[Blog by Sophia Williams, Development Associate, Special Events & Marketing]
You use them to hold your groceries, stack your mail, leave hats and gloves, or as a make shift table. We chop, mix, and stir all on our kitchen countertops. For Habitat families countertop activities are made possible by two special volunteers who have been as valuable to our operation as countertops are to everyday life.
Jim DeRosia and John Peterson have been putting the countertops in our homes all the way back to when we built from the ground up. They have hit 110 countertops, that’s 2/3 of all our homes, and they are finally retiring. These men have been great partners of Habitat, volunteering countless hours to our work.
“I always wanted to work for Habitat, but I never really had time to do it,” said Jim. “When I turned 65, I sold my business. I just happened to be driving down the road and I thought I’m gonna call Habitat. I called up and I told them what I did. I had a kitchen and bath design company and was looking to help. They said, well we just happen to be looking for a new Formica guy.” That one phone call changed a lot for us at Habitat, and we are so grateful for the partnership we have had with Jim and John.
Their expertise fit perfectly with what we needed in our Habitat homes. “I just thought it was a good thing to do. I always liked what Habitat did. My stuff worked into it,” said Jim. During Habitat’s early years, Jim and John worked together to build cabinets and countertops for our homes. When the shift to renovation in 2008 increased our annual number of homes constructed, Jim and John focused on building only countertops.
“John used to have a cabinet shop. He’s retired, a veteran that likes to give back,” said Jim. “So I gave him a phone call asking him [about volunteering] and he thought it was cool.” They are a greatly appreciated duo whose work has touched countless families. “I was only charging Habitat for the laminate to do the job. We were giving them all the labor.” said Jim. He and John have donated hundreds of hours of labor to Habitat working towards building up our community. Words cannot express the level of our gratitude for their work.
They continued working with us for about 8 years. “Our goal was to try and hit 100 countertops. John is two years older than I am; we didn’t know if we could make it to 100 or not,” said Jim. They just couldn’t stop after they hit their goal.
“The way Habitat does the homes now, with the remodeling work… I think is a lot better for a neighborhood than doing a new house. Because you’re taking something that’s detracting from the neighborhood and fixing it up to make it nice,” said Jim.
Thank you to Jim and John for partnering with us in making affordable homeownership possible for families of low income. They have been so generous, and we couldn’t do it without volunteers like them. THANK YOU.