This is an archived article.

November 19, 2009

Helping provide ‘a decent and affordable place to live’ is volunteer’s reward

Editor’s note: Through the duration of the Combined Fund Drive campaign, University Week will spotlight members of the UW community who are personally involved with one of the 2,800 agencies supported by CFD funds.


Name: Stephen Keating.


UW job: Operations manager, Center for Public Health Informatics, Dept. of Health Services/School of Public Health.


Volunteer Activity: Habitat for Humanity — building site crew volunteer, providing on-site labor in building homes from the foundation up, in partnership with experienced Habitat for Humanity building professionals and future home owners.


Organization’s mission: Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing ministry which seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness wordwide. It’s not a giveaway program; homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor — sweat equity — into building their Habitat house, and they pay a no-profit, zero-interest mortgage. To date, more than 200,000 houses have been built worldwide, providing homes to more than 1 million people.


How long a volunteer for this agency: I have volunteered on the monthly third Saturday site crew since 2002.


Why these activities? I enjoy hands-on activities, meeting new people and the ongoing opportunity to learn new skills. Volunteering for Habitat covers all three of those to a tee!


A memorable experience while volunteering: There are any number of memorable experiences from my volunteer time with Habitat, many of them involving an amusing “learning moment” where my measurement was off or I couldn’t hammer a nail straight. However, the ones that stand out usually involve an example of teamwork that is necessary to a successful house build. From the simple task of digging trenches, all the way up to the complex maneuvering required to place a wall or roof truss, it is often only accomplished through the active participation of everyone on the site. We’re all working to the same goal, and all the tasks, big and small, are important.


Satisfaction in volunteering: In this case, the knowledge that someone will have a decent and affordable place to live. When attending the dedication of a house at its completion, it is always a great feeling to see a family so happy to have a new home, and know that I was a part of bringing that reality into existence.


Further, it is always nice to drive by a Habitat house, and be able to look at it and say, “I helped build that.” It is a substantial and immediate reminder that getting involved in your community can have a positive, lasting impact. This often isn’t the case with many types of volunteer work, but it helps remind me that all volunteers are important, regardless of whether it’s behind the scenes or in the public eye.



  • The Seattle/King County Habitat for Humanity Web site is here.
  • The East Side King County Habitat for Humanity Web site here.
  • The Habitat for Humanity Web site is here.


As of Nov. 13, the 2009 Combined Fund Drive had raised $1,745,831 in pledges. You can learn more and donate online here.