Last summer, Mike First set out on a walk from his home on Bryan Street to a neighboring store. Along the way, he saw a group of 20 people building something in the East Garrett Park neighborhood.

When he asked what they were doing, the answer was simple: “We’re volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. We build homes for people who can’t afford housing.”

Mike didn’t make it to the store that day. Instead, he picked up a hammer and started working. Now, he volunteers most Saturdays. The East Dallas/Lakewood Advocate recognizes Mike’s efforts by designating him as our Volunteer of the Month.

Habitat for Humanity is a national organization that builds homes for low-income families who couldn’t otherwise afford a home. Habitat’s Dallas branch is concentrating on the East Garrett Park neighborhood, located between Ross Avenue, Henderson Avenue and Live Oak Street.

Habitat’s staff assists in teaching unskilled volunteers how to handle the construction projects. The physical labor often is gratifying for volunteers who spend their days behind a desk, Mike says.

“There’s a great cadre of friends here,” he says. “I look forward to Saturdays and to catching up with everyone. We would be doing this anyway, but having the fellowship makes the work that much better.”

The Habitat volunteers also work with families who are in the process of qualifying for a Habitat-built home. Each Habitat family must work at least 400 hours on Habitat projects to “earn” the downpayment for their home.

“I like working alongside the families who will be my neighbors,” Mike says. “I have become friends with the people who live in the houses I have helped to build.”

“In the scheme of things, we’re all neighbors.”

Voluneer Opportunities

East Dallas YMCA, 6220 Worth Street, promotes the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals of all races, religions, ages and communities.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, every day 2,740 teenagers become pregnant, 1,375 teens drop out of school, and 3,288 children run away from home.

As a result, the YMCA is focusing on teens through a new program providing a safe environment for adolescents to socialize, learn and make friends.

The Y needs adults to serve as teen advisors. The Teen Club Program is designed to build self-esteem, improve personal health, develop employment skills and career goals, provide education and training, and develop leadership skills and service opportunities.

During their one-year commitment, advisors work in pairs to guide groups of eight to 12 students from Woodrow Wilson and Bishop Lynch high schools.

Through the Teen Club Program, advisors make a positive impact on the lives of their club members. To become a Teen Club advisor, call 824-8139.

Dallas Habitat for Humanity, 5200 Bryan Street, takes a unique approach to resolving the low-cost housing crisis. Through a broad base of volunteer support, the agency builds and rehabilitates homes at cost for approved low-income families.

Dallas Habitat is focusing on the East Garrett Park neighborhood, bounded by Ross Avenue on the West, Greenville/Munger to the Northeast and Live Oak to the South.

To qualify, families must demonstrate need and must complete 400 hours of “sweat equity” in lieu of a cash downpayment. The families make their monthly mortgage payments to Habitat on a 0% interest basis.

Volunteer opportunities include work (construction) crews and hospitality crews (support services for work crews and special events). Opportunities to participate on various committees and special projects also are available.

On May 25, about 300 volunteers are needed to help plant more than 100 trees on community curbs and boulevards.

To become a Habitat volunteer, call Susan Dunlap at 827-3990.

The Science Place at Fair Park exists to demystify science for children and adults, fostering an appreciation of science and technology. The Science Place offers 175 permanent interactive exhibits relating to light, physical sciences, energy and basic math and science concepts.

Volunteers serve as docents, cashiers and teachers, as well as during special events. Volunteer by calling 428-7200.

If you are interested in volunteering, call the Volunteer Center of Dallas County at 826-6767. The Volunteer Center matches prospective volunteers with agencies throughout Dallas.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.