Worlds Collide! Build With Pride 2.0

June 16, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

Day 2 of #BuildWithPride! We’re also building with Kent Bloom and two of our favorite homeowners, Shirley and Federico. So basically, a great day.

A photo posted by Habitat Greater San Francisco (@habitatgsf) on

For our second annual Stephen Blake Jacoby Build With Pride event last weekend, we were joined by 79 incredibly amazing volunteers, including Kent Bloom, whose partner, Steve, posthumously inspired the first iteration of BWP; Shirley and Federico, two homeowners who completed their 500 hours of sweat equity before last year’s event…and came out to volunteer, anyway; and several students from St. Ignatius College Prep, taking their summer vacations to volunteer and learn about the Bay Area’s housing crisis. All that together adds up to 639 volunteer hours over two days…fueled by 39 (well-deserved!) pizzas.

In other words, we had a super team of volunteers — but in case you don’t want to take our word for it, you can watch everyone Build with Pride!

Check out our Flickr for more pictures from Friday and Saturday and see you next year!

Construction Update!

May 20, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

Great news Greater San Francisco Habitat-ians!

At our newest development, Mt. Burdell Place in Novato, our construction crew and volunteers poured our final two foundations last week and boy do they look amazing! We are that much closer to being able to provide affordable homes in Marin County. Big shout out to all of the fantastic volunteers who helped make this milestone possible!

Mt. Burdell progress


But WAIT – That’s not all!

Remember when the road in front of our Habitat Terrace homes was a giant trench or a pile of rocks? If not, here’s a recap…

Before and After - Habitat Terrace Road

Look! The road is in and, great news, it’s gorgeous! Who knew a road could be so spectacular?

And if that’s not exciting enough, Habitat Terrace has some other exciting news – we have been officially granted our Certificate of First Occupancy at Habitat Terrace from the City of an Francisco. You may be asking yourself, but what does that mean? It means that we have completed a home!

  • Walls
  • Roof
  • Flooring
  • Windows
  • Paint

Only 27 more homes to go! We haven’t started accepting applications for our Habitat Terrace homes yet, but that’s coming soon. Stay tuned.

Cert of Final Completion, Habitat Terrace

Stay tuned to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco blog for more updates.

Are You In? Yes, You Were!

May 6, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

SV Gives ty blog graphic

As many of you know, SV Gives 2015 wrapped up this morning at midnight – and to put it simply, you guys rocked it! In just 24 hours, you came together to raise over $44,000 – more than twice our original goal of $20K – for affordable housing and financial stability for hard-working families on the Peninsula. We are totally blown away, and all we can say is thank you!

Actually, we had a little trouble with that part. See below.

Well. We tried. Thanks again! Click here for more information.

1 Million Hours: Counting Down and Looking Forward

May 1, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

Our amazing month of 1 million hours has come to a close, and it’s safe to say it was a good one. Sure, you guys, our incredible volunteers, were busy, but let’s take a look at what you got done, shall we?


1 Million Hours By the Numbers:

  • 808 amazing volunteers served
  • 7667 total hours in
  • 4 cities and 3 counties, spread over
  • 10 sites, including
  • 2 parks, 2 build sites, the YMCA in East Palo Alto, and Justin Herman Plaza for the Brown Bag Build!


Our favorite volunteer moments:

Chillin’ out with our Smitten Community Rockstars!

Our #SmittenCommunityRockstars out #HabitatTerrace, being appreciated and just generally great people. @smittenicecream

A photo posted by Habitat Greater San Francisco (@habitatgsf) on

Being part of Compassion Weekend with Menlo Park Presbyterian!


Doing warm-up Zumba at our staff/board/YLC park beautification in the Bayview with the local YMCA staff!


Racking up over 200 hours (and 50 door/window frames!) of volunteer work at our first ever Brown Bag Build!


Kalimah’s birthday build!

17289526952_019c6206cc_o (1)

So, now what?

