Habitat for Humanity calls on AmeriCorps to help fill volunteer void

MADISON, Wis. — As Lauren Spratt puts the finishing touches on a stair railing, it’s one more project wrapping up so a mom and her children will have a new place to live.

Spratt is working on a house on Eliot Ln, which is one of a handful of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County houses that will go to homeowners who apply through the new home program. Habitat relies on volunteers for labor, but they’re seeing about 40% less since the start of the pandemic, forcing Habitat to take on fewer homes, says CEO Valerie Renk.

“It’s been a hard winter for us,” says Renk. “We’re hoping with spring now and more people being vaccinated it’s going to be easier for our worksites,” she says.

Click here for information on volunteering with Habitat for Humanity  of Dane County.

To fill the need, Habitat asked AmeriCorps for help. It sent 9 volunteers from across the country for 10 weeks.

“When we first got here in January, both of the houses (over there) didn’t have close to any siding on it,” says Spratt an AmeriCorps Volunteer from Florida. Others have come from different states including New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina.

“I wanted to learn about the challenges different Americans across the country are facing,” says Spratt.

It does cost Habitat to bring in AmeriCorps volunteers, such as room and board.

Along with lower the number of new homes to build, Habitat has also suspended its Critical Repair Program which Renk is hoping they bring back this summer.

Habitat for Humanity of Dane County is making some changes to its worksites in hopes of making them safer for volunteers, such as scheduling smaller groups, offering sinks at worksites, banning food, and requiring masks.