Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm a Habitat Hero!

Normally, I'm not one to brag on myself.  I normally try to quietly do what I think is right, and go on about my business.  This week, however, I was thrust into the spotlight.  Well, maybe thrust into the spotlight a bit of an exaggeration, but I was recognized for charity work that I'd done.

This past Tuesday, I went to a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis Homeowner/Sponsor Reception to help Crystel with the event.  At the reception, the future Habitat homeowners and their respective sponsors are recognized.  In addition, awards are handed out for the "Habitat Heroes" for July and August.  As I was sitting at the back of the room, my name was called as the July Habitat Hero.  I was recognized for my assistance at the Exotic Italian Car Show in June of this year.  I was shocked to be recognized, because I felt like I was just doing my duty at the car show by helping Crystel with a very difficult event. 

While I am very grateful for the award (it will be displayed proudly in my office), I feel that Habitat has already given much more valuable things to me in the two-plus years I have been associated with the organization.  See, I've never been very civic-minded.  I didn't grow up doing charity work or donating to local charitable organizations.  My involvement with Habitat has been my first real experience with volunteer work.

When Crystel accepted a job with Habitat for Humanity in early 2008, I didn't know what to expect.  What we did know was that she was facing a long commute from Collierville.  This prompted up to move into the city from the suburbs.  We bought a house in the High Point Terrace neighborhood in East Memphis, which was one of the best decisions we could have made. We love it here.  We'd probably still be living in Collierville if it wasn't for Habitat.  Don't get me wrong, Collierville is great, but Memphis has a lot more to offer a young couple.

Shortly after Crystel started her job at Habitat, she started telling me about all of these interesting people she was meeting.  Little did I know these people would go on to become dear friends.  As I started going to some of the events with Crystel, I too started meeting some great people.  I look back at our time in Memphis, and our list of friends would be much shorter without our involvement in Habitat.  It's true what I've read that the best way to meet people in a new city is to volunteer. 

While I haven't spent a lot of time at the build sites, I do spend a lot of time (and a lot of effort) at the Habitat fundraising events.  Volunteers don't just hang around at these events.  There is a lot of hard work to be done.  To see a group of strangers and friends come together in one day to pull off these events is amazing.  You can always count on leaving a Habitat event tired, but very fulfilled.  It sounds cheesy, but you often time come to the event as strangers and leave as friends.

I have learned a tremendous amount about Memphis through volunteering with Habitat.  I know about cool neighborhoods, events, organizations, and people that I never would have been exposed to without my involvement with Habitat. Just this past Friday night, we went to the South Main Trolley Tour and had a great time.  We were there to hand out Habitat information and try and spread the word about the Tool Box Bash (Habitat's biggest fundraiser, and a very fun event).  After taking in the scene, we will definitely be going back to South Main as soon as possible.

Of course, everything I have mentioned is a benefit that Habitat gives me as a volunteer (which is a very selfish view).  The best part about Habitat is the work they do for the very deserving homeowners.  Going to a home dedication and seeing the joy brought to the new homeowners is amazing.  There are many great, hardworking families that deserve an opportunity for homeownership.  Habitat creates that opportunity. 

So, if you feel down on your city, get out and volunteer.  Get out and try to make it better.  You might find that the volunteer work can benefit you as much as it does the people you are helping.  So many people tend to focus on the negative aspects of Memphis (or any city), and overlook many of the fantastic things this city has to offer.  When we moved to the Memphis area from Oxford in 2006, we felt like outsiders.  Thanks in large part to our work with Habitat, we feel like a part of this great city.

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