Just because we’ve finished logging 1 million hours doesn’t mean we’ve finished logging volunteer hours altogether! There’s still plenty to do, especially with a new site in the works. Be sure to check out our other 1 million hours blogs here and here. Find yourself in this video of our volunteers over the last 25 years, or head over to our Flickr for more recent shots. Download our free volunteer swag for your social media. Join us this Tuesday, May 5th for SV Gives 2015. And, of course, most importantly…

Sign Up To Volunteer!

See you at 2 million!

A Present for You to Celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week!

April 14, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

We’re pretty sure there’s no way to thank you guys enough for give over 1 million hours of your time to help us out.

We think this video is pretty good, but we wanted to do more…so we got you some bragging rights! We’re sharing some social media swag you are welcome to download, share, and swap for the rest of the week, the rest of the month, the rest of the year, or the rest of your life (we have some pretty good looking volunteers, we know).

Just click to download! You can choose from a variety of Facebook covers covers, Twitter header photos header photos, or any general square images, or any combination of the three.

Enjoy and — one more time — thank you for helping us make #1MillionHours!

Facebook Covers

Click to download all 6 covers: Facebook Social Media Swag

Tom Marie FB Cover

Zoe Karla Aaron FB Cover

Roof Group FB Cover

Reyes Family FB Cover

Group Build FB Cover

Day Build FB Cover

Twitter Header Photos

Click to download all 5 headers: Twitter Social Media Swag

Twitter Power Saw Swag

Twitter ReStore Swag

Twitter Group Drill Swag

Twitter Group Dig Swag

Twitter Carry Swag

Square Images

Click to download all 4 images: General Social Media Swag (for Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, or just general sharing!)

ReStore Square Swag

Nick Hardhat Square Swag

Group Dig Square Swag

Jackhammer Square Swag

We hope you love your new swag! Don’t forget to tag Habitat Greater SF and keep on volunteering. See you at 2 million hours!

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Week! Meet Some of Our 1-Million-Hour Club Members

April 14, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation week, and if you’ve been following along, you know Habitat Greater SF has an extra special reason to celebrate (in addition to all you wonderful people, of course): we’re celebrating 1,000,000 hours of volunteer service! Obviously, we couldn’t do this without our incredible volunteers, so we tried to capture just an ounce of their incredible-ness here.

And just to say thank you to ALL our volunteers, we have some social media swag for you to use on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or to print out and paste on your walls at home, if that’s your thing.

Eliza | Linda | Marie & Tom

Linda Knox – Volunteer Extraordinaire

VW15 Linda

Longtime volunteer Linda Knox may be be 1 in 1 million, but she’s given way more than an hour of her time over her 9 years (official last Tuesday – congrats, Linda!) with Habitat. So, what is it that’s made her hang around so long — aside from her being a volunteer extraordinaire? To celebrate 10 years, we got Linda to tell you in her own words.

1. Why did you originally get involved with Habitat?
My father was a long-time admirer of President Jimmy Carter’s social conscience. When our son Jason went to college, I was looking for a new place to volunteer. (see #7) Also, I was ready to be “physical”, and wanted to let my inner TomBoy fly!

2. What made you stay around so long?
HGSF has made me feel very appreciated, and has plugged me into MANY different roles over the past 10 yrs. I began working at the ReStore while we were waiting for permits to start construction at Capital. After a couple of weeks, when I started helping in the Lighting Dept. something clicked (we see what you did there, Linda!). I really liked Tony, who was then running the dept., and he was most generous with his time in training me. The Global Village trip to Vietnam was also one of the highlights of my life!

3. What do you love to do the most?
As to what I love most, that has changed over the years, but I would have to say working with the people around me, has been a consistent factor. The broad range of ages, experiences, etc. has created a network of friendships that enrich my life. At the core of that, I believe, is knowing while individual politics, etc. may differ, we are all committed to the Habitat mission of having our labors go towards helping others.

4. Why do you spend so much of your time volunteering?
I’m a 64-year-old happily married woman, financially comfortable, with no obligations. Not really a Lady-who-Lunches kind of gal… Habitat is my “work”. My involvement with Habitat gives me an identity; I’m very proud to talk about what I do.

