Just before he retired in 2015, David Johansen began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity through his church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Once a month a team of volunteers from the church goes to work on a Habitat home under construction.
It didn’t take long for David to realize he wanted to do more. In January 2016 he joined Chuck Sgro’s Habitat team and now every Thursday David can be found in a different Louisville neighborhood helping make a family’s dream home a reality.
Why did you choose Habitat for Humanity?
I liked the idea that I could work with my hands. I’ve always been handy around the house; able to fix things, but had never done construction. When I started working with Habitat it just kind of clicked. It’s wonderful because we work side by side with the families who’ll be living in the homes. They’re all required to help build either their own home or someone else’s in the program. What better way to help lift someone up than by improving their living situation? Habitat does that.
What inspires you to continue your volunteer work with Habitat?
The families really inspire me. Their stories and how they’re overcoming their struggles and building a life for themselves is heartwarming. They have to be very committed to the process to get a Habitat home. They’re so grateful for the opportunity.
I’m also inspired by Chuck and our team. All of us are retired and have a passion for giving back. Everyone is so good at what they do and so happy to be making a difference. It’s so fulfilling for me to know I’m helping improve someone’s life.
How do volunteers leave their mark on the homes they build?
Once the homes are framed and before the drywall is installed, volunteers use markers to write inspiring messages on the wooden studs. People write messages like “bless this house,” and “wishing you all the best.” The Habitat family gets to read the messages before the drywall goes up. They know the messages are always there to give them hope and inspiration.
What advice do you have for others interested in volunteering?
Find a place that feeds your spirit. Discover what your passion is. Start gradually, maybe once a month or once a quarter. Then if you really like it and have the time, volunteer some more. But start slowly. It’s easy to become overcommitted and burn out. Donating my time and talent to help other people gives me a lot of personal pleasure.
By Kym Voorhees Raque | Photos by Patti Hartog