Hammers and Sweat, Self and Other

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Title: Hammers and Sweat, Self and Other The Gift of Habitat for Humanity Volunteerism
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Kennedy, Taylor
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Volunteerism
Habitat for Humanity
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This ethnographic thesis compares three Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Southwest Florida, those of Manatee, Sarasota, and Collier County. Through in-depth interviews with volunteers and staff members on the construction sites, this thesis surveys the reasons people volunteer and focuses upon socially motivated reasons. Analysis of relationships developed and managed through on-site service and articulations of the social dynamic between volunteers and homeowners�both observed and ideal�will inform a broader question of the altruistic nature of Habitat for Humanity. Secondarily, this analysis will assess differences between the three affiliates, or institutional variability, and note possible impacts upon the volunteers' motivation and relationships.
Statement of Responsibility: by Taylor Kennedy
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Dean, Erin

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 K3
System ID: NCFE004278:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Hammers and Sweat, Self and Other The Gift of Habitat for Humanity Volunteerism
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Kennedy, Taylor
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Volunteerism
Habitat for Humanity
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This ethnographic thesis compares three Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Southwest Florida, those of Manatee, Sarasota, and Collier County. Through in-depth interviews with volunteers and staff members on the construction sites, this thesis surveys the reasons people volunteer and focuses upon socially motivated reasons. Analysis of relationships developed and managed through on-site service and articulations of the social dynamic between volunteers and homeowners�both observed and ideal�will inform a broader question of the altruistic nature of Habitat for Humanity. Secondarily, this analysis will assess differences between the three affiliates, or institutional variability, and note possible impacts upon the volunteers' motivation and relationships.
Statement of Responsibility: by Taylor Kennedy
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Dean, Erin

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 K3
System ID: NCFE004278:00001

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HAMMERS AND SWEAT, SELF AND OTHER: THE GIFT OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY VOLUNTEERISM BY TAYLOR KENNEDY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences Under the sponsorship of Erin Dean Sarasota, Florida May, 2010


T ABLE OF CONTENTS Page ABSTRACT iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv INTRODUCTION Rationalizing the Lunacy 1 Overview of the Thesis 7 CHAPTER I: HABITAT FOR HUMANITY AND ITS PARTNERS The Story of Habitat: Yesterdays Evangelist Ministry, Todays Modern Enterprise 10 Principles in Action: The Gap between Outlook and Operation 15 Avoiding the State: Providing Homes for People in Need, the Habitat Way 22 Habitat Volunteers: Integral yet Interchangeable 28 Volunteerism Unpacked: Voluntary Action and its Social Sinews 32 CHAPTER II: REASONS AND RELATIONSHIPS Orientation to Fieldwork: The Lure of Habitat for Humanity 41 Volunteers Friends: Here, Away, Famous, Destitute, Stranger, Kin 54 The Homeowner Partner-Type: Anonymous Altruism 65 CHAPTER III: VOLUNTEER-HOMEO WNER RELATIONSHIPS Respect at Arms Length: A Community of Givers and a Community of Takers 79 The Primary Sociality of Habitat: A Community of Seekers 96 CONCLUSION: PROSPECTS FOR COMMUNITY 112 LIST OF REFERENCES 120 ii


HAMMERS AND SWEAT, SELF, AND OTHER: THE GIFT OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY VOLUNTEERISM Taylor Kennedy New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT This ethnographic thesis compares three Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Southwest Florida, those of Manatee, Sara sota, and Collier County. Through in-depth interviews with volunteers and staff member s on the construction sites, this thesis surveys the reasons people volunteer and focuses upon soci ally motivated reasons. Analysis of relationships developed and managed through on-site service and articulations of the social dynamic betw een volunteers and ho meownersboth observed and idealwill inform a broader question of the altruistic nature of Habitat for Humanity. Secondarily, this analysis will asse ss differences between the three affiliates, or institutional variability, and note possibl e impacts upon the volunt eers' motivation and relationships. ____________________________ Erin Dean Division of Social Sciences iii


iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This thesis has benefited enormously from the support and cooperation I have received from the three affiliates: Habitat for Humanity of Manatee, Sarasota, and Collier Counties. The cons truction and volunteer coordi nation staff have been particularly essential. I am endlessly grateful to the volunteer s, my key respondents. Theirs are the shoulders, humble as they insist, on which I have stood to arrive to new comprehension. I hope that I have interpreted their words and actions with discernment and respect. This thesis depends upon the arguments a nd findings of a handful of scholars. I extend special gratitude to Jacques T. Godbout and Alain Caill, whose work The World of the Gift leaves me in awe. I thank my committee members, profe ssors Erin Dean, David Brain, and Joe Mink, for taking my work serious lyboth during this thesis year and in past semesters. We can trace the merits of my analysis back to revelations to wh ich I arrived under their tutelage. I will be forever indebted to my thesis sponsor Erin Dean. Her guidance has been humbling. Fellow ethnographer Mary Barnes deserv es a round of applause for extensively editing my drafts and providing moral support. My parents Marguerite Quirey and Gre gory Kennedy continue to be my models and my best friends. As far as my two olde r brothers, Xander and Clayton: I have often said that my personality is ha lf one and half the other. Thus, if I brag about them, I would be bragging about myself. I will write: what inspiring derivatives! My two Grandmothers have taken on a motherly role du ring my stint at New College. I will look back on these years and be perhaps most appreciative of this fact. Last and fundamentally, the members of my non-familial sphere of primary sociality. The recipients of my elective affinity. That tumbling collection of friends. Such a fine linein college? in this era?between acquaintance and intimate. Between crying on my shoulder and nodding respectfully. I hope that I do you justice in my undertakings and I apologize for my shortcomings.


INTRODUCTION RATIONALIZING THE LUNACY Volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity construction site is a bizarre undertaking, outright goofy. You have to wake up an hour or two before sunrise, commute for five or fifteensometimes sixty milesto the site, bear the Florida heat as you pound away at the nails for five hours, slowly losing your h earing from the racket of saws and hammers. You trudge back to your car drenched in sweat your back screams in agony from bending for so long, your face and neck are sunburned because you forgot to apply sunscreen, your thumb is bruised and bloody from a missed swing and your hammering arm is dangerously fatigued. You sit in your car open the window, andas you weakly force the keys into the ignitiondream about coming back next week. Or perhaps you will make it in this Thursday. What could impel someone of privilege in this age of convenience and comfort to go through such a physical mess, week after week? Like a victim of Tom Sawyer's trickery, you whitewash the fence, taking it on with gusto. Though Tom secretly loathed the task, he convinced his peers that it was f un. No one is forcing you into this drudgery but yourself, and you have been confused into finding this gritty tedium fulfilling. Furthermore, akin to Sawyer's pawns who give him gifts for allowing them to grip the honored paint brush, you are likely donating money to the Habitat affiliate for which you volunteer. A tithing? A penance? The charge for a ticket into a theme park? A citizensponsored subsidy? 1


As I interview southwest Florida volunteers at Collier, Sarasota, and Manatee counties' Habitat for Humanity affiliates, identifying thei r motivation to donate muscle and money is neither quick nor straightforward. Since my interview is often the first time anyone has asked them to explain the impulse, they cannot identify it with ease. Calculating, money-saving logic directs the majority of thei r day-to-day activities when they leave their home (the same goes for most Americans), so I pres ent a real challenge for them. Stepping out of the easy rationality of wage labor, profit pursuit, and workingto-get-off-work, they enter the foggy realm of God and Country. Their speech slows and I see them confront tenuous issues like opportunity, poverty, and salvation. They speak of duty, service, and passion. Whether the thematic obscurity makes them yell in pride or utter in confession, I always feel like I have crossed into intimate territory. This thesis targets two questions. First of all, why do Habitat volunteers volunteer? My interviewsnearly all of which have been with volunteers on the construction site, rather than those who work in the office or who mentor families engage their perspectives. This undoubtedly includes many environmental factors they will face as they volunteer. Such factors are plentiful for Habitat volunteers, whose service experiences are facilita ted by the host affiliates, bot h in literal terms of what volunteer activities take place, but also how the affiliate promotes and facilitates volunteerism and explains the role of th e volunteer within the institution. Other structures could lie outside of the affiliate design. For ex ample, one of my respondents insisted that he began volunteering because he had a lot of time on his hands since losing his job. Another respondent hinted at marital strife and explained that he needs to keep 2