5. What do you love to do when you’re not volunteering?
When not volunteering… Hmmm. Read, cook, visit with friends, travel (going to Peru in May!) work out at gym, EAT, spend time with my husband Sam, and sometimes have quality time with our son and daughter-in-law.

6. Were you a savvy construction/DIYer before you started? Did you have retail experience? Or did you learn everything on the job?
Not particularly… No retail experience. OJT (on the Job Training) both at construction sites and ReStore.

7. Before you volunteered with us, what did you do?
Before HGSF? Can barely remember… Housewife and mother, extremely involved school volunteer while Jason was growing up. Dog trainer at the Hearing Dog program at the SF SPCA for about 6 yrs. Tutor with 826 Valencia (worked with a junior high in SF on their school newspaper for 2 yrs.) Project Open Hand for 3.5 yrs. doing kitchen prep work 1 – 2 days a week.

8. Anything else you’d like to add?
I was given the extreme pleasure of meeting Al & Marilyn Willard on my first build project. They had already been involved for YEARS with our chapter, and our somewhat sardonic personalities clicked. Their friendship is one of the true joys of my life (and it doesn’t hurt that my husband Sam and Al enjoy each other’s company…) I believe Marilyn and Al created the template I’ve tried to emulate. If I had to name the single biggest influence on my involvement with Habitat, it would be them. They are the gold standard for volunteering; I’m just the next edition.

Thanks, Linda. You really are 1 in 1 million! You can volunteer with Linda at the ReStore by signing up here.


Eliza Evans – Small. Powerful. Volunteer-y.

VW15 Eliza

Eliza has volunteered more than 600 hours building homes at Habitat Terrace in San Francisco’s Ocean View. She saws like a boss.

In just three and a half years, Eliza has run the full gamut of volunteer positions with Habitat. One might call her a professional volunteer. One might be right.

1. How long have you been a volunteer at HHGSF?
I have been a volunteer for three and a half years. But I’ve been working with Habitat for 10 years now, in Virginia, Texas, Thailand, Wyoming, and San Francisco. I started as a regular volunteer, became an AmeriCorps and then a construction staff member, and am now a regular again. Full circle!

2. How and why did you start volunteering with HHGSF?
I moved to the Bay Area to start graduate school, but wanted to stay involved with Habitat. Once I met all the awesome staff, AmeriCorps, and regulars at GSF, I knew I’d keep coming back.

3. What was your favorite moment volunteering?
I’m not sure. If you need a real answer, let me know, and I’ll think harder about it.

4. What is your favorite power tool and why?
The impact driver. It’s small, but surprisingly powerful, like me. :)

5. What have you learned from volunteering?
So many things. Most notably, 1) how to build a house, 2) how to be a better leader, and 3) the incredible capacity of people to help one another.

6. Why do you think others should volunteer?
Primarily, it’s so much fun! On top of that, you learn an incredible amount and get to work with amazing people: the homeowners, staff, AmeriCorps, and other volunteers.

Thanks, Eliza. You really are 1 in 1 million! You can volunteer with Eliza at Habitat Terrace by signing up here.

Tom and Marie – Hammer and Nail

VW15 TomMarie


Marie and Tom are part of a tight-knit crew of regular volunteers at our Mt. Burdell Place site in Novato where we’re building 10 single-family homes. These two are no schlubs when it comes to building, either.

About 40 years ago, Marie and Tom — who have together dedicated more than 200 hours volunteering at Mt. Burdell Place —  built their own home by themselves. With their own hands, guys. We asked Marie to share their story recently and here’s what she wrote:

 We went to a bookstore. Tom read a book on carpentry, and we built a 2,200 sq ft house while living in a 12-by-60-foot trailer for a year.  No kids, only dog #1 and cat #1 at the time.  We did everything but the heating and drywall.  I shingled most of the roof, as Tom had to go back to work, and I was a teacher with summers off.  A year after moving into a house without window coverings or finished doors, we welcomed our first child.  

