In addition to family, baseball, my dogs, writing, and music, one of my greatest passions in life is volunteering. Volunteering your time, your expertise, your muscles, your brains, your heart for the betterment of another human being is so rewarding it is hard to put it into words. People, families, kids, baseball players are all busy 24/7/365 with activities, work, vacations, school, ball games so when you hear about kids volunteering, it is a story worth writing about. And when it involves the recent Rhode Island State Champion North Kingstown High School Varsity baseball team, players and families who I know personally for well over a decade – well I want to be front and center hearing that story and then sharing it with you…
This past week, I was speaking to Joy Brew, whose husband Billy is one of the best coaches and baseball minds I have ever come across and whose son Will is one of the best baseball players in North Kingstown. Joy mentioned that the North Kingstown High School baseball team would be volunteering with the local chapter (South County) of Habitat for Humanity. She said the team would be volunteering their time for about 6 hours or so at a house site in Exeter. Joy gave me the contact person at South County Habitat for Humanity, Caroline Crane, and I reached out to her for some pre-game questions. I mean pre-build questions, sorry just a habit!!!
I asked Caroline “How did this come about?” Caroline replied, “South County Habitat for Humanity builds strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. Since 1990, South County Habitat for Humanity has been dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide. We do this by building and rehabilitating homes with the help of volunteers. Those homes are sold with an affordable mortgage payment to low income buyers that have been selected to be our partner families. While in our program, these partner families take homeowner courses and complete 200-400 hours of Habitat volunteer time, or what we like to call “sweat equity.” On Friday, the volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside the future homeowner for this specific home. Over the last 30 years, South County Habitat for Humanity has served 114 families. Volunteers work with us for a variety of reasons: they are passionate about our goal of providing affordable homeownership opportunities; they love meeting new people, they enjoy working with their hands, they have fun teaching others new skills and/or learning new skills for themselves, it is a great team building activity, and so much more. Joy reached out to me about scheduling a group build for the team, and we had a good level of interest from the players. Each individual player might have a different reason for wanting to get out and build with us, but at the end of the day I think they will all find it incredibly rewarding. Plus, we value all the time volunteers share with us. They truly are the reason our homes go up; they perform the majority of the labor to build our homes.”
“What will the players be doing for Habitat for Humanity on Friday?” I asked. Caroline mentioned that “the baseball players will be framing up the house on Friday. This could include a lot of hammering, putting up walls, etc. Once on site Friday, you might get a better (more technical) answer from one of our experienced construction guys!” Do the players need any special training or previous experience, I asked. “We love volunteer groups and encourage anyone to pull together your friends, family, or associates and have fun making a difference in our local community,” Caroline stated. “Teams of all sizes can engage their members and encourage stronger relationships while learning new skills. Volunteers do not need any prior experience, just a willingness to learn and have fun. Our staff will provide all training, materials, safety equipment, and supervision during your build day. Please note that construction volunteers must be 16 years of age or older. We also require one adult chaperon for every five volunteers between the ages of 16 – 18.” I will have more about how you can contact Caroline and South County Habitat for Humanity later.
Friday morning I took the drive out to Exeter to get a first hand look at the Habitat for Humanity experience. As I pulled up Ten Rod Road, then to Gardiner Rd, there were a line of cars parked near the construction site and a trailer with pre-built sections of the house in the road. The North Kingstown High School baseball team and some parent volunteers were already working on the main subfloor as I walked down the gravel driveway to meet Caroline. Caroline is a great representative of South County Habitat for Humanity and I encourage you to reach out to her for any questions. She is a fountain of information about the program, how families qualify for the program, the necessary classes and requirements of the potential homeowner, and so much more. One of the requirements of the Habitat for Humanity program is you, the potential homeowner, actually help build your own home, volunteering hours hammering nails, laying down insulation, and so on. And just as I was speaking to Caroline on site, the new homeowner arrived and greeted the staff and NKHS volunteers.
Caroline passed me off to Rich Morrissey, who helped answer some technical questions I had about the volunteer work being done. Rich mentioned that Fridays were a typical volunteer day for teams, corporations, and local groups. Thursdays, he said, they have women only crews. In fact, they have volunteer groups, when available, up to 5 days per week. Rich told me that he and his expert staff at Habitat did less building and more instructing on these Friday volunteer days. However, if a board looked out of place or a section was not straight or something didn’t look right, Rich and his staff stepped in right away to make the necessary corrections. In fact, Rich paused our conversation briefly to walk over to the subfloor group and make a minor correction in the placement of one of the 4X8 boards being laid down. I asked Rich about the pre-build setup with the volunteers. Rich mentioned that they have a safety briefing along with instructions for which particular phase of the build that the volunteers would work on that day. “We want everyone on site to stay safe, listen to the instructors, and certainly have a good experience,” were Rich’s last words before he was need on the job site.
I took a walk around the construction site and observed the team of builders working on the basement. The volunteers were laying down insulation, cutting sheets, and placing them in an interlocking pattern on the floor. As they did so expertly on the baseball fields of Rhode Island this Spring, the North Kingstown High School baseball team worked together to get the job done, one task at a time, one board at a time, one section at a time. Each one of the the players giving up their Friday morning, where they could have been hitting baseballs in the cage or taking grounders at second or throwing a bullpen session or simply just being a teenager. Nope, they were volunteering their time so a local family could realize the dream of all dreams – to move into a home to better their family and their lives for years to come. Pretty awesome to be a part of that experience and I have to say I have a lot of respect for the players and their families for volunteering their time and being a part of this build.
I met up with Joy and thanked her for inviting me to the NKHS Baseball team volunteer outing. She took a ton of great photos and I have shared some of them in this article. Caroline and I spoke one more time about the emotional aspect of the builds. “You have to know that we have a ton of layers involved here – from the office staff, to the builders you met like Rich, myself, the program coordinators, certainly the homeowner, the volunteer groups, the financial class organizers and instructors. We have a lot of people involved in this home and when it gets built and the homeowner walks through that door, it can get really, really emotional.” I can only imagine the joy and tears of happiness and elation when this and other Habitat for Humanity projects are completed. What an awesome organization and what an awesome day for these North Kingstown High School baseball players and their families. There were no runs, hits, or errors to report about, but this morning’s volunteer performance goes down as one of the best NKHS baseball moments I will write about for years to come.
If you would like to reach out to Caroline and learn more about volunteer opportunities with the South County Habitat for Humanity, here is her contact information:
Caroline Crane, Volunteer Coordinator
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – www.southcountyhabitat.org