Meet our Volunteers

Tuesday Crew Wins NPA Volunteer of the Year Award

On Wednesday April 26, 2017, the Non-Profit Alliance of Greater Lowell held its 1st Annual Award Breakfast. The NPA, a coalition of over 60 non-profits in Greater Lowell and the Merrimack Valley, offers professional development, networking, and other partnership opportunities to its members.  This breakfast was to recognize members of non-profit organizations for their tireless commitment to their organization and the populations they serve.  HFHGL’s Tuesday Crew was a finalist for the Volunteer category, and at the breakfast, they were selected as the winner in that category. Here is a video of board member and Tuesday Crew member Ed Maggio accepting the award.

A Chat with Janis Page about the Family Selection Committee

Janis Page has been a member of the HFHGL Family Selection Committee for 15 years.  This 8 member committee is responsible for making recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding the selection of partner families.

Janis first got involved with HFHGL in 2000 when she participated on site in the rehabilitation of 16 Nichols Street, Lowell.   She joined the Family Selection Committee (FSC) in 2002 and the first family selected under her tenure on the FSC was for 9 Austin Road, Billerica.

Janis reviewed the family selection process.  The process begins with Family Information Sessions which any potential partner family can attend.  The sessions are held at easily accessible public places and are advertised via local newspapers and flyers posted at various locations in HFHGL’s service area.  Executive Director Brenda Gould or Community Outreach Director Lisa Garvey lead the sessions, and members of the FSC are in attendance to answer questions.  Then applicants submit a hard copy application. The FSC reviews the applications and makes home visits when all family members can be present.   Applicants are required to attend a 2 hour financial training class and complete 4 hours of sweat equity on another project or at the ReStore before they will be considered in the final pool of applicants. This is further proof of the sweat equity concept.   One of the most rewarding parts of the committee is going to the board to present the summary of the family chosen and the thrill of being able to call the family to tell them the great news!

This process has been approved by the Housing and Community Development Departments in the towns in HFHGL’s service area.  This approval means that the project can count towards a town’s affordable housing inventory.

Reflecting on the process, Janis said that typically one family really pulls on her heart strings, but a blind point system helps to equalize the process.  And while it may be disappointing that all the families who apply cannot be selected, it’s heartening to see that some act on the resources provided for improving their credit or job stability, then reapply and do in fact get selected.

Janis said that she feels privileged to be a member of the FSC.  She praised the loyalty and stability of the group, saying that 3 members have served for 10 years.   She loves being part of an “army” of volunteers that make it all happen, including the FCS, the building volunteers, and the ReStore volunteers.  “These families are doing everything right, but they may not get ahead without our help.”

Young builder has volunteered over 150 hours

Andrew Hrasna volunteering on a Critical Repair job.

Andrew Hrasna has always enjoyed working with his hands. He draws inspiration from his father and grandfathers. “I see a lot of them in myself, and my parents see it too” Andrew said. “They often remark how much I’m like my grandfathers.”

Andrew’s grandfather on his mother’s side was an old school Sicilian immigrant who worked as a bricklayer and stone mason who built a brick house for his family. His other grandfather was an Electrical Engineer who enjoyed woodworking and making things, so an interest in how things work is in Andrew’s genes. Now, as a 21 year old college student, Andrew has found the perfect outlet for his passion; volunteering for build projects with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell. Since July 2016, he has put in over 150 hours, mostly on Fridays, at several build sites, including Dalton Street and Harmony Way in Lowell MA.

Andrew sees a lot of synergy between his volunteer work for HFHGL and his school work. Previously he attended Wentworth Institute of Technology where he studied Architecture. He now studies at Middlesex Community College, where he is studying Engineering Technology. His interest in construction also spills over to his personal time. How many 21 year olds watch “This Old House”?

When asked why he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, Andrew replied, “I think everyone should know how to swing a hammer, snap a chalk line, and know basic building skills. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is a great way to learn new skills for DIY projects at home.” Then he added, “I want to be remembered for doing something good. Volunteering for construction for Habitat for Humanity gives me a purpose, and it’s the best feeling in the world knowing that I am appreciated by the people I am building for. I know a lot of 20-somethings who don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I’m still questioning that as well, but I do know that volunteering for Habitat fits the bill of doing something meaningful, so for now I’m just going to keep on building and keep on learning.”

ReStore Volunteer hits 5th year

Holly Guaraldi pictured with Jerry Pelletier, Manager of ReStore in Tyngsboro MA.

Holly Guaraldi has been volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell for over 5 years. She loyally volunteers at the ReStore in Tyngsboro MA once a week. Holly says that she enjoys her volunteer gig at the ReStore for several reasons. On a personal level, she loves to organize, so sorting through all the donations and placing them on the store floor is personally satisfying. She loves the way that the staff members and other volunteers at the ReStore are wholeheartedly engaged in their work And at a deeper level, she gets satisfaction out of being part of an organization that has permanent impact on the lives of others in need.

In the past she volunteered for other charitable organizations where the model is a “handout”, and she was concerned that these organizations could not provide a permanent solution to the issues faced by the people they served. So Holly keeps coming in one day a week, cleaning crystal chandeliers and sorting lamps, bedding and dishes.

When asked about some of the more interesting donations that have come into the store, Holly replied, “We had a home that was cleaned out by someone who stages homes for a realtor. The house was filled with “rooster themed” items from Home Goods that still had price tags on the bottom! Sometimes we get items that I remember from my childhood, like the dishes my mother collected each week at Purity Supreme.”