The number of places where a 16-year-old girl can wield a staple gun is very limited. Habitat for Humanity, however, provides just such a place, according to Reagan Cuddy.
Reagan is a member of the youth group at Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn and St. Ann’s Parish in Owasco. Since June, she and other youth-group members have traveled to Port Byron once a month to work on a Habitat for Humanity house.
More than a year ago, the youth group helped build another Habitat house in Auburn, said youth minister Anna Comitz. When she heard about the opportunity to work on the house in Port Byron, Comitz presented the idea to the youth group, and several of the members decided it was a project they’d like to be involved with.
It’s important for teens to take part in projects like this, Comitz said. Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity has not only made the teens in her youth group feel good about themselves, but it has also taught them new skills.
“It’s a life-building thing … it’s a win-win situation,” Comitz said.
Since they began working on the house three months ago, the teens have cleaned debris from the yard, built closets, pulled out old nails and helped prepare the back of the house for an addition. Comitz said she and the teens have enjoyed going back to the house each month and seeing all the progress that’s been made.
Kevin Bryant, 17, had worked on the house in Auburn and decided to volunteer at the Port Byron house as well. At the house in Auburn, he framed windows and was able to help tear down the roof with hand tools, which took the whole morning. This year, he’s been busy framing for the bathroom and tearing old studs out of the wall. Although Kevin will be starting college at SUNY Oswego this fall, he plans to continue his involvement with Habitat for Humanity through the campus’ Newman Center.
Homeowners who move into Habitat for Humanity houses are required to work on their own home, as well as other Habitat houses. Kevin said working alongside the family that will eventually be moving into the Port Byron house has made the experience more meaningful.
“It’s pretty cool. You get to see the looks on their faces” and see how grateful they are, he said.
Reagan was glad she was able to meet several of the family members.
“If you’re just doing it and not even knowing what you’re doing it for, it’s not as fulfilling as knowing these are the people you’re doing it for,” she said.
While volunteering, Reagan has helped vent ceilings, put wedges in the ceiling to stabilize it, pulled up old linoleum flooring and learned how to use a staple gun. Reagan said she first started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity because it sounded like a good thing to become involved with and because her friends from youth group were also volunteering.
“It was a new experience for me. You can have a good time with your friends and know you’re helping someone else,” Reagan said.
Comitz hopes that the volunteer experience the teens are getting now will make them more likely to volunteer when they’re at college or when they’re adults. If such an opportunity arises, “I think that they will jump on it, and they won’t need me there to do it. They’ll take the motivation,” she said.