Turning a tough job market into an opportunity

Posted on by HabitatAdmin

for websiteOn a recent, cold December morning in north Chesterfield County, Marguerite Lee received a playful ribbing from her workmates with Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity — par for the course, she said, noting that Habitat’s weekday crew works just as hard as they joke with each other.

To hear the Southern California native explain it, the crew is one big family working together to help other local families build a home. At the end of the day, it’s hugs all around after a job well-done.

“We know we did good for a family in need,” said Lee, who picked up her carpentry skills while helping her fiancé remodel homes in California. “That’s why we all love doing it.”

Lee, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in paralegal studies, moved with her fiancé to Chesterfield in October 2011, and when she had little success finding a job, she decided to fill her time with service to others.

She grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which emphasizes community involvement and serving others. After exploring her options, Lee decided Richmond Habitat was the best place to put her abilities to use.

Her first volunteer effort with Habitat was on a house rehab in Henrico County, across the street from Richmond International Raceway. When members of the weekday crew (skilled construction volunteers who donate their help on a regular basis) saw Lee’s skill level, they encouraged her to join the team. And she’s now the only woman on the crew.

Now, she’s hoping to persuade other women to join them.

Within the past year, she has volunteered more than 350 hours — her goal was to complete just as many volunteer hours as the homeowners are required — with Richmond Habitat. This summer and fall, she was integrally involved with the nonprofit’s new-home build in Henrico’s Sandston area, where her duties included placing roof trusses and hanging drywall.

“I loved everything thrown at us” on that project, said Lee, who is a full-blooded Navajo Indian. “It’s been all great. I’ve absorbed everything.”

When she is on a job site, she puts her attention on more than just the work that needs to be done on the home. She also takes an interest in the homeowner, said Kristin Vinagro, communications manager for Richmond Habitat.

“She is such a kind and caring person,” Vinagro said of Lee. “I think one of the biggest things about her is that she really understands the mission of Habitat. She really cares about each homeowner that’s helping to build homes.”

Building a house from the ground up is about more than bricks and mortar, Lee said.

“To me, a home is very important. It’s not just a house. It’s a home,” she said, noting that a home offers protection and is a place where family bonds grow stronger.


To read the article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website, click here.

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