busy and stay out of trouble. The second question of this thesis zeroes in on a particular aspect of the openended first question. Are Habitat volunteers hoping to foster relationships when they volunteer? This could include relationships with anyone they might see on the work-site: the house leader (usually a volunteer), construc tion staff (only the Collier County affiliate employs workers on the construction site), th e future homeowners, or other volunteers. This question is important to my thesis because I argue that volunteerism can and should be understood as a social activity. While th at might seem like I am stating the obvious, there are plenty of non-social reasons that volunteers offer to explain their service, such as ideological (e.g., the state shouldn't be providing housing ) or self-betterment (e.g., I'm just trying to get some construction experience ). Most responses do reflect social interests, but these interests can aim different directions a nd engage varying degrees of intimacy. Most importantly, if we want to understand anything a bout the potential for altruism among Habitat construction volunteers, it is imperative that we consider which other people they are seeking. Of central impor tance in my critique will be the theory of the gift, which evaluates social exchange as the manifestation of relationships and their cycles of alternating debt. A third question into which my thesis will delve from time to time is How are the volunteer experiences between my three aff iliates different? Since my fieldwork investigates three affiliates, I can hardly avoid confronting this tension, which I call interaffiliate variability. Essentially, it balances the two factors I observe in the first question: individual motivation and institut ional structure. This intersec tion is ripe with interesting 3


im plications for the feasibility of organized volunteerism. I seek the answers to the questions this thesis propos es largely through the same method: conversations with volunteers. I util ize the perspectives of affiliate staff at points, but the primary sources are the volunt eers themselves, whose real names I do not use. Their articulation of the priorities of Habitat for Humanitywhich they likely see themselves as helping to fulfill and which motivate them to stay committedare as important to my study as any institutional tenets outlined by Habitat for Humanity International or by any particular affiliate. In addition to these informal interviews, most of which I recorded and transcribed, I look at the web sites and printed mediasome published, most notdistributed by my three affiliates. Finally, I use a few orienting publications from spokespeople of Habitat for Humanity International to gauge the official stance on an issue or priority These include books by the founder Millard Fuller and the current Executive Director, Jonath an T. M. Reckford, as well as pages on the Habitat International website. Most of the non-interview material will be used only for this introduction. The selection of interviewees was neither planned nor random. Oftentimes, they would select themselves by approaching me a nd offering their stories after hearing that I was doing a project studying Hab itat volunteers. Toward the latter part of my fieldwork process, I began to more actively pursue particular volunteersanyone who might add a little diversity to a group that mostly cons ists of upper-middle class, Caucasian males over 50 years old. But even within this large su bset, the experiences are rich in variety. Volunteers often told me, after I asked them to share why they come out to the 4


site, that the y were no expertthat guy over there, oh I forget his name, but he's been coming out for a long time. You should talk to him. Me, I've only been coming out for a couple months. I would have to hold back from c huckling at their self-effacement and to avoid prodding them with responses like: Did that guy over there demand that you come out? Did he use force? Does he define your moral sphere? I often was more excited to talk to the newbies because their volunteeris m had not yet settled into habit. The questions I asked engaged recent debates they were managing withintheir answers may not be articulate, but they cl early hit upon a fresh passion or anxiety that has pushed them to the work-site. The veteran workers, by cont rast, often had a short reason they threw at me like a slogan or a bumper sticker. Fu rthermore, the newer volunteers did not yet find the work-site comfortably social. They were like the kids who just moved to a new school district; understandably they would be th e particularly pensiv e ones during recess, as they try to figure out why they are ther e and what they should be doing during this hour of play. Volunteers, new and veteran, fe lt sheepish about the possibility that they are experts at volunteering. As a tour guide for New College admissions, I often tell the prospective students who I l ead around the campus to interrupt me and ask questions, since I am an expert at New College because I go here. They giggle and then resume their shy silence, hopefully pondering the profound truth I have just offered. A questionnaire could eas ily define the motivation to serve by giving respondents five choices (or however many) for why they come to volunteer with Habitat. They choose one of reasons I have se t out for them and the case is closed. But that type of study would not force anyone to become thought ful and look inward since the responses 5


would be lim ited by what I think are possible motivations, rather than what the volunteers think. Furthermore, it allows zero nuance for me to flesh outeither in the foreground, during my conversation with the volunteers, or in the background, through my findings from research and theory-building in the so cial sciences. I want to poke around in the brain of the volunteer. This probing, moreove r, leads to fascina ting perceptions of a variety of social concepts and institutions such as altruism, non-profit management, citizenship, affordable housing, and religion. This thesis topic did not arise out of the blue. Before coming to New College, I worked 1700 hours with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, the southern-most affiliate in this thesis, during a gap year as an AmeriCorps volunteer. They hired me in August of 2005 as a Construction Site Vol unteer Coordinator, which became an appropriate title only six months in, since I was clueless abou t construction when I began. After a while I grew handy with the hammer and gained a clear sense of the homebuilding process, made easier by the fact that each house plan is identical. Around January, I began legitimately training and l eading volunteer groups. The learning curve was well-timed since it is during January th at south Florida fills up with retirees (affectionately called snowbirds), who form the majority of our volunteer base. In addition to the retirees, most of whom knew what they were doing (many started volunteering in the 1980s), we often hosted service outings for high schools and colleges and executive team-building vacations from co mpanies. I was nineteen at this point; I don't know if it felt stranger to be bossing around a 65-year-old or a 21-year-old. I also worked closely with many of the homeowners and their families, eventually gaining the 6


authority to sign of f for their hours of sweat equity. (Sweat equity, which will be discussed in more detail late r, refers to the 300-500 hours of service that homeowners and their families must fulfill.) Furthermore, I lived in a Habitat home within a Habitat subdivision of over fifty homesit has si nce grown to nearly a hundred upon the completion of the second phase of the develo pment. I grew close to my neighbors, many of whom were born in Haiti, Mexico, or Guatemala. The kidsso many kids!loved me and I adored them. It was a back-br eaking, tongue-tying, life-changing year. Though I cannot get retroactive approva l from the Institutional Review Board for these memories, I will not be able to avoid r ecalling them from time to time for an anecdote that might send my arguments sliding into home plate. And likely send me shrinking into a rich and palpable nostalgia. Overview of the Thesis Chapter One begins with an overview of the formation of Habitat for Humanity in Georgia. This section emphasizes how the organization, as it became less communal and evangelical, eventually exploded in popular ity, a process marked by the arrival Jimmy Carter as a committed volunteer. The Gap Between Outlook and Operation goes in depth about the inner workings of Habitat aff iliates and how the principles articulated in media from affiliates and Habitat Internati onal leaves room for interpretation. In particular, there are different expectati ons for the homeowners and volunteers. Avoiding the State describes Habitats reluctan ce to partner with state funds or support and frames Habitats housebuilding ministry in relation to the U.S. governments attempts since the 7


1950s to house the poor and m iddle class. Habitat Volunteers: Integral Yet Interchangeable contrasts the volunteer experien ce with the homeowner experience, noting the comparably free and individualized participation of the volunteers. This section introduces the modern trends of pluralization a nd personalization. Volunteerism Unpacked elaborates upon these trends with a di scussion of the centrality or divestment of self within voluntary action. This section then introduces categories of motivation for volunteering and relates these to the theory of the gift, a central perspective of this thesis. Chapters Two and Three provide and anal yze my ethnographic data. The chapters follow a thematic trajectory. Orientation to Fieldwork gives examples of all motivation categories, except for two: membership in a social group and community concern. These two are the subjects of the rest of the thesis. Volunteers Friends samples the diversity of the people with whom volunt eers relate, focusing in on the special relationship between home owners and volunteers. The Homeowner Partner-Type reveals the tendency of volunteers to desire superficial relationshi ps with homeowners, which will spur inspiration to continue to vol unteer. This section notes how volunteers frequently point to homeowner children, rather than the homeowners themselves, as the beneficiary of their service. Chapter Three reframes volunteers anonymous altruism in terms of its implications on the community Habitat for Humanity creates. Respect at Arms Length begins with the perspective from the affiliate staff about the role of volunteers and the necessity of community. This elucidates the separate spheres of partnerships: among volunteers and among homeowners. The Primary Sociality of Habitat examines two 8


volunteers whose actions and pers pectives show an attem pt to transcend this division. The Conclusion summarizes the thesis and then argues toward the optimal direction Habitat for Humanity should take based upon the priorities implied by the perspective of the gift. 9


