A Shared Purpose

Alex Smith always enjoyed following her dad around and offering help. She found maintenance work interesting, which is why she agreed to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. Smith signed up through the corporation she worked for and was surprised when she saw over 300 volunteers that Saturday morning.

“I originally thought, ‘what in the world can I do that’s going to impact or help?’” Smith says.

That one-day volunteer project in the late 1980s was the start of Smith’s volunteer journey with Habitat for Humanity.

She was assigned to a group tasked with removing a window from an external brick wall. As they removed the window, the whole wall fell down. Smith says she gets chills every time she remembers what happened next.

Someone in her group said his father had been a bricklayer, so he could attempt to put the wall back up. Someone else said they could mix the mortar so Smith offered to chip off the old mortar and clean the bricks.

“When we got that wall back up, I thought, ‘that’s what it’s all about,’” Smith says. “Nobody had a specific talent, but everybody came together as a group and accomplished something.”

That experience is the reason why Smith continued to volunteer on the weekends. When she moved to Florida, she joined a local Women Build group.

Every three months she would commute to Omaha to visit her daughter and grandchildren. During her visits, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha.

“When I moved to Omaha, I knew everybody so I joined the Women Build group here,” Smith says.

Smith has also volunteered abroad with Habitat Omaha through Global Village trips. She volunteered in Honduras this past November and Zambia in September of 2017. Being able to see the results and homeowners’ reactions is what Smith finds most rewarding.

“There are volunteer opportunities with other organizations that are ongoing, so you might not see the results,” Smith says. “But here, you can see it, you can touch it, you can feel it. It’s there and you did it.”

In October, Habitat Omaha recognized Smith as Construction Volunteer of the Year.

“I was shocked and honored,” Smith says. “I’m planning on hanging my hammer on the wall.”

Smith is proud of what she has learned and accomplished and encourages anyone interested in joining Women Build or working at a build site, to reach out and give Habitat Omaha a try.

“When a group comes together that’s got the same purpose, there’s a synergy that develops and that to me is what Habitat is really all about,” Smith says. “Everybody has a little bit of talent and when we come together, we pull it out of each other.”