RMANJ’s Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Day – What We Learned

RMANJ volunteer day

On the morning of Friday, October 19, a group of RMANJ employees – including Dr. Mike Drews and Dr. Doreen Hock – all did something a little different, it was RMANJ volunteer day.

They didn’t put 140 Allen Road into their GPS, and they didn’t go to work in Basking Ridge. Instead, they drove to Passaic, NJ, and parked their cars on Howe Avenue. Dressed in work boots, paint-stained sweaters and worn out jeans, they all walked into a dilapidated home in need of repair and asked how they could help.

It was just after 8:30 am, and the RMANJ team was ready to get their hands dirty volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Morris County, which was working to refurbish the Howe Ave home for its new tenants: a single mother of three young boys.

There were three main tasks for the day: get the backyard in shape for a new layer of grass, demolish the kitchen ceiling, and do some siding work. The work was difficult, the day was long, but the reward was immeasurable: helping a deserving family turn a house into a home.

We asked participating RMANJ volunteers two questions about their experience: what did you learn and what was your favorite moment?

Here’s what they said:

Dr. Michael Drews

I learned that women can be far better at demolition than men.

My favorite part of the day was looking at our days’ effort, seeing how we all worked to help change that deserted house into someone’s home. I kept thinking about that 5-year-old boy, and how I hoped he would get the wonderful life he deserved – with fond memories of growing up in that house, when he’s an old man.

Dr. Doreen Hock

I learned that I work with people who not only have many talents but have very big hearts.

My favorite part of the day was helping to turn a house into a home where a little boy can play in his yard.

Barbara White

I learned how to use my muscles and a power saw to demolish a ceiling.

My favorite part of the day was meeting and working with such a great group of co-workers. We all rocked!

Christy Valentine

I learned an easier way to remove furring strips. And that Dr. Drews is extremely meticulous and methodical in the removal of ceiling tiles.

My favorite moment was working and laughing alongside such great people!

Christina Maloney

I learned that you can work with anyone, even if you don’t know them!

My favorite part of the day was the reason we were there – helping a family! I was honored to be a part of this and can’t wait for another!

Renee Johnson

I learned that when Dr. Hock was 16 years old, she was a cashier at Macy’s.

My favorite moment was when an elderly woman (a next door neighbor) generously offered us some cookies. She didn’t have much, but was persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Christine Gomez

I learned that a little help can go a long way. It’s such a rewarding feeling knowing that your hard work can turn dreams into reality for a family in need.

My favorite moment was watching the volunteer demolition team come out for the final time with such joy, dirt and sweat on their faces.

Vera Zecchino

This was my first time volunteering, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did get the feeling that I had a small part in helping a family, and I can’t wait to do it again!

My favorite moment was when I walked around the house, both inside and outside, thinking how this single mom and her three children will be creating/transforming this house into their “home,” and the memories that will be made for years to come.

Olesia Plokhii

I learned how to use a chainsaw and a crowbar – and how to demolish a ceiling.

My favorite moment was seeing local kids walking by the house on the way to and from school, and imagining the kids that would own the house doing the same thing – but instead of passing the gorgeous structure, going in – and knowing that’s home.

Wendy Kokoszka

What I learned is that this isn’t easy, and it’s pretty amazing what this group does for its community and how we all come together as one for this family. It’s rewarding and I can’t wait to see the outcome.

My favorite moment was getting to know everyone we work with, because the majority of us are in the same building but different departments, and it was pretty awesome meeting everyone.

Jennifer Losey

I learned a lot about Habitat for Humanity, which I really had no idea about since this was my first time volunteering.

My favorite moment was being able to work with everyone outside of the office and helping this family get their new home ready.

Anne Tepper

Habitat has given me the opportunity to follow in my mother’s footsteps. Despite working full time and bringing up a family, she always devoted time to helping people. Each Habitat I learn a new skill and it’s very gratifying to know my small contributions help build a home for a hard working family. Another benefit is working with members of my RMA family who I don’t see on a daily basis and some who I probably would never meet if not for Habitat.

Thea Raffo

I gained a deeper appreciation for teamwork that day. I learned that safety and patience are very important, but teamwork is by far the most important piece to building a home.

My favorite moment was cheering on the “Demo Team” as they dismantled what was left of the kitchen ceiling. It was inspiring to witness their determination to make this kitchen bigger and better for the soon-to-be homeowner and her children.