Habitat for Humanity Project Hammers Home the Importance of Volunteerism

“Home is everything,” said FNL’s Olga Kuznetsova. “It’s stability and security. It’s safety and independence. And it’s a foundation for building a family and life.”BRUNSWICK, Md. -- The staccato sounds of hammers and nail guns replaced the typical morning silence of a recent sunny Saturday in Brunswick, Md., where Frederick National Laboratory volunteers, their guests, and staff from Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County were hard at work on a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rancher that will soon be home to Frederick County local Rebecca Lookingbill and her two kids.

Lookingbill has been a single mother for six years. She makes a decent income but was forced to move back in with her parents due to the high cost of housing in Frederick County. While the arrangement has given her and her children a place to live, conditions in the small house are extremely cramped. For years, she and her son have shared a bedroom because of the limited space.

Thanks to Habitat, however, Lookingbill will soon be able to purchase the house in Brunswick through a subsidized loan with a low down payment and interest rate. In exchange, she must contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” working on the home or in Habitat’s ReStore.

According to Habitat’s volunteer coordinator, Leslie Ajuria, Lookingbill is already well on her way to meeting that requirement. Individual volunteers and those from local companies and organizations like Frederick National Laboratory are also making considerable progress on the house.

Two shifts of volunteers arrived on-site to a warm greeting from Ajuria and other members of the Habitat team. After checking in, they gathered for a safety briefing from Bill West, Habitat’s construction manager and team leader, who emphasized the need for teamwork and vigilance in the constantly changing job site.

“The only thing you can guarantee [here] is change,” he cautioned.

The volunteers then split into smaller groups. One team moved to the front of the house to build the front porch, while another cut siding and nailed it to the walls. Inside, volunteers drilled blocking into the wall frames to prepare for the kitchen cabinets and widened an existing hole in an exterior wall so a proper doorframe could be added.

Over the din of the work, the Habitat team coached and encouraged the Frederick National Laboratory groups, complimenting them on work well done.

“These two [Lynne Dolan and Kim Blanchard] have been a top-notch team. They didn’t know how to do any of [the blocking] when we started, and now they’ve done all of this,” said longtime Habitat volunteer Teresa Kline, gesturing to a nearby frame.

Olga Kuznetsova and William Lauer secure joists to the porch frame.Frederick National Laboratory volunteers were equally quick to repay the kind words and share what they had learned.

“Habitat has been so generous just to walk [us] through and help [us] learn and guide [us] 100 percent along the way,” said Dolan, compliance analyst, Contracts and Acquisitions Directorate.

For first-time volunteer Angie Richards, quality assurance specialist, Applied and Developmental Research Directorate, learning involved the “pretty cool” task of drilling holes in concrete as well as getting to know her colleagues.

“A lot of people really care about the community. They want to help out,” she said. “And it’s nice to see that, even in the company, we’re all here to help each other.”

The volunteers were also encouraged to write positive messages on the interior framework, which Lookingbill can see as she works on the house. The tradition has a more symbolic purpose, as well—sealing the volunteers’ compassion and encouragement into the structure for the rest of its existence.

“Building it for someone else, you just feel like a piece of your heart is within the home,” Dolan said.

Habitat expects the house to be completed in the fall, but they hope to be finished by September so Lookingbill and her children can move in before the school year begins. They are currently working on the porch and the siding, after which they will focus on the roof and the interior.

When Lookingbill and her children are at last settled in, they will already have something in common with their next-door neighbors, Todd and Kelly Drury and their young son, Aiden. The Drury family are also new homeowners, the recipients of the house that the Frederick National Laboratory and other volunteers helped Habitat to build in 2017. 

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer; photos by Samuel Lopez

(Published June 18, 2018)

FNL’s morning volunteers. Back row (left to right): Keith Zecher, Philip “William” Lauer, and Karen Rodgers. Middle row (left to right): Kris Gnuschke (spouse), Frank Blanchard, Kim Blanchard (spouse), Cindy Roope, Olga Kuznetsova, and Joshua Lauer (relative). Front row (left to right): Lynne Dolan, Andi Gnuschke, and Lynda Huber. Not pictured: Angie Richards.

Morning volunteers. Back row (left to right): Keith Zecher, Philip “William” Lauer, and Karen Rodgers. Middle row (left to right): Kris Gnuschke (spouse), Frank Blanchard, Kim Blanchard (spouse), Cindy Roope, Olga Kuznetsova, and Joshua Lauer (relative). Front row (left to right): Lynne Dolan, Andi Gnuschke, and Lynda Huber. Not pictured: Angie Richards.

Afternoon volunteers. Back row (left to right): Tim Boyle, Himanso Sahni, Stephanie Watson (guest), Lick Lai, Ryan Jones (guest), and Mark Lichaa. Front row (left to right): Wazo Myint, Cody Hoop (guest), Laurie Boyle (spouse), Jody Lichaa (spouse), and Rob Honec.