Volunteer Spotlight: Renee Bracey

Every winter for more than a decade, Renee Bracey packs away her mittens and trades the Michigan snow for milder temperatures in Atlantic Beach. For two months out of the year, she dedicates her time to supporting Beaches Habitat for Humanity: traveling to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

The Start of a New Tradition

Renee’s journey started with Beaches Habitat by chance. While working at Siena Heights University as a librarian, a student approached her about becoming a sponsor for the school’s Habitat campus chapter. The club had recently lost its adviser and was looking for someone to fill the position. Always open to new experiences, she eagerly asked: what can I do to help?

The campus chapter was planning to participate in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge program and needed a supervisor for the trip. Collegiate Challenge is a week-long travel-and-build experience for high school and college students. Students travel to a participating local Habitat organization, where they have the opportunity to build alongside local volunteers and future homeowners while learning about affordable housing.

In the spring of 2010, Renee and a handful of students spent the week serving the Jacksonville beaches community. After that first successful year, the Habitat Campus Chapter at Siena Heights University made building homes with Beaches Habitat an annual tradition.

A Life of Service

Now in her fourth year of retirement, Renee has continued to serve Habitat for Humanity in more ways than one. She has spent time as a board member at Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County and is currently active in their construction program. She enjoys being on the deconstruction team. Sometimes known as green demolition, this is a more methodical process to salvage materials that can be recycled or reused during a renovation or a house teardown.

When asked about why volunteering is important, Renee explained that she loves helping out and pushing herself to do things she’s never done before.

Spring is an especially busy time on the construction sites of Beaches Habitat. In a typical year, Collegiate Challenge brings 4 to 6 weeks of volunteers, with each volunteer serving 32 hours in a week. It’s no small feat making sure that they have plenty of work to do while staying safe on the site. Thanks to Renee (and other volunteer leaders like her), students traveling to Beaches Habitat can feel confident that they will have a great experience building homes!

We are so grateful for Renee’s dedication to Habitat and Beaches Habitat, specifically! Leadership is a special skill and one that is incredibly important on the construction site. As Beaches Habitat slowly resumes construction volunteer opportunities, volunteer leaders will be a big part of getting back to “normal.”

Do you have what it takes to lead volunteers on the construction site? If you’re interested in volunteering regularly and would be willing to teach and lead small groups of volunteers, let us know!