Building a Stronger Community: Range Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity

May 29, 2015


Its roots are international.  But in Washington County – Habitat for Humanity is focused on building local homes, for local families.  And volunteers from Range are helping to make it happen.  Employees regularly volunteer for Habitat for Humanity building projects – and on May 21 – a group of 12 employees took part in a special “Range Day”; devoting their time, skills and efforts to building two homes in Washington County. 

Although the organization is international, each affiliate has its own criteria for prospective homeowners.  In order to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home in Washington, PA -- applicants must first complete an application, provide all the requested verifications, and consent to a credit check.  Once these steps are completed, the family will be interviewed in their current home by members of the Family Selection Committee, who will make a recommendation to the Board concerning the family's suitability for the program.

The organization is very clear that what they are providing is a hand up – not a hand-out.  The homes they build and provide are not free; that’s a common misconception.  In fact, every homeowner will be responsible for paying a monthly mortgage, plus escrow for taxes and insurance.  And while the mortgage payments on a HFH home are very affordable, they will still equal several hundred dollars a month for each homeowner.  HFH credit counselors work with each homeowner, making sure they’ll be able to afford their new home, and helping them develop new financial organizational and money saving skills. 

“Sweat equity” work hours are another requirement.  Each homeowner must put in between 300 to 500 volunteer hours, helping to build the home that they will occupy once it’s completed.  And the home must be their first – participants cannot have owned a home in the past. 

Erick Podurgiel is the Washington County Habitat for Humanity Construction Manager.  He’s been working in carpentry and construction for over 12 years, and before starting his job with Habitat for Humanity, was part of the crew that built Range’s offices at Southpointe.  He’s been with HFH for a little under a year.  “I supervise the on-site groups, every volunteer that comes out.”  It’s a diverse group of people.  “They bring a wide range of skills!  From honor society students, to church groups, to energy industry employees – it really varies.  Recently I had the former school superintendent from Peters Township, along with a guy that used to design nuclear submarines.”  Erick says he’s grateful for all of their efforts – and counts Range among his most valuable groups of volunteers.

“The Range group was phenomenal.  They brought skills that translate really well to home building, they were great.”  But he is quick to point out that carpentry and related skills are absolutely not a requirement for volunteers.  “Don’t worry if you don’t have skills!  It’s all right; I’ll show you how to do the work efficiently and safely.”   Erick says he doesn’t care if someone’s never even picked up a hammer – he can help them become productive on the job site.  “You won’t leave here an expert, but you’ll leave more skilled.”  And he sees the volunteers’ confidence go up as the day progresses.  “The first hour is always slow, people are hesitant.  At the start of the day, they listen to the explanation of what they’re going to be doing and think it sounds complicated.  But then they start to get a feel for it, and do great work.  The important thing is to take it slow – and do it right.”

Doing it right ultimately leads to a well-built finished product.  And for Erick, the joy and gratitude of each new homeowner when they take possession of their brand new home is the pay-off.  “This is their first home, they’ve only ever lived in rentals – some of them paying rent to slum lords in bad situations.  And now they get a quality built house.  They often can’t believe it.  They’re very grateful.” 

Operations Tech Susan Pinkerton is among the Range employees who recently volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.  For her, the experience was personal.  “I have been divorced, living in the ‘not-so-great’- neighborhoods with my kids, hoping for a break so that I could take my children someplace else and start fresh. Habitat for Humanity gives families hope for a better future by helping to provide them with a place they can call their own.  And in doing so, it can change a person’s whole thought process, from something negative to a more positive “everything will turn out okay.”

The Habitat for Humanity homes that Range employees have spent their time on are both going to single moms (each with one child.)  Recently – the new owners got to see the work completed by Range employees, and according to Executive Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator Kim Gloady, “Both moms were so excited.  They actually saw walls.  To them, it means they will soon be moving in.” Kim echoes Erick when she says that most of their new homeowners come from difficult and often-times dismal living situations.  “It’s nowhere you’d want to live.”

Kim also reports that when Habitat for Humanity first began building homes in Washington County – they faced some opposition from neighbors who had concerns over what the homes would look like – and whether or not the new owners would take care of them.  But a few weeks ago, one of those residents approached Kim at a local bank.  “She told me she no longer has any reservations about what we’re doing.  She thinks the homes we’re building are really nice, and are a benefit to the community.” 

“We always need volunteers,” continues Kim.  “And if you don’t want to participate in home building, you can volunteer to help out at “Restore” – our local shop that helps us raise additional funds for Habitat.  We sell donated, low-cost building materials and household goods – everything from brand new cabinets and counters donated by local big-box stores – to salvage items from local tear downs.” 

Range employees volunteer their efforts to charity and community events year round.  Helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity is just one example of employees’ dedication and commitment to being good neighbors.  “Our employees are among the very best at what they do, but they’re exceptional when it comes to giving back to the communities where we live and work,” said Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Matt Pitzarella. “When we put out a call for volunteer opportunities the list fills up pretty fast. Often times the opportunities come directly from organizations that our employees are already deeply involved with, which allows us to support the causes that matter to our employees as well as the communities where we work.”

Read more about Range’s Community Engagement & Leadership here