When most people think about volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, they picture a day of swinging hammers, and in fact, that is how John and Sue Heidke first got involved with Milwaukee Habitat. About eight years ago, John started volunteering on our construction sites with his son-in-law (also called Jon), who was a House Leader. “I’d come home all excited,” he remembers, “and I’d try to share that feeling with Sue.”
It must have worked, because when Family Services put out a call for help on the Partner Family Selection committee four years ago, Sue and John quickly became one of our cornerstone volunteer teams. “It’s just kind of what we do now,” John says.
They joined the Family Selection Committee not long before Milwaukee Habitat was awarded the federal grant through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2. Just as the construction volunteers ramped up their efforts to build 90 houses, so did the Family Services volunteers – meeting with more and more potential Habitat families, hearing about their backgrounds and their hopes for the future, and determining whether they would be good partners in the Habitat program.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad visit,” says Sue, “not one. Every family we’ve visited, you could tell they had the drive to succeed, they were motivated.”
John agrees: “They’d make great homeowners – and not just for their own families, but for the neighborhoods. Even if it wasn’t with Habitat, if they chose a different route, I have no doubt that they’re making a better life for themselves.”
“You could especially see it in their children,” adds Sue, “how they behaved and interacted with us.” The Heidkes usually ask the kids to give them the tour when they go on home visits. Sue tells the story of one girl who repeatedly showed her things she wasn’t supposed to, like the basket of laundry they’d put in the closet or the toys they’d hidden under the bed. John remembers one boy who, at the start of their visit, was so shy that they would only see him peek around the corner from time to time. As the visit progressed, and John managed a few covert waves of encouragement, the boy brought in one of his toy trucks to show them. By the end of the visit, the living room was full of his toys. “I think he brought every single one out of his bedroom to share with us,” says John.
When asked what they would say to someone who is thinking about volunteering with Milwaukee Habitat Family Services, Sue’s answer is immediate: “Just go for it. It’s so easy, and you get so much out of it.”
“It really is worthwhile,” says John. “You’ll get to meet such diverse people, people you might not normally interface with – that’s one of the great things about Habitat. It really broadens your view of our community in Milwaukee.”
Milwaukee Habitat is deeply appreciative for all the time, energy and enthusiasm that the Heidkes have given to helping us achieve our mission!
We are now seeking new members for the Family Services Selection Committee and volunteers who would like to mentor partner families once they have been accepted into Habitat program. If you’re interested in these opportunities, please contact Natasha Gray, Family Services Director, at 414-562-6100 ext 31.