CHAPTER ONE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY AND ITS PARTNERS The Story of Habitat: Yesterday's Evangelist Ministry, Today's Modern Enterprise Let me take a moment to provide so me background on the organization under the spotlight. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry, as described on the Habitat for Humanity Inte rnational website. Ec umenical denotes an orientation toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation (Merriam-Webster, online). Operating through its affiliatesroughly 1700 in the United States, 550 abroad, and still growingHabitat has built over 300,000 homes in which more than 1.5 million people reside (HFH Int'l: 2009). In 2000, Ha bitat was ranked 21st in Professional Builder magazine among the largest homebuilding operations in the country, and depending upon the sourceit is at or near th e top of lower price builders (Baggett 2001: 49). For Sarasota, Collier, and Mana tee counties where my affiliates operate, Habitat plays an essential ro le in the region's provision of affordable housing. The first affiliate began in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, a small town near Atlanta, which continues to serve as the operational headquart ers. The administrative headquarters eventually moved to Atlanta. The second affiliate, interestingly, began in Immokalee, Florida, which later develope d into Habitat of Collier County. The organizational roots of Habitat are insepa rable from the life story of founder Millard Fuller, who died in February of 2009. Having written nearly a dozen promotional books 10


on Habitat, he has been a defining voice fo r the or ganization. The important turning point for him occurred in the mid-1960s. Lawyer and owner of a catalog-order company, Fuller, who had become a millionaire, began to lose touch with his wife, Linda, and family. Estrangement from the church, personal immorality in various forms, compromise with principleall these were part of the price I was paying for success (Fuller 1980: 48). He began to associate the onset of respir atory strain and neck pain with his choices: My health problems, I told myself, were simply part of the price I had to pay for success (49). Faci ng the threat of divorce, he reassessed his priorities. We would sell our land and houses and boats and car s and cattle and horses. We would also sell the businessto my partner if he wanted it and to someone else if he didn't. And we would give all the money away (53). This riches-to-rags reformation, as Baggett puts it, took place in 1966, and he moved his family from New York City to Alab ama. Some friends invited them to stop by on their way through Georgia, where they we re staying at an intentional Christian community called Koinonia Farm, a few miles fr om Americus. The visit ballooned into a month-long stay during which he became close to Clarence Jordan, th e spiritual leader of the community (56). Holding a degree in agriculture as well as a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Seminary, Jordan worked to educate and collaborate with local sharecroppers, introducing new farming me thods. Fuller writes admiringly, Blacks and whites worked and shared as equals at Koinonia, and irate whites in the area had responded with bombings, shootings, and b eatings. Koinonia never retaliated. By noon, I was absolutely consumed with curiosity about this unusual community, and especially about this Clarence Jordan who took God's word so 11


seriously and so literally (57) As the last sentence indicates, Fuller's stay at Koinonia placed Jesus at the center of his reawakeninga peace-making, commun ity-oriented, radically cheek-turning Jesus. This Christian identity came to defi ne the housebuilding enterprise he eventually spearheaded with Jordan. Fuller's writing and speeches are brimming with Biblical intonations. However, these signify more th an religious rhetoric: Fuller insists that Habitat's form of partnership, wherein people in need work alongside volunteers, derives from Jesus's teachings. Indeed, a double-mean ing exists whenever Habitat uses the term partnership: partnership with Christ and partnership among all of God's children. The Collier Habitat website establishes that their m ission is to work in partnership with God, those in need and people from all walks of life, to develop decent and safe communities (Collier Habitat: 2009). On the other hand, the Manatee County affiliate succinctly writes on its website: PARTNERSHIP: Homeowners and volunteers build together (Manatee Habitat: 2009). They are not in di sagreement, only showing the many faces of partnership. (And, ironically, the Manatee affiliate generally emphasizes the Christian component more than the other two.) Th is thesis expounds upon Habitat's biblical connection only to the extent that volunteers base their involvement on these associations. Fuller and Jordan developed much of the groundwork for the Habitat process on the Koinonia Farm. As the website reports, In 1968, Koinonia laid out 42 half-acre house sites with four acres reserved as a community park and recreational area. Capital was donated from around the country to start the work. Homes were built and sold to families in need at 12


no profit and no interest. The basic model of Habitat for Humanity was begun. (HFH Int'l: 2009) Two key aspects of Habitatdonation-based financing and non-profit, zero-interest loansemerge eight years prior to the founding of Habitat in 1976. Furthermore, volunteers and the future residents of the homes likely labored together on the build site, the visible half of Habitat's partnership ideal. When the first affiliate was officially founded in Americus, these policies form ed the main operating principles. Before describing the practice of these pr inciples in detail, I will bring us to present. The story since the seventies is one of explosive growth. Like the McDonald's franchise's Hamburgers Sold tally, Habitat af filiates continue to sprout prolifically, making the pace of construction worldwide acc elerate. This expansion was marked by Jimmy Carter's arrival onto the scene in 1984. Former-president Carter's involvement was happenstance: during a jog through lowe r Manhattan, he stopped to tour a Habitat renovation and then offered to volunteer. Fuller got word and quickly seized the opportunity for the good press of such an advocacy. The Manhattan build site transformed into the first Jimmy Carter Work Project. This project was repeated the following year and eventually became an annual event moving around the country and world. This past November, for example, the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project (renamed in 2008 to include his wife) took pl ace in Southeast Asia, building in five different countries. The Carters' involvement was a supremely fortuitous turn for Habitat, putting it, on the American nonprofit map overnight (Baggett 2001: 85). The most common misconception Habitat faces is that Ji mmy Carter was its founder and is or has been employed as its executive director. The erroneous link is a blessing in disguise 13


since J immy Carter has been integral in se ducing the secular crowd to the worksite. Despite his deep Christian beliefs, people s till conceive of him as the Democrat exPresident, so his association with Habitat at tracts the volunteers w ho might otherwise feel wary about participating in a Christ-centere d organization. Carter serves as a bridge between the Evangelicals and the left-leaning cr owd, a rare feat in the polarized climate of today's cultural politics. Carter proves to be a more readily-emerging icon than even Jesus for many volunteers. Rick, a public school teacher who I met on the Collier County site, reflects upon Carter's centrality in the public image of Habitat. Truthfully, until I came here, I didn't realize that it was Christian-affiliated. 'Cause I don't practice any religion. But that doesn't bother me eith er way. I didn't realize until I started coming that that was actually an element of it. And then I read a little bit more about, you know, the formation of it in Georgia and Jimmy Carteryou always hear about his affiliation. But just actually that it started close to where he was from in the first place. Habitat for Humanity Intern ational found itself swirling in controversy during the late 1990s and early 2000s due to charges ag ainst Millard Fuller of sexual harassment toward office staff. He had already become infamous for his tyrann ical and insensitive style of direction, so this de bacle convinced many in the headquarters that he had become poisonous to progress. Carter intervened to facilitate a resoluti on, keeping Fuller on the payroll but transferring him to a more nominal leadership position. This allowed Fuller to continue writing and touring as Habitat's main spokesperso n but greatly diminished his decision-making authority. This seemed to work for a while, but eventually the sore reopened, and he was fired altogether in 2005. The fact that these troubles at the top did not seem to affect the stability and productivity of individual affiliates is a testament to 14


the relative autonom y of Hab itat affiliates, both in operati on and reputation. The current executive director, Jonathan T. M. Reck ford, who was hired in 2005, has proven less polarizing than Fuller. In addition to heading the Hab itat International, he is the executive pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church of Edina, Minnesota. Principles in Action: The Gap between Outlook and Operation Returning to the operating principles, Fuller affirms that the business model is based upon the Economics of Jesus. While running on donations may not exactly be outlined in the Bible, it seems that the charge to sell houses at zero prof it and interest is. Demonstrating that Habitat is simply follo wing directions, Fuller quotes Leviticus 25:35 and 37: If a fellow living near you beco mes poor do not make him pay interest on the money you lend him, and do not make a profit on the food you sell him (1990: 91). Though the cost of land and materials w ill differ greatly by locale, making such an ideal easier to follow in some places than others, Habitat International mandates this policy for each of its affiliates. In fact, to the surprise of many volunteers, every affiliate actually serves as the bank for its homeowners. Jeff, a board member for Collier County's affiliate who I met at a bui ld site in Naples, elucidates: We act as the bank, sort of. Lend the money. And then we take the money we get for mortgages and we either sell them so we can build more houses, or we act as the bank and then take that money and build more houses with it. So it's sort of a compounding effect. The long-term face-to-face interaction between the affiliate and homeowners is one upshot of this in-house bankingduring my y ear of AmeriCorps, office staff often 15