 We later built the smaller barn, and I got a horse and pony.  My retirement bonus funded an Amish built barn, which housed my truck and trailer and allowed me to ride indoor during the winter.  

 It was an adventure building that house in which we raised two children, cared for a dozen cats, five dogs, one pony, and four horses over the years. Most are buried there on that three acres. We brought our dog and one horse with us to California.

Marie and Tom say they build with Habitat Greater San Francisco so they can help other families realize their own dream of homeownership.

“We have a strong work and family ethic, and are happy to have others find their way,” she says.

And they say the people they volunteer with are pretty OK, too.

“There’s good people out here,” says Tom. “I haven’t met one I’d complain about yet.”

affordable housing Habitat Novato home building

This is the house Marie and Tom built in Ohio with their own hands. Now they build homes for others at Habitat Greater San Francisco’s Novato site.

House Aerial

Here’s an Aerial shot of the home Marie and Tom built in Ohio 40 years ago.

Thanks, Marie & Tom! You really are one, er, make that 2 in 1 million! You can volunteer with Marie and Tom at Mt. Burdell Place by signing up here.

Global Village 2015: Holly Woolard

March 24, 2015  |  Leave a Comment

Holly Woolard, a volunteer with Habitat Greater SF’s 2015 Global Village trip, blogs from Vietnam.

Habitat volunteer with Vietnamese family

Our Habitat team with our new family.

March 22 – Feeling Connected in Vietnam
March 23 – Once is Never Enough
March 26 – A Global Village Family Has Room for All
March 27 – A Flood of Emotions: Our Final Build Day in Vietnam


March 27, 2015 – A Flood of Emotions: Our Final Build Day in Vietnam

Torrential rains prevented us from building on our final day of our Global Village trip in the Tien Phuoc district of Vietnam. Instead, we said our goodbyes in multicolored ponchos under tarps that attempted to protect the handiwork we are so proud of.

Vietnam Goodbye

Group goodbye on the final build day

One by one, our 24 volunteers stepped forward to tell our two families how this opportunity has enriched our lives. Standing before us holding their children, these families found it difficult to put into words the impact we made on their lives. And even though we had interpreters, words could never fully convey their thankfulness just like we could not articulate exactly what we had all gained from this unique opportunity to make a difference.

It wasn’t until the government leader of Tien Phuoc joined us for lunch and thanked us profusely that I began to fathom the impact we made here. He didn’t just stop by a small family-owned restaurant, which also serves as a home, for a ceremonial toast. The district leader sat down with us and ate; he talked about the rice we consumed throughout the trip and the unusual amount of rain for this time of year and the poverty of the farmers he ably represents.

Vietnam handshake

Volunteer John with a leader of the Tien Phuoc district.

We provided a hand up to the families who will get new homes. We inspired two towns to realize there are people in this world who care. We showed them we are some of those people.

Our Habitat volunteers have been posting photos on Facebook all week long, sharing our experiences with our friends and family at home. I’ve been told I’m awesome, that my friends are proud of me, and I admit that I shrugged it off without a second thought.

But today, as we walked through the pouring rain in those ponchos, with the town folks waving one last time at that group of Americans parading down their roads, I began to feel a small measure of pride. It didn’t matter that I used all my vacation to come on this trip to help haul 14,000 bricks to the house we were building. I really made a difference. Our group really made a difference.

As I type my last blog on this Habitat for Humanity journey, I have tears rolling down my cheeks. The day started with torrential rain and is ending with a flood of emotions.

vietnam gina 2015

Group leader Gina Brown presents local family with a photo keepsake

That’s what giving back does to a person. Thanks so much to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco for allowing me to make difference. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I never would have traveled these roads without you.


March 26, 2015 – A Global Village Family Has Room for All

One of the cool things about our Global Village build in Vietnam this week is the role that the families are playing in the actual work.

