just as 1 Peter 4:10 suggests, each of us has a gift or skill to utilize when serving others. Knowing your gifting – as well as your heart and your schedule – will help you discover your volunteer fit. Below are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:

HEART: What sort of missions or causes do I naturally desire to be a part of?

SKILLS: What gifts or skills could I offer to support a mission and would it be something I would enjoy doing?

SCHEDULE: How often (i.e., once per week, once per month, etc.) would I want to volunteer?

God calls us to be cheerful givers, just as written in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This verse in scripture might make you think of only financially giving; however, I think it also has to do with giving of your heart, your skills and your time. We hope that wherever you find yourself giving, you are able to do so with a cheerful heart!

If your fit is here with us at Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity, we would love to have you serving our mission of seeking to put God’s love into action, by bringing people together to build homes, community and hope! We have chosen to show God’s love through the vessel of building homes; however, did you know we offer a variety of volunteer experiences that do not entail swinging a hammer, installing siding or painting walls? You could be a mentor for one of our homeowners, volunteer in one of our ReStores or even travel to El Salvador as part of our Global Village program to make a difference internationally.

Our volunteer opportunities entail varied time commitments and incorporate a variety of skill sets. To learn more, please check out our Volunteer Opportunities listed on our website or email us at to learn more. We hope to see you soon!

Five New Habitat Homes : Ted

By | Tiger Team, Volunteer | One Comment

Yesterday we started the construction of FIVE new Habitat homes!

The sunny spring weather could not have been more perfect to raise the walls and get the homes started alongside the future homeowners. Some of the Habitat staff, board and Tiger Team members spent the day working on one of the builds together.

Often when I meet someone for the first time and tell them I work at Habitat for Humanity, they assume I am on build sites with a hammer in my hand most days. The reality is, most of us work in an office or around a conference table. Some of us can build a spreadsheet much easier than we can build a house!

A couple of times a year though, office staff shut down their computers and get out to work. Yesterday was one of those days.

Each time I get on a build site, I am reminded of how important Habitat’s work is and how easily we can see the mission statement being lived out. I was reminded as I watched Danyelle put the first nail in her new home. I was reminded as we gathered together in the morning and took a moment to pause and pray. I was reminded as we raised heavy walls while holding conversations and sharing laughs. I was reminded as I looked past the homes being built today and looked at the houses that were built last year—no longer just houses, but now part of the fabric of the community forever.

The build we worked on today is called the “Habitat United Build” and is a first of a kind build for our office. The funds needed to make the build possible were donated by the board members, Tiger Team, staff and friends. And each volunteer day is being filled by those same people. The build shows that all of us are fully invested in the complete Habitat mission: in the office, on the build site, with our finances and with our friends. In order to see a world where everyone has a decent place to live, it will take all of us.

Three new Habitat families have already cut the ribbon on their homes this year. Five homes started yesterday. We are well on our way to getting 27 families in their homes before the end of the year.

Yes, Habitat builds houses. But it’s never just about the houses. It’s always been so much more.

Join Us.

Interested in being involved this year?

Check our Volunteer Page often  *  Support the Habitat United Build  *  Join the Builders Circle