Saturday, April 30, 2011

A volunteer experience with fixing a group home; what it's for


Today, I volunteered for a while at a maintenance project for a group home in northern Virginia.  There was a lot of painting (inside walls) and staining (outside deckwork) and garden work (mulch) taking place. I was struck by the observation that I probably wouldn’t put in that much time on  maintenance work on my own house; I would hire a contractor for major problems (like painting outside).  My idea of “house” is that it takes care of itself (as in the 1976 movie “Burnt Offerings”).  Or, that’s why a lot of people prefer highrise apartment or condo living; they can focus on their own abstractions of self-expression.

My own mother was not only a fastidious housekeeper; she would toil in the garden, and want to remove any weeds.  I rather like natural, wild flora. There's nothing wrong with dandelions.

There will surely be a lot of rebuilding service work in the near future given the tornado damage in the South; already there is discussion of bus trips to go down and help churches rebuild.  CNN is reporting that many homeowners struck by the massive tornadoes did not have adequate homeowner’s insurance; but a representative from USAA today (again, on CNN) was trying to provide reassurance that his company would help the company’s insured homeowners  (for this company, military families) get back on their feet with conventional builders and contractors quickly.

How well does the market rebuild infrastructure after a disaster, and how much depends on real volunteer service?

Below is a “Habitat for Humanity” picture from 2002 in western Minnesota.  

and this, nearby:

Actually, I remember another similar project in which AGCMCC (All God's Children Metropolitan Community Church) participated, an old house in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, back in 2002; in that experience, everyone was doing wiring and plumbing and reconstruction as volunteers.  It's hard to be useful; when you arrive, everyone is working along, quickly, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

It seems that an experience like this is much about "community bonding" as about meeting specific needs in the most efficient way. The Amish teach people about that.

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