By Taylor Cummings
Many of us know Habitat for Humanity for the work they have done to help families throughout the world. In just a few weeks, Lakeside, CA will gain four new veteran families at the “Building for the Brave” site in the heart of our community.
The Building for the Brave program, which began in March of 2013, is expected to be completed by early June. This program is creating four housing units designed especially for wounded veterans. Through Building for the Brave, families exchange 250 to 500 hours of work on their own homes for the opportunity to live in one of the 1,500 square foot units, which are designed to be easily accessible for disabled vets.
John Zawis is the lead volunteer for the project, taking on this position because of his military experience.
“As a veteran myself, it provided an opportunity to help young veterans who were wounded or disabled supporting their country and I wanted to be part of an activity helping them achieve the dream of home ownership,” he explained.
The housing units are being built for veterans who need assistance in finding adequate housing, and will be offered at below market prices. Zawis stated it is a “hand-up, rather than a hand-out,” because of the work families must put into building their homes and their commitment to repay the 0% interest mortgage. It creates a way for veterans who are struggling to buy a home to finally attain their goal, and provide their families with comfortable housing, a small token of gratitude for the service they have given to our country.
Towards the twilight of his naval career, Zawis has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for over 5 years in El Cajon. He was paired with a prospective homeowner, helping him to improve his family’s living conditions.
“From that point on, I was hooked,” Zawis remembered.
Recently retired, Zawis now volunteers at least 3 times a week. “I have been fortunate in my lifetime to have had people take an interest and invest the time in helping me reach my goals. It is extremely satisfying to be able to pay those thoughtful gestures forward and help families who just need a little assistance to achieve their own dreams.”
The entire project includes just one paid staff member. “Volunteers are the life blood of Habitat for Humanity,” Zawis explained.
Several local organizations got involved in this honorable cause by bringing teams of employees down to volunteer on the job site, including TD Ameritrade, SAIC, Cox Communications, California Bank & Trust, EY, Linear Corporation, Gafcon, and Bank of America. Local elected officials have also joined the effort, including Senator Joel Anderson and his staff, who spent April 5 on the site located on the 12000 block of Lakeshore Drive. About a dozen volunteers from the Senator’s office laid pavers in the driveway, mixed grout, and installed tile.
Senator Anderson, who has been involved in housing construction projects for the underserved in both in the US and Tijuana since the 1990’s, commented that “It is an honor to contribute to the construction of homes specifically designed for those who have paid a very high price for our freedom.” He continued, “San Diego Habitat for Humanity has done an amazing job of helping those families that have sacrificed so much for our country realize the American dream of homeownership.”
Zawis expressed his enthusiasm at the community’s efforts. “I am constantly impressed by the selfless attitude and enthusiasm of people. Everyone benefits in some way from the involvement of these volunteers,” he said.
Dozens of volunteers have worked together to help those who have risked everything in their nation’s service through Building for the Brave. The grand opening of the homes will take place later this year. Until that time, volunteers are still needed, especially to help with finishing the interior of the units.
Volunteers are still needed at the Building for the Brave site in Lakeside, especially for June 10th and 11th. Volunteers can sign up at http://sdhfh.volunteerhub.com/Events/Index .
If you would like to contribute to others volunteer efforts or know someone who may be eligible for one of the Building for the Brave Program’s housing units, please contact San Diego Habitat for Humanity at (619) 283- 4663, or visit www.sdhfh.org