em phasized its importance. Years after they had moved into the home, homeowners were still encouraged, if not require d, to hand in their monthly paym ent at the office. Rather than sending it off in the mail to a mortgage loan company, the process was made personal by routinizing these encounters between office staff and homeowners. This intimacy runs through every step of the homeowners' partnership with Habitat. Applying for a home involves verifi cations of citizenship, as well as credit and criminal background checks. The application concludes with a visi t to the applicant's current residence by one or two members of th e affiliate's Family Selection Committee. Though somewhat controversial, this visit is one of the mo st important parts of the process for affiliates. Committee members meet the whole family and often take photographs of the cramped apartments, humble trailers, or wretched shacks. These will help to illustrate the family situation duri ng the eventual presentation to the affiliate board, the body which approves, rejects, or ta bles each application. For large affiliates, these meetings occur at least every month. Family selection decisions follow three principles: the amount of need, the ability to repay, and their willingness to partner with Habitat. These were sometimes crudely paraphrased by volunteers and occasionally staff during my year working in Collier County as: To get a Habitat house, you've gotta be poor, but not too poor, and you've gotta have good values. The first two principles can be quantifie d using tables which classify homeowners into income brackets, taking into account th e number of family members. Sarasota County's affiliate, for example, requires th at applicants fall between 30% and 70% of Sarasota's median income. The third principle, an applicant's willingness to partner, 16


cannot be qu antified but is pivotal to the committee's decisions, and signifies a vital difference between Habitat and any other provid er of affordable housing. Considerate, empowering, and judicious at it s best, personality-driven, chaotic, and holier-than-thou at its worst, this assessment of ethics and industry may be the deciding factor for many applications. While attending Family Selection Meetings in 2005, I noted that full consensus seemed to be an ideal, but it often came down to a vote. This willingness to partner principle aims to predict the su ccess of a partnership between the applying family and the affiliate. It is the first step for future homeowners, and definitely not the last time that their ethics and industry will be judged. Such ethical deliberation is common among faith-based development organizations. Writing about Christia n Care, an NGO working in Zimbabwe, anthropologist Erica Bornstein relates a similar conundrum faced by this ministry: If [a Christian NGO] established economic infrastructure without a spiritual basis, th ere was a danger of it falling apart, especially if house hold heads did not have a Christian background. If, for example, they spent all their money earned through developmen t on drinking beer, or to acquire another wife (ver y un-Christian activities), development would not move forward. Here, nonChristian beliefs were seen as interfering with the progress of development, much as Weber considered non-Protestant cultures less suited for capita list endeavor. (2005: 51) Bornstein goes on to analyze the link betw een economic development and Protestantism which, though somewhat counter-intuitive, the NGO realizes. Indeed, development itself comes to be understood as reflecting Chris tian values. In terms of the work Habitat for Habitat does, the morals and economic efficiency of the Habitat homeowners go hand in hand and the Christian tenor of the work serves to fu rther intertwine these two. 17


Bornstein s ethnography will serve as a usef ul reference throughout our analysis of Habitat volunteerism. For homeowners whose applications are chosen, partnership is forged on the construction site where each family will complete 300 to 500 hours of sweat equity. Generally, 300 hours must be done by the parent or parents, and the rest can be done by any friends and family over 16 years old. Du ring this feat, which symbolizes for the public the peculiarity of Habitat for Humanity the intimacy of the homeowner experience reaches its apex. Intimate in part because the construction site brings everyone together (homeowners meet volunteers and other homeowner s), but it is also intimate in the sheer corporeality of the process. Sweat Equity is a catchy name but it could also be termed Blood Blister Equity, or when insulating walls Respired Fiberglass Equity, or, for the days when homeowners help lay out a few acres of sod, Ant-Bite Equity. It proves to be a trying, humbling, and hope fully gratifying time. Depending on the affiliate, families have anywhere between six and twelve months to complete their hours. The hours will take place on the construction site, although in some cases hours can also be satisfied by serving at the office or in a Habitat Home Store, a used furniture store run by many affiliates, including the three I studied. Ideally, homeowners work on their neighbors' homes during the first 250 hours and on their own during the latter half. This can ha ppen only at affiliates which build multiple houses at oncea fair enough distinction for large versus small affiliates. Collier, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties' affilia tes are all undoubtedly large. Though the economy has slowed them down of late, th ey have all completed multiple Habitat 18


subdivis ions. This is spectacular when compared to the many affiliates that build one house every year or two. Thus, homeow ners may follow this help-your-neighborsbefore-yourself policy, an ethically poetic cont rivance, at large affiliates, but it cannot be standard practice throughout Habitat for Huma nity. This is also a period where many affiliates will require homeowners to a ttend citizenship/homeownership workshops. These can include anything from personal fi nance to English as a second language. After their home is complete and thei r sweat equity hours finished, homeowners take center stage in a home dedication. This celebratory event hosts dozens of volunteers and often local press to commemorate the result of the homeowners' and volunteers' combined efforts. It usually features only one or a few families, but sometimes the event dedicates an entire block of new homes. Emceed by staff, the dedication may begin with updates on affiliate news, but then each featur ed homeowner takes his/her/their turn, with a family in tow, to receive the new ke ys. Homeowner sponsors, individuals who volunteer to counsel, advise, and support hom eowner families and who are members of the Family Nurture Committee (another mandatory facet of each affiliate), usually speak with their sponsee, sharing anecdotes about the arduous process and showering well wishes. Every homeowner may speak if desire d and then receives a few gifts, including a Bible and a few symbolic items, such as salt, so that your life will always have flavor, and so on. Tears are shed, photographs taken, an d then the next family comes forward for its ceremonial congratulations. When the dedi cation involves an entire street or block of Habitat families, some of the houses may not be completed quite yet, so these families though they now hold the keyswill wa it a while longer to move in. 19


The hom e dedication is a symbolic and fes tive moment. It is reminiscent of the Christening or Baptism of a child by a church: the home and its new occupants are blessed and brought into the fold of the Habitat community. After the ceremony, attendees are often allowed to tour the home(s). The ne w homeowners host their first house guests, sometimes a rather sweaty bunch if they are just coming from a morning of construction service. The homes may or may not be furnished at this point; in some cases individuals or stores have donated furnishings. While t ouring three homes (whose new owners are African-American) following a home dedication at Sarasota's affiliate, I witnessed the results of a sponsor ship by local interior designer s. As I wrote in my field notes that morning: I was blown away by the furniture and d ecorating that had gone on. This had me recall the introduction of three women who had offered interior design consultation and perhaps also donated money. [The rooms] looked exquisite, in a white middle-class gaudy way, with paintings of just colors that matched the wall and decorative plates. The whole family, extended, sat at the tabl e as white visitors mulled around. Manatee County's affiliate t ook this furnishing sponsorship to a new level: using donated materials, two well-known interior designers had a 24-hour competition to decorate two new homes. Following this, anyo ne interested in the results could pay to attend a post-competition block party. The process was videotaped and may be turned into a promotional film, suggesting that beyond serving the char itable function of furnishing two homes, this competition also raised funds and developed some entertaining press for the affiliate. 20


