The Luxury of Actually Owning a Home - Giving back in Austin Texas and Beyond!

By
Real Estate Agent with Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate 0396717

AFHS LOGOI remember sitting in church in 1996 and seeing a couple walk on to the pulpit wearing tool belts. Odd, yes and then they began talking about a group called "Habitat for Humanity". Francis and Lori Fey speaking at River Bend Church http://www.riverbend.com/  introduced me to the organization. Along with a few others, I met them after church and agreed to help out with the next River Bend/Habitat Build for the Norma Avalos Family.(One of many sponsored by River Bend)

Before entering real estate in 1989, I had a construction background of over sixteen years as an Apprentice, Journeyman Carpenter, Construction Foreman and Furniture Designer/Builder but never encountered anything quite like "Habitat for Humanity". I was a fan of Jimmy Carter and say what you will about his years as President, he has gone on to prove that he is a true humanitarian and does indeed practice what he preaches! What's great about a Habitat site is that every work day begins with a prayer, no one starts a fight and you only hear a few bad words. And I will admit that they usually are uttered by me. (Old habits are hard to break but I am improving). Since working on that home in 1996, I have worked on various builds, homes and projects as a Carpenter, Crew leader and House leader for  Austin Habitat for Humanity

Gulf Port Family BuildAs a Real Estate Broker, I work with buyers and sellers of upscale homes in the luxury market in Austin Texas. I enjoy my work immensely and make a good living. I do have to say that it's incredibly gratifying seeing a family that is "in-between" (not able to qualify for a regular mortgage but making too much to receive assistance) get the chance to own a home! I remember one year at a house dedication where all of the family was there except for one of the children who had just left for college. That's cool that a poor working class family could actually get child in to a school but what was mind boggling was the circumstance. The mom barely spoke English. Both she and her husband worked multiple jobs to raise the family and make sure the kids took school seriously. In fact, the son who left for college had a PERFECT ATTENDANCE RECORD for TWELVE YEARS. I was so impressed by that dedication and perseverance and by the fact that Habitat indeed represents the concept of: "A hand up, not a hand out!" Click on this link to learn more about Austin Habitat for Humanity

Habitat Volunteer CrewThis year I had the good fortune to travel to Gulfport Mississippi and participate in the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2008 - The Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding nearly three years after Katrina. It was an unbelievable experience and with my friend, Pat Horne, I worked with volunteers from all over the country to restore homes that were that had been severely damaged. The homes had new roofs installed, were stripped to the studs, sheet rocked and textured. Our crew painted the interior (I will never again say that painters have it easy!), installed flooring and new doors, trimmed out all windows and door frames and installed new cabinetry.

What was incredibly gratifying was working with so many young AmeriCorps volunteers. Wonderfully gifted and hard working, most of them in college or headed for graduate school and with such a great attitude. (They even helped me overcome my prejudice about vegetarians and VEGANS!) If you ever have doubts about the next generation, you can stop worrying. There were several local volunteers who also took time off from work to help out and it was truly a communal effort. No matter where you are, there is probably a Habitat For Humanity affiliate nearby. Check them out when you have a chance and you should make the effort to "make some time". I promise that after showing up you will learn something about building, meet some new friends and leave with more than you can imagine in the way of experience, new understanding and a true sense of thankfulness.

Crew Picture with the Carter's

One of the things I had hoped to accomplish this year was to actually meet Jimmy Carter and maybe get a picture. Well, I finally got my  chance. The Carter's worked on one of the new builds and also attended the different functions that ended each work day. I was amazed at the boundless energy of both of them as they put in long hours each day and hope that I also have that kind of energy and drive when I am older. On the last day before everyone departed for home, the Carters showed up to have pictures taken with the different housing crews. I was pretty excited and managed to say hello and shake their hands. The picture was taken and when I received it later this summer...there I was, with my eyes completely shut...looking like Forrest Gump! Ah well...it just gives me a reason to show up again next year and if you have the opportunity, I hope you do too! I would like to thank my friends Pat Horne (House lead on too many homes to list), Donita Haden (long time Austin volunteer coordinator), Michael Willard (Austin Director of Habitat for Humanity) and all of the other volunteers with whom I have had the honor of working side by side with over the years to improve our community! 

For more information and to volunteer with a Habitat For Humanity affiliate or Habitat re-Store near you check out the International Habitat site at: Habitat For Humanity International

Remember, it's a hand up...not a hand out!

 

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Russell Lewis Luxury Real Estate Broker Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape 

 

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Anonymous
Jimmy

habitat for Humanity has built hundreds of homes in the East Austin area and in many ways fueled the revitalization of some of those neighborhoods long before it became "fashionable" and "profitible" to build in East Austin. Great work with a group that herlps build lives and neighborhoods!

And that is a pretty funny picture of you and the Carters!

Nov 04, 2008 04:30 AM #41
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Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Russell, I am such a strong believer of giving back to the community. It's been a few years but, I too, have worked on a Habitat Build. It was great fun, but nothing like seeing the new homeowner's face when they got the keys. Thank you for sharing.

Nov 04, 2008 07:35 AM #42
Rainmaker
515,973
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Susan Thank you so MUCH...My brother and I are pretty close and we joke that he got the "looks" and I got the "brains" and we BOTH got short changed!

Scott  I appreciate your compliments and have always enjoyed working with Habitat and the other groups too!

Allysoun Thank you again. I have already written a post about MLF but will wait until after the big announcement next week! (and yes I am going to post the details because i am very flattered that I was considered).

Jimmy Thank you and you are so right, many of the areas where Habitat built have begun to experience a renaissance of sorts long before the move towards East Austin by developers and others!