At one of our two housing sites, the fathers of the husband and wife who are getting a new home have been helping daily with the construction. The two vivacious children provide entertainment for our volunteers, giving a few of our workers a built-in excuse to stop for a play break. The mom is so appreciative of our efforts that she walked one of our volunteers to the bus while sharing an umbrella during a downpour.

Gina at food table

Group Leader, Gina, with a local resident

At our site, the young mother finds time to make morning and afternoon snacks in between caring for her two darling daughters, who are too young to really know what’s going on. The mom is very strong, so strong that she tells me to pile the red bricks higher before hauling her loads to where her new home is going up.

Meanwhile, Daddy is one of the key builders, sifting sand, mixing mortar and doing anything the skilled, hired laborers ask of him. Grandma can often be seen supervising in her own way, a reminder that elders are respected here.

People from throughout these two tiny, remote towns stop by to pitch in out of respect…and curiosity. A teenage boy shows up seemingly out of nowhere on two afternoons after school to shovel sand into our wheelbarrows, just because he wants to help.

The volunteers in our group have quickly become family as well, working in synch, from laying bricks, to fetching and mixing mortar to hauling bricks and sand. We are working very hard here and it’s pretty incredible how quickly we all found our niches and comfort zones.

Just as it’s been awesome to see and experience the Vietnam families and their communities, which are extended families unto themselves, it’s been interesting to witness how the family members on our trip have interacted with each other and with the group. Among our 24 volunteers, there are three married couples and two sets of brothers and sisters.

Nikki and Sophie laying bricks

Habitat Greater SF staff Nikki, and her wife Sophia

Nikki Black, events manager for Habitat Humanity Greater San Francisco, is in Vietnam volunteering with her wife, Sophia Martineau. While Nikki is fully engaged in volunteerism as part of her job, Sophia has been busy doing her own thing during the year that her wife has been working for Habitat. The Vietnam trip will likely change that.

“Nikki has tried to get me to volunteer,” Sophia says. “It’s so neat to watch Nikki with the brick laying. She’s very talented. I feel really proud of her just getting to watch her in a leadership role. Whatever she does, she does it very well and that’s been reinforced on this trip.”

Cathy Baird, a regular Habitat volunteer in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended last year’s Habitat trip to Vietnam solo, but came back this year with her husband, Stan. “Part of my motivation was to experience Vietnam with her,” Stan said.

Volunteers Cathy and Stan with Vietnamese children

Volunteers Cathy and Stan with the two young children whose house they are building

Bryn Smith, who also volunteers at home in San Francisco, is here with his sister Gigi. They are definitely the epitome of a sibling tandem, rooming together yet getting on each other’s nerves just enough that they rarely eat our meals together.

“It’s really great to experience this together,” Bryn says. “It’s pretty amazing. We’ll need a few weeks of not seeing each other after we get back. Gigi will need a Bryn break.”

Si Diep, who was born in Vietnam, returned to his native country for the first time with the Habitat group last year. He’s back this year and brought along his sister, Hong.

First-timers Jeff Kilbreth and Gail Eierweiss, husband and wife, are here on a recognizant mission of sorts. Recently retired, Jeff and Gail came to Vietnam for the experience and to learn more about providing homes for the needy. They now live in Richmond, California, and hope to make an impact on that community just like we’re building homes and hope here in Vietnam.

It’s a bigger thrill than I could have ever imagined to be a part of the Habitat family!


March 23, 2015 – Once is Never Enough

Once just doesn’t seem to be enough. Nearly half of the 24 volunteers on our Habitat for Humanity build this week in the Tien Phuoc district of Vietnam have participated in projects before.

Gretchen Heckman, a member of the Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco Young Leaders Circle, succinctly sums up the reason she’s in Vietnam, where we are building houses for two families. “What a great way to travel and give back,” she says.

Let’s face it. How many people get the chance to become fully immersed in a culture in a week’s time and actually help someone? Trust me. You would not find the rural villages where we are building on your own. You probably wouldn’t get to taste freshly cut coconut prepared and graciously served by a local family at the end of a dirt road. It’s highly unlikely that you’d get to take photos with school children decked out in their uniforms or work side by side with skilled laborers who don’t speak English.

“There’s still a great deal of need in the rural environment,” says Kelly Koch, the Vietnam director for Habitat for Humanity. “It’s important for people to see how much need there is. Tourists only see the development in the big cities. People who only visit Ho Chi Minh City think it’s all rooftop bars.”

Vietnam group moves buckets

Volunteers Sophia, Nikki, Si Diep, Chris Yeon, Richard Adamczyk, and Maryjane White

Nothing could be further from the truth in Tien Phuoc. One new home we’re building is quarter of a mile beyond the vehicle access point. Trucks have dropped off bricks and sand at the end of the road and it’s up to us to use wheel barrels to move the building supplies to the site. Now that’s cultural immersion considering that we are walking between rice fields, passing water buffalo and hearing the sounds of birds that are certainly not perched around North America.

Devon Reed has participated in at least 30 days of building in the Bay Area and loves it. So when he heard about the Vietnam trip he knew he had to volunteer for his first international build.

“Americans get such a bad rap,” Devon says. “I like Habitat so much. I just like doing volunteer work. When I told my family and friends about the trip to Vietnam they said it was a no-brainer.”

Unlike builds in the Bay Area, Devon says that working directly with the families for whom the houses are being built is an extra bonus of the Vietnam trip.

“The secret behind it is you actually get way more out of it than you put into it,” Devon says.

No wonder Habitat volunteers keep coming back, especially considering the unique international travel experiences our Vietnam trip is delivering.


March 22, 2015 – Feeling Connected in Vietnam

My Son Sanctuary

Habitat Group at the My Son Sanctuary

If there is one word to describe what our group of 24 volunteers is seeking during our Habitat for Humanity Global Village build this week in the Tien Phuoc district of Vietnam, it’s “connection.”

We’re here to connect with a culture many of us know very little about. We’ve flown 16 hours and taken a three-hour bus ride into the remote countryside to experience a connection with the other volunteers with whom we’re sharing this trip of a lifetime. And many of us are here to reconnect with ourselves. We grew up wanting to make a difference and are now afforded a chance to actually fulfill that inner purpose.

Our stories and motivations are varied, but we all seem to be driven to connect. That point became vividly clear during our opening meeting when our veteran group leader, Gina Brown, asked us to describe exactly what we hoped to gain from our journey.

John Tastor is here for the first time since 1971, when he served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He’s here to connect with a nation that was in turmoil more than four decades ago during his last visit. Part of his memories are captured in the photos he brought with him to our Habitat build–a striking young man in his 20s in his Army greens. Now gray-haired and full of travel experiences from around the world, John is here to build new peace-filled memories of Vietnam by giving back as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

Vietnam bricklayers

Volunteers Chris and Sophia lay bricks on a wall

Hong Diep, another volunteer in our group, left Vietnam more than 20 years ago as a 9-year-old and is returning for the first time this week. She is joined in Vietnam by her boyfriend, Norman Ng, who said he volunteered for the build to support Hong’s return to her country of birth. Even though Hong grew up about four hours from the My Son Sanctuary UNESCO World Heritage Site, which we visited on Sunday, she had never seen the temples, some of which date to the 4th century.

Virginia Terra Hodge is volunteering in Vietnam for the second straight year. During last year’s build, she felt she didn’t open herself up to the Vietnam culture and people as much as she could have and has returned as sort of a do-over. Virginia didn’t waste any time, immersing herself in dance with Vietnamese women on the waterfront promenade during the first night of our trip in Da Nang.

For me, this trip takes me back to my days growing up in the Baptist church when I thought I just might be called to be a missionary. Truth be told, I am really not missionary material, but here I am with chance to make a difference, a chance to connect with the heartfelt convictions of my former self and thus be enriched by a week of selflessness.

Now, those are some pretty powerful connections and we’re just getting started!