At som e point, the new homeowner's fam ily actually moves into the house and the visible aspects of the Habitat partnership diminish. During my year in Collier County, I became familiar with homeowner p artners throughout every stage of their well-defined relationship with the affiliate: prospective homeowners, such as people I would run into around town expressing interest in a pplying for a Habitat house; applicants, a stage with which I grew intimately familiar after going on three home visits; approved applicants working on their sweat equity, for whom I was something between friend and boss; dedication attendees; and Habi tat residents, who included my dozens of neighbors in our tight-knit s ubdivision. I might add another stage, one which many residents may never fulfill: moving out of the Habitat home. This was the case for a coworker of mine on the construc tion site. He and his family had been living in a nearby Habitat development for two years and decide d to buy a larger home in a new, planned neighborhood being constructed by for-profit builders. It is worth noting, in relation to this potential stage, that Habitat for Humanity affiliates take some measures to assure the homeowner's commitment to the Habitat partne rship. While not visited for my fieldwork, the Pinellas County affiliate offers a concise description on its website of an important and standardized practice: A Habitat homeowner cannot pr ofit unfairly from their home. Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County has the right of first refusal if the homeowner needs to move during the period of time that they are paying the mortgage. We repurchase the home at an agreed-upon formula that is written into their mortgage when they purchase the home. We also write a silent second mortgage for the difference between the mortgage and the value of the home. This second mortgage is forgiven over the life of the mortgage. The silent second protects our donors' and volunteers' 21


investm ents in our organization by reinforcing our right of first refusal and discouraging predatory lenders from trying to get a Habitat homeowner to refinance their 0% interest mortgage. (Pinellas Habitat: 2009) While this thesis will not be dissecting in great detail the homeowner's experience, it is impossible to understand Habitat's volunteers without knowing about the process through which the eventual residents advance, particularly those aspects which are not optional. Indeed, what we find is that the two sides of the partnership are mutually dependent. Volunteers and home owners balance one another within the affiliate, though as I have already hinted, not very proportionately. In practice, Habitat's concept of homeowner-volunteer partnership ra rely meets its non-hierarchical ideal. Homeowners must apply to partner while volunteers need only show up and sign a waiver. No volunteer will have his credit ch ecked or his home visited by an affiliate to make sure the partnership can contin ue. And volunteers will never go through a momentous and emotional ceremony dedicating th eir weekly mornings of service. When affiliates speak of ministry, it will have distinct meanings for volunteers as opposed to homeowners. The Habitat International websit e states, All are welcome. Habitat has an open-door policy: All who desire to be part of this work are welcome, regardless of religious preference or background. This al l-inclusive Theology of the Hammer, which is the title of one of Fuller's books, app lies most effectively to volunteers. Avoiding the State: Providing Homes for People in Need, the Habitat Way Habitat for Humanity takes significant measures to reform the conventional dichotomy of serving and serviced typi fied by many government housing programs. 22


S tate efforts never relegate construction to volunteer labor, nor ha ve they adopted the measures of partner ship upon which Habitat operates. More fundamentally, Habitat's wariness of state support and i nvolvement indicates the non-pr ofit's desire to blaze its own trail rather than treading the governm ent's well-worn and bureaucratized path. Baggett notes several reasons that Habitat In ternational has standardized the policy of refusing governmental funds (except for occasi onal assistance in acquisition of land and foreclosed homes), including the need to keep its Christian pr inciples safe from stipulations attached to state monies, f ear of eventual dependency on the state, a disinterest in competing with other non-prof its for limited funds, and a belief that state sponsorship will detract from its community-based approach (2001: 63). I might add to this list the desire of Habita t, as one of the largest builder s of affordable housing in the nation, to avoid the foul reputa tion that the governmen t has gained in its efforts to house the poor, a point worthy of elaboration. State housing initiatives since World War II must be told as two stories: homeownership versus rental units, which have helped create, respectively, the suburbs and the projects. Both of these are exem plary of the modern period of development which aimed, most basically, to divide land us es. Within land designated residential, there has been a history of further divisions: between types of housing and between types of residents. Thus the rampant home-building that the Federal Housing Administration sparked in the 1950s was to occur outside ci ties and would house whites in the growing middle-class (Bohl 125: 2007). Poor non-whites, on the other hand, were to be rescued from the slums and housed instead in new apartment complexes. Though this greatly 23


sim plifies the story, it should already be clear that Habitat's approach upon its arrival to the scene in the 1970s adopted priorities from both of these state projects to weave a distinct type of social ho using. Though Habitat, which al most exclusively builds singlefamily or duplex homes (and always for purchase) interplays most directly with the story of the state's homeownership initiatives, it mu st also be seen as a responseif only by historical accidentto the continuing le gacy of the state's tenant housing. First, Habitat works primarily with the renting population since in most cases applying homeowners are not allowed to have previously owned a home. At some affiliates, homeowners must prove their inability to finance a home by conventional means. Applicants may be coming from governmental housing, although these projects often have income limits well below Habita t's. Second, by only building homes, Habitat for Humanity inadvertently devalues renting as a positive path for people, implying that homeownership alone will enable upward mobility. Third, Habitat effectively preferences no particular race in its selection process and its neighborhoods often reveal a surprising diversity of backgrounds. I note th is in reference to the history of housing segregation in the United States, powe rfully explained in Massey and Denton's sociological expos, American Apartheid (1993).1 So if it is easy to see Habitat as piggybacking on the homeownership fervor that has ruled the U.S. during the 20th century, it is important to also s ee Habitat as a response 1 Some might argue that Habitat fails to appreciably alter trends of racial segregation in housing, since if most homeowners in urban affiliates are people of color and if they are living in large Habitat neighborhoods, this becomes a racialized Habitat ghe tto, as some would put it. My rebuttal would point out that no Habitat neighborhood I have visitedand certainly not the one in which I resided for a year has ever felt like a ghetto. Furthermore, the Habita t identity certainly adds something to the experience of the residents, but I am not so sure it is bad, par ticularly in comparison to the identity of neighboring communities. 24


to the state' s work in providing housing to the po orest. It will prove useful to discuss the results of these programs. The government's inability to design neighborhoods that will actually have prospects for neighborliness in post-World War II United States continues to be the most prominent cause for their criticism; the government is only capable of creating the projects, some have said. A new era began in 1992 with the establishment of HOPE VI, a plan that has improved the Department of Housing and Developments reputation due to its focus on creating livable communities. Charles C. Bohl, an advocate for community-oriented place -making in urban design, indicts the shoddy planning predating HOPE IV: Following the hiatus in urba n reconstruction programs during the Second World War, the 1949 Housing Act would provide unprecedented levels of federal funds for housing production and related community development and the elimination of substandard a nd other inadequate housing through the clearance of slum s and blighted areas. In hindsight, it appears inevita ble that the ascendant architecture and planning movement at the time, modernism, would come to dominate the design of postwar urban renewal, assisted h ousing, and highway programs would do to the field of phys ical planning and design. (Bohl 2007: 120, quoting Roth 1983) Bohl notes the trademarks of housing development following the Second World War: high rise apartment buildings; replacing the u rban fabric of streets and blocks with superblocks sometimes twelve times larger ; trading the sidewalk experience for the elevators and hallways of th e 'vertical neighborhoods' in the apartment complexes; entrances faced inward onto open space to affi rm the public atmosphere of the complex, thereby deadening the street life and urba n vitality (121, referencing Hall 1988, O'Neill 1999, and Jacobs 1961). Worst of all, decades -old neighborhoods composed of diverse 25


singleand multi-fam ily housing types that had been adapted to house successive generations of families of different sizes a nd different incomes were deemed slums and razed in favor of zoned regions of one or two types of housing (123). This modernist impulse derived from a belief that such proj ects would use land more efficiently and improve safety and sanitation. Though perhap s noble priorities, the efforts have shown less than successful results. By seclud ing and concentrating poverty, the high-rises became incubators of crime. Furthermore, they did not necessarily achieve higher residential density than many of the neighbor hoods scrapped to make way for them (124, referencing Jacobs 1961). HOPE VI has done much to reverse these problems. The historical experience and continuing tragedy of the urban projects have unfortunately eclipsed any positive results of state programs and swindled the public's trust in its government to cr eate respectable and livable pl aces for its poor. We can now see how Habitat's approach has built upon bot h the legacies of homeownership and of tenant housing in the United States. Ha ving seen the problems into which the government's style of tenant housing ran is not to suggest that Habita t's style of building suburban subdivisions is free of trouble or tension. The i ssues, both experiential (can community exist in suburbia?) and ecological (can everyone own a lawn?), with this style are many and, in my opinion, profligat e. Habitat operates under the knife of industry conventions and regulat ory bodies which make it diff icult to build in any other way. Thus, while I do not want to exonerate Habitat from their perpetuation of America's love affair with single-tract homes, Habitat is a follower no t a leader in this regard. Additionally, I illustrated the projects to remind us of the dismal origins of many 26


f amilies applying to Habitat for Humanity. Another critique of Habitat' s operation is that, like th e state rental housing, all residents come from a particular income brack et. To partner with Habitat, applicants must have a level of need and the ability to repay. This creates neighborhood of similarly earning residents. This socioeconomic ho mogeneity creates problems, though they are tangential to the focus of this thesis, so we will not explore in them depththough my conclusion will return to similar concerns. It is within the rich intimacy and reduced formality of the Habitat model that the new tensions emerge. The empowerment homeowners may gain from partnership carries with it many more qualifications than the empowerment Habitat deems befitting for volunteers. Homeowners presen t a project for Habitat, a chance to create the American Dream. Affiliates arduously sow the seeds of integrity and industry one by one to eventually (hopefully) create a community of hardworking, neighborly people. Discussing the potential for a partnership with Habitat to empower homeowners, Baggett writes with a discerning eye: Homeowners are usually said to be empowered when they have an ownership stake in their communities. The literal ownership of a home, in other words, is typically thought to provide people with a concern for the goings-on in their local communities, as well as the self-esteem necessary to become actively contributing members. A central tenet of Habitat ideology is the expectation that homeowners will become upstanding neighbors and assume their civic responsibilities (and there is an underlying assumption that they are not already doing these things). This expectation can even serve as a factor in evaluating an applicant's willingness to partner during the family selection process. (2001: 108) 27