Connie As someone who has participated you know the fun and value and more than anything you were able to experience the joy and gratitude of a person who was able to achieve home ownership through the habitat program. Thanks for contributing to this discussion!

Nov 04, 2008 08:19 AM #43
Anonymous
Dana

While I was here I thought I would peruse your other blogs (if that is what they are called) and came across this one. As someone who knows you I want to commend you for all the good work you do for Habitat and all of the other groups that help those less fortunate in our city!

Nov 05, 2008 11:30 AM #44
Rainmaker
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Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Hi Dana, I appreciate your kind words and thank you for your support of Habitat over the years! I like the fact that many people in the office take part in many volunteer organizations all over the city and it's just something that we enjoy in the way of giving back!

Nov 05, 2008 02:11 PM #45
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173,353
June Lewis
Northwood Realty Services - New Castle, PA
Realtor Northwood Realty - New Castle,Pa Lawrence Co 7247304571

Hi Russell, I LOVE this really interesting post.  What a blessing to use your gifts to help others,  that is truly wonderful.

I too am a Jimmy Carter fan. I have hear of the wonderful work that Habitat for Humanity has done ( not too much here though)

I never researched it until your post.  Thank you so much for all the details, How satisfying that must be to be able to make  a difference in the lives of those who need a helping hand.

 

Nov 06, 2008 12:07 PM #46
Rainmaker
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Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Hello again June!! Thank you so much for your very nice comments and compliments. I do enjoy volunteering and have been able to do so on a fairly regular basis. These days a bit more because there seems to be less business. It's kind of nice to be able to help out when my business is slow because it also helps me not dwell on my lack of business or nay other minor problems. So it does me a lot of good.

Jimmy Carter is an amazing character and he has always practiced what he preached and helped improve the lives of others! The picture of me in that group with the Carter's was too funny NOT to post and as much as i enjoy poking fun at others , I have fun at my own expense too!

Thanks again June for dropping by!

Nov 06, 2008 01:20 PM #47
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Jeannette Spinelli
Austin Portfolio Real Estate - Austin, TX

Russell, I wanted to compliment you for a well written post and also for your continuing service to this great organization that helps so many people in our community!

Nov 07, 2008 08:03 AM #48
Rainmaker
515,973
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Jeannette I appreciate your compliments. Habitat is a place where I have seen some awesome help done in our city and it is incredibly gratifying to take part! As far as posting, hanks again for that compliment! I enjoy learning and improving over time and though I do not post as often many, I like to post good content as much as possible!

Nov 08, 2008 06:11 AM #49
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Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Northern VA

Russell:  I hope you have your picture with Jimmy Carter framed somewhere in your home, or better yet, your office.  What a great experience.

Nov 09, 2008 04:08 AM #50
Anonymous
Jan

Russell

Thank you for sending the link to your blog. There are so many great articles and I love your writing style! I know that you have worked with the habitat for Humanity organization for many years and it must have been gratifying to work on that big project in Mississippi and you got to meet President Carter too. The picture is kind of funny but you have a great sense of humor to post it. Keep up the good work!

Jan

Nov 09, 2008 05:36 AM #51
Rainmaker
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Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Chris Ann I am planning on it and the graphics person at my office told me he could photo-shop some "open" eyes or some sunglasses! Thanks again for stopping by!

HI Jan You are right, I really enjoy my time on all of the Habitat projects because I always get back so much more that I give. Great hearing from you and I look forward to a visit soon!!

Nov 09, 2008 10:49 AM #52
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Mattie Lewis
Student at UofH Go Coogs! - Austin, TX

Hey there! Congrats on the award you won. It's going to come out in the upcoming issue of the ABOR Newsletter and will be public news so I think you should do a post on it!

Nov 10, 2008 07:52 AM #53
Rainmaker
515,973
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Thanks for the KUDO's, I think I will wit until next week to post about that. The news comes out later this week  but I also wanted to post about Mobile Loaves and Fishes here in Austin first! Thanks for the reminder. I know I am supposed to toot my own horn every once in awhile but I am still trying to figure out how!??!?

Nov 10, 2008 10:42 AM #54
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775
Jennifer Chide
Prominent Title - Austin, TX

Im still really impressed by all of your habitat for humanity endeavors.  You know my entire family were victims of Hurricane Ike and are all having to rebuild their home in Galveston, TX.  Glad to see people care enough to help.

Nov 17, 2008 07:48 AM #55
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Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Jennifer Thank you. I know that you and your family have known the hardship of losing a home to the elements and can appreciate all of the good things that a home brings to a family! It is good to see that there are people everywhere that can chip in and help others in need!

Nov 17, 2008 09:54 AM #56
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Jeannette Spinelli
Austin Portfolio Real Estate - Austin, TX

I believe I may have already commented on this post but just wanted to tell you that it is well written and that you represent our company so well in the community!

Nov 21, 2008 06:19 AM #57
Rainmaker
515,973
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Hi Jeannette Thank you for stopping by again. This was one of my favorite posts because I always enjoy the work and the people I meet when helping at Habitat for Humanity!

Nov 22, 2008 03:14 AM #58
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Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Russell, Very cool, even if your eyes were closed for the shot!  It is very neat that sweat equity by the new owners is part of the deal to get their homes!  (wonder if this is a record for longest gaps between blog post and last comment?)

Apr 29, 2012 01:33 AM #59
Rainmaker
515,973
Russell Lewis
Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate - Austin, TX
Broker,CLHMS,GRI

Hi Bill! Thanks and it is very gratifying to see that you are also dedicated to Habitat! Nice to see that some of those of us who do the business of real estate also give back in such a great way!

 

And I am not sure but it has been quite awhile since someone left a comment and I thank you for yours!

Apr 29, 2012 01:38 AM #60
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