Whether we call them patronizing or saintly fo r doing so, affiliates shoulder the burden of moralism. Owning a home can make middle-cl ass citizens out of a ny family, but Habitat goes the extra mile to ingrain values and communicate the ideal middle-class American lifestyle. As the saying goes Habitat offers a hand up, not a hand-out. For each bit of fresh conscientiousness within Habitat's charit able partnership, an implicit request for assimilation tags along. This is the crux of Habitats mission. Creating homes, not houses, as they say, they reform the clientele of Habitat. Volunteerism is the engine. Habitat Volunteers: Integral yet Interchangeable I will take this moment to remind my readers that I am on Habitat's side: if I ever seem disparaging to the housing ministry th at squirms under the microscope, let us not forget that one's closest friends should be one's sharpest critics. My goal has been to emphasize that the experience of partnership for Habitat homeowners differs remarkably from that of the volunteers. However, while we now know quite a bit about the homeowner experience, I have failed to discuss in any detail the vol unteer experience. Also, as noted earlier, the fullness of the hom eowner commitment balances the relative vacuum of the volunteer's. A visual analogy of this difference might serve us well: the homeowner boards a roller coaste r, every twist and turn designed for their edification; the volunteer steps into a taxi w ith plenty of legroom and is asked, Where do you want to go? They are both going to travel somewhere, but the roller coaster takes a planned and linear route while the taxi's route waits for a command from its new occupant. The volunteer may ask for the driver to make several stops, go straight to a destination, or most likelymeander a bit. Tinted windows between the front and back seats keep the 28


volunteer in relative anonym ity, unless he chooses to roll it down and chat with the driver. This is my poetic and tedious way of illustrating the effects of pluralization and personalization of the volunteer's place in Habi tat. The pluralism here refers to an organizational dismissal of social boundaries, pa rticularly those of re ligious character. Despite the Evangelical roots and continuing Christian tenor of Habitat, the organization is increasingly paradenominational, as Baggett calls this quality of certain modern associations. Adding on to the all-inclusiven ess of ecumenical, Habitat facilitates an atmosphere that bridges the secular and re ligious. It is a consequence, perhaps unintended, of Fuller's Theology of the Hammer Anyone who is interested in serving others can join in, and there are plenty who are beckoned by non-Jesus calls. Baggett elaborates: Because Habitat qualifies as a legitimate somewhere for so many people seeking to enact their deepest convictions through service, its religious character is startlingly pluralistic. Indee d, its eclecticism raises doubt about the commonly heard argument that maintaining the organization's religious tone will suffice to keep it true to its foundational Christian values and steer it away from the class divisions and instrumental logic associated with the market. The religious voi ce within Habitat is too multivocal for that. [T]he pervasive cultural pluralism in American society has diminished the assurance with which peopleeven the active Christians at Habitatare able to cling to their reli gious views and, if inclined, convince others of their tr uth as well. Religiously speaking, cultural pluralism basi cally means that taken-forgranted certainty in one's ow n beliefs can be placed in question in a modern context where other reasonably plausible, yet contrary, beliefs are also recognized as legitimate. (2001: 211-212) 29


Despite the deliberate and passionate Christ-centered speechscattered throughout the website, con cluding the break-time prayer at work, and gracing every institutional pamphletthe Habitat aura embraces God-lovers and the Godless alike. Rather than a mandate to include, the pluralism feels like an awareness of certain shame should one exclude. This is not very different, indeed, from most public settings in the United States, so Habitat has engaged in a trend of our morally relativist eraan engagement, no doubt, that has helped Habitat b ecome explosively popular. Among the executive staff in Americus, this paradenominational quality may be a reality which some celebrate and the older staff, who remember the more righteous early years, reluctantly accept. The other AmeriCorps volunteer during my year working in Collier County was put off by the religious overtones, rare as th ey are with that affiliate. True to the nature of this pluralized atmosphere, no one would say anyt hing when she would walk away during the home blessing. In the above excerpt, Baggett also introduces the possibility that Habitat may be seduced by instrumental logic should it st ray away from its Christian foundation. Baggett finds that this has certainly occurred to an extent; either way, this increased business-like direction that some affiliates take has effects, though unclear and indirect, on the motivations of the volunteers. The personalization of volunteerism allo ws these joiners with diverse callings that is, the plurality of volunteersto interpret the spirituality and service-orientation of Habitat as they see fit. Contemporary religi on functions increasingly like a buffet line of options rather than a one-size-f its-all doctrine. Participation in Habitat is no different. 30


Habitat' s religiosity is defined as much by the volunteers themselves as by Habitat staff. Having accepted that its labor force is called to action for a variety of reasons, Habitat grows accustomed to the reality that voluntee rs personalize and rationalize their service as they see fit. Though they may be convinced by their ministers at church to try it out, participants serve on the basis of its voluntary nature. Th ere is nothing doctrinal about the process of volunteering for Habitat. Vol unteers will manage the religiosity that emerges on the work-site as they see fit: for some that will mean passionate participation, for most it will involve passive acceptance or dismissal. A few may take issue with the morning prayer, audibly scoffing to make it cl ear what they think about the tradition. More often than not, the work site feels genial but studious. Buildi ng houses is a rather non-cultic activity, much like balanci ng a checkbook or mowing the lawn. On this note, Baggett writes of the tendency among Habitat-folk to distinguish the religious fr om the spiritual. I'm not really religious, I'm more spir itual, they avow in nearmantra-like fashion. The effect of this disclaimer is to accent their subjective, indivi dually based understanding of faith. It serves as a kind of c ode privileging the self's direct experience of the sacred, which is typically understood as coming from within, over secondhand exposure to a religious tradition that one acquires from the outside, by belonging to a religiously autonomous community. (2001: 227) Along with pluralization, personalization diminishes the ability of Habitat to institutionalize volunteers, at least to the same degree as homeowners. Homeowners are brought into the fold of Habita t and their partnership comes to define them far more than the weekly commitment volunteers will usually manage to define the volunteers. Thus, for homeowners an affiliate encompasses ma ny roles, such as bank, construction 31


com pany, teacher, often community, and arguably guiding light. For volunteers, the commitment to an affiliate is variable and subjectivized. Though paths and opportunities are laid out by the affiliate, the volunteerism experience follows the volunteer's lead. With this in mind, let us di g deeper into this term: volunteerism. Volunteerism Unpacked: Voluntary Action and its Social Sinews Political questionsHow much should I let other people help me? How much should the state intervene?run deep for those who serve with Habitat for Humanity. If we are to effectively explore the motiva tions of contemporary volunteers, we will confront these issues time and again. Recall th e two aims of this thesis I set out in the introduction: Why do people volunteer? and To whom do the vol unteers most closely relate in their service? Volunteers' responses to my first aim invariably disclose something about their political leanings. No t that I will be able to correctly guess the party for which they tend to vote (although so metimes they make this blatant), but I usually gain a sense of how they see their work with Habitat as falling within a nationwide or global system of a ssistance for those in need. Maybe this comes in a statement about the importance of the U. S. citizenship requirement for all applying homeowners; maybe it comes when they tell me that people like themselves need to give back. Whatever the case, I am only interested in th eir statements' political implications to the extent that they will tell me something about how they experience the work-site socially. Thus, the first aim is mostly a launching pad for the second. In trying to emphasize the social aspect of volunteerism, my analysis looks at the Habitat work-site as a playground rather th an as a room of deba ters trying to convince 32


m e that their vision of utopia is best. The playground has its own politicssubtle at first but overwhelming when you refocus to observe that dynamic. This does not mean that I ignore the volunteers' opinions and observ ationsindeed, the bulk of my data in Chapters One, Two, and Three are their verb alized contentions and assertions. I am specifically targeting, however, thei r thoughts about the politics of the playground. The quickest route to trigger thei r vision of a utopian playground, then, is to ask them about who they hope to see on the work-site and thei r expectations about these other work-site actors. This delineates the roles into which a volunteer sees others fitting, as well as the role for him or herself. As we already have found in the earlier discussion about the pluralization and personalizati on of volunteers, Habitat for Humanity has succeeded so marvelously due in large part to its valuat ion of the self for its voluntary patronsboth volunteers and donors. Rather than re quiringby law or through normsthat these patrons believe certain things, Habitat cate rs to the selves of volunteers, whether Evangelist or Jewish, conservative or radi cal, interested in a few hours of labor or decades of passion. To its benefit, Habitat has embraced particular modern trends which have affected the role of the self in soci etyarguably, these tre nds have created our concept of the individual. We must weigh in on the self. What does it have to do with volunteerism? A good starting point is Alexis de Tocquevill e, a Frenchman who wrote with praise, criticism, and much amusement about the United States nearly two centuries ago in his magnum opus, Democracy in America. In a chapter titled Public Spirit in the United States, Tocqueville divides patriotism into two categories. The first 33


springs from the disinteres ted, undefinable, and unpondered feeling that ties a m an's heart to the place where he was born. This instinctive love is mingled with a taste for old habits, respect for ancestors, and memories of the past; those who feel it love thei r country as one loves one's father's house. (2006: 235) The second balances the first. It is more rational than that; less generous, perhaps less ardent, but more creative and more lasting, it is engendered by enlightenment, grows by the aid of laws and the exercise of rights, and in the end becomes in a sense, mingled with personal interest. A man understands the influence which his country's well-being has on his own; he knows the law allows him to contribute to the production of this wellbeing, and he takes an interest in his country's prosperity, first as a thing useful to him and then as something he has created. (235-6) The second replaces with thoughtfulness the emo tional quality of the first. Both originate in one's connection to the state, but whereas the first stops at a proud devotion, the second suggests a deeper commitment. Today we call the second type of patriotism civic spirit. How integral is the self in this productive patriotism? Tocqueville hints at a paradox: when a citizen sees the benefits th at will follow from living in a prosperous country, his personal interest becomes vested in the well-being of the nation. The last line is key, for it notes that during the first stage of this civic spirit, personal utility motivates an individual, while the second stage calls forth a sense of ownership in the work. An illustration of this sort of shift will as sist us: we can imagine the resident of a theft-ridden neighborhood decidingon the basi s of interest in personal property and well-beingthat she will help form and lead a neighborhood watch team. Theft 34


decreases, s he has insured the security of herself and her belo ngings, and she feels a measure of pride in her ow n part of this community improvement. Her continued participation in the neighborhood watch groupas well as other community-oriented activitiesnow spurs as much from a satisfa ction innate in a co mmunal process made personal, as from an individualistic means-e nd logic of reducing the threat of a robbery on her residence. The self has not disappeared from her motivationwhat could be more selfish than pride?but the work has forg ed social ties with her community and deepened the meaning of her national citizenship. How can we utilize Tocqueville's two-tone d patriotism? Volunteers hardly seem inspired by a sense of national duty. But their work is undoubtedly civicand it would still be civic if the work of Habitat fo r Humanity was not aiming towards social betterment as it seems to be. Thus civic c ontent, we can establish, is dependent more upon the social ties that are formed than by th e level of nationalism, or even communityinterest, that may inspire the work on an i ndividual or institutional level. These ties signify civic content as much as the quantity of goods exch anged and services rendered or in this case, houses built. Oddly, it matters less in this thesis (and in this passage from Tocqueville) what the voluntee rs are doing and more that they are doing it together. With that in mind, this ethnography of volunteers is more intrig ued by the community-building and people-mixing prospects of Habitat than the housebuilding results it pursues. Psychologists Snyder, Omoto, and Lindsay (2004) orient us to the personal motives that lie beneath civic content, defining a few func tional landmarks in the open field of a volunteer's psyche. Rationales for vol untary action include, in the order of their 35


introduction, the expression of values, a quest for understanding, m embership in a social group, career-enhancement, psyc hological protection, self-enhancement, and community concern (Snyder 2004: 451). Mull ing over this list, all of th ese seem like possibilities for Habitat volunteers. Religious rationales might seem to be absent from the listin fact, they are not. Religious reasoning (or faith as it were) can underlie any of the above volunteer functions, at least in the pluralized and persona lized sense permissible in settings such as Habitat for Humanity a nd other paradenominational organizations. Religiosity occurs interdependently and in addition to these various functions of voluntary action. Whether the volunteer work s in homage to Christ or to Thomas Jefferson, we can still find self-interes t sprinkled throughout the causal framework pushing them to the work-site. These are modern individuals at work; it seems that with the advent of 20th-century social sciences th at to judge human actions as anything other than more or less effectively rational and self-serving is an ambitious feat. This does not mean that religiosity is less significant. Indeed, the third chapter will argue that it can become all the more meaningful as we see it interact with commitment to volunteer. If Western modernity somehow precludes se lflessness, then what about the last reason from Snyder, Omoto, and Lindsay? In describing this community concern, they write: Finally, volunteering may serve the function of demonstrating concern for particular groups of people, whether it is the residents of one's own neighborhood or community, or the community defined by those affected by particular diseases or other conditions that may place them in need of help and support from others. (2004: 451) Not to be cynical, but is this not a psychological oxymoron? Is it possible for a 36


psychological function to be based upon the sa tisfaction of a commun ity good? In other words, does truly communal interest exist these days? Where in this era of utility can we find any room for altruistic action? Again, Tocqueville's words will provide some orientation over this slippery terrain. What he calls self interest properly understood is a concept that appears like altruism reworked for the modern era and state. Here in the second volume he relates his observation of this quality in prevalence among U.S. citizens. (Though certainly not synonym ous, state and community are largely interchangeable here.): So the doctrine of self-interest properly understood is not new, but it is among the Americans of our time that it has come to be universally accepted. It has become popular. One finds it at the root of all act ions. It is interwoven in all they say. You hear it as much from the poor as from the rich. It gives them pleasure to point out how an enlightened self-love continua lly leads them to help one another and disposes them freel y to give part of their time and wealth for the good of th e state. Self-interest properly understood is not at all a sublime doctrine, but it is clear and definite. It does not attempt to reach great aims, but it does, without too much tr ouble, achieve all it sets out to do. (2006: 526) Tocqueville gracefully marries the self to the stat e. He suggests that th is will/interest is a powerful force and cautiously applauds it. There is a quality that seems peculiar to Americans to which everyone refers but few ar e able to define. While some fear this quality's capacity to dominate, Tocqueville poi nts to it as a tenet of the United States' breed of democracy. We are looking for it fuming and rumbling under the hood of Habitat for Humanity. Hopefully this discussion has satisfied, at least for now, our questions about the 37


feasibility of modern selflessness. It has b een an important preface to my introduction of an orienting theoretical text, The World of the Gift which I will use throughout the thesis. Authors Jacques T. Godbout and Alain Caill call the other-serving process in all its forms, from organ donation and volunteeri sm to friendship and artist patronage, the gift. To be clear, the gift is more of a perspective to analyze social exchangethe authors themselves admit that no one can prove that the gift actual ly exists (1998: 197). The perspective of the gift finds that exch anges of anything (goods, services, information, etc.) are, quite often, unavoida bly imbued with emotion and e xpectations. Many of these exchanges cannot be explained by viewing hum ans as rational, economic agents who will always defer to the logic of utility. Instea d, exchanges are apt to create relationships between giver and taker. The perspective of the gift uncovers this seemingly premodern, yet ubiquitous, system of exchange and its cycles of alternating debt. The book is a response, perhaps an u pdate, to Marcel Mauss's classic anthropological text called The Gift (1924), which studied the other-serving works in archaic societies. Godbout and Caill, afte r establishing that the giftto everyone's surprisestill exists in cont emporary Western society, go on to explain how the gift intrudes upon most activ ities in our lives. They write in unabashed support of the gift: The environment in which the modern gift occurs helps explain why it reaches back to individual intimate, personalized networks. The gi ft-giver is reacting to a radically heterogeneous worl d governed by the laws of physics, the market, and an instrumental and linear rationality. With the gift, something else emerges, a grace that we badly need. (145-6) Godbout and Caill link the gift to intimacy and social networks. Among myriad 38


epiphanies of fered in their text, The World of the Gift, the most significant for our venture is the idea that any gift invol ves a relationship. Isolating th e study to the membership in a social group and community concern vari ables from Snyder, et. al., I have decided to utilize Godbout and Caill's gift concept in my analysis of volunteerism at Habitat for Humanity to figure out with whom the vol unteers are partnering. At Habitat for Humanity, gifts are shadowed and diffused. Despite the commonly-held notion that they are partnering with the homeowners, they gene rally seem to be satisfyingat least more immediatelyother relationships. Sometimes it is with fellow congregants of a church, sometimes with an affiliate's crew leader, a nd sometimes with people not present at the work site, such as wives, parents, admissions counselors, and even children. Should the respondent say that he or she re lates closest to a homeowner, this will be scrutinized and perhaps celebrated. Finally, should the responde nt declare a relationship with Christ, the statementwith all due respectwill be dissected. Godbout and Caill offer enlightening thoughts on th is third possibility: The gift is burdened with the impossible task of embodying absent hope and the lost soul in a hopeless, soulless world, a world from which, since the Reformation, grace has been banished, relegated to the outer limits of transcendence. Only God can truly, graciously, bestow His grace, only He can be gracious and generous. A nd so the gift is not of this world. This is where the utilitarian notion of the gift joins forces with the religious interpretation, at least that interpretation which has prevailed since the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Humans must make an effort to follow in the footsteps of Chri st, of course, but it's clear that they have no hope of keeping up. (1998: 16) Their description of the disembodying pa radox created by centering one's life around Christ rings true for many Habitat volunteers It harks back to the lunacy of the 39


endeavor th at Fuller and others celebrate. Only by setting the institutional goals at unattainable heights Eradicating substandard housing from the face of the Earth will the volunteer's quest align with he r faith in the perfect Christ. Examining the players within and terms of the multi-faceted Habitat partnership, we will elucidate the community that constitu tes Habitat ministry. The distinct mission statements of each of my th ree affiliates contain the term communitybut who is part of the community? Are there multiple communities that the affiliate forms? What sort of action or expression should this term in itiate? The following chapters document my effort to seize any certainty that vol unteers may have in these matters. 40


CHAPTER TWO REASONS AND RELATIONSHIPS Orientation to Fieldwork: The Lure of Habitat for Humanity What moves these volunteers to action? Le t us hear from them, finally! I talked to about fifty volunteers from the three aff iliates and I recorded a bout twenty of these conversations for verbatim transcription. Their responses are rich and diverse, yet I also found remarkable similarity among many response s. When I asked Rick, the teacher who I introduced briefly in the last chapter, what motivates him to get up in the morning to do this work, he responded with some of the most common reasons I received: To help people; but a lot of it is to help myself. 'Cause I needed someplace to go to keep me out of trouble, 'cause if I had all day on my hands, I would get in trouble. [Laughter] You know I'd do stuff I shouldn't do, or, you know just, oh what's the old saying? Idle hands are the devil's workshop, or whatever. You know how I am, I need to be doing something. And then getting to learn new stuff that I'd never done, you know. Like framing houses? I'd never framed houses before. He starts out with a noble nod to altruism, th en immediately abolishes this other-serving claim as he leans in and admits that the service is mostly to help himself. This supports a general conclusion to which G odbout and Caill arrive: Volun teer workers experience a feeling of obligation towards the people they are helping, but also insi st that pleasure is one of the prime motivating factors for their actions (1998: 74). The rest of Rick's response unpacks this pleasure, offering tw o reasons for how the work is personally beneficial: it keeps him out of trouble and teaches him a skill. This leaves a lot of leeway 41


in the type o f activity in which Rick could take part to meet these aims. If he so chose, taking an art class would take about the same amount of time out of his day, keeping him out of trouble, and would introduce him to the canvas, teaching him a skill. Clearly there is something missing from his explanation. This issue crops up time and again in my interviews: rationales that seem incomplete, as if they are actively ignoring th e elephant in the room. On the one hand, Rick, like all humans, is an animal of habit. After it began, his work with Habitat for Humanity may require little conscientious motivation. When I review my days and weeks, I find that they include many activities which I can only explain as pieces within a familiar and comfortable routine. We all know of activities in our lives that we can pursue more or less mindlessly, and that we do not need to feel particularly inspired to undertake. Thus, we might explain away Ri ck and other volunteer s' participation in Habitat as habitualsomething to pass the time. On the other hand, Habitat is not an activity in which one passively engages. It is not like a trip to Starbucks. At a co ffee shop, you arrive and are surrounded by interesting people with whom you could converse; you have also brought a book and your laptop. But it is quite likely that you will instead idly drink your coffee and stare into space for forty-five minutes and then depart. Under very few circumstances can a volunteer arrive to the work-site, check in, and then essentia lly check outdrifting around without doing anything or working indepe ndently. The atmosphere of the worksite is one of labor and teamwork. Volunteerism with Habitat is social and physically taxing enough to preclude indifferent or reclus ive people from participating. With this in 42


m ind, we cannot fully write off my volunteers as creatures of habit. Therefore, we return to the conundrum of Rick's response, which I found to be quite common. Did I fail to probe him for deeper truths? Assuming Rick and other respondents do not want to come off as blandor overly secretivepeople, wh at does the prevalence of these platitudes tell us? One thing it tells us is that my question about their reasons for volunteering actually treads on very personal territory. Afte r all, what sort of trouble would Rick be getting into were he not voluntee ring with Habitat? We are left to guess, as I was when I received seemingly incomplete responses lik e this over and over during my fieldwork. Clark and John, also from the Naples site in the Collier County affiliate revealed the personal quality of this ma terial in a different way. So what really do you think about every Tuesday morning as you get up and you consider coming out? Is it a good feeling? J: It has been for me. I enjoy it. Does it feel like work? J: No. C: Sometimes. It was 9 o'cl ock and I was ready to quit. But then I sat in the shade a nd I got a little wind again and we worked till 12:30. Everybody else left. J : And that's the other thing. Once we'd gotten involved in something like we were doing this stripping, whatever you call it, if the job is not quite done at 12 o'clock I'd just soon as stay a half hour to finish it up. The way some of these guys go. C: Yeah, usually they're out of here. But [John] and I have worked together here for, well when did we start? J: It's been ten, twelve years. C: Yeah. So we were doing maintenance stuff at the church twelve years ago. Eight, four, twelve, yeah, twelve years ago. And we like working together so, I think it helps if volunteers bring somebody. 43


I talked with these two older m enprobably in their seve ntiesfor an hour, but this did not come until we were halfway into the interview. There had been many chances for them to divulge this pertinent tidbit about th eir twelve-year-old friendship, but it was not until this pointwhen I blatantly asked them to tell me what they were doing therethat they chose to expose themselves as buddies. And even then, it only came after the teetertotter of it's fun; no it's hard; we get the job done well; others don't care about quality. What took them so long? It is as if they feel a bit sh eepish about the truth of their endeavor that it exists because they share it. Though I do not mean to imply that John and Clark are a romantic couple, their relu ctance impels me to compare them to a commitment-shy youth: he insists to his friends that th e series of excursions with a girl to the cinema were totally platonic and intellectua l. John and Clark were reluctant to tell me about their friendship because it inhabited an intimate realm into which I snooped. The tardy honesty of their answers effectively illust rates the touchy nature of the questions I am asking, innocent or even dull as they may seem. My observation keeps good company with the findings of others studying people acting on voluntary and gift-giv ing impulses. Godbout and Ca ill write of this in the introduction of their book, The World of the Gift : [D]efensive reflexes are triggered by the subject of the gift. This is not surprising. In the past, what was hidden was money and sex. The social sciences concluded that because it was unacceptable to discuss these things openly, they must constitute what is deeply real, must embody some basic truth. By a strange reversal, the gift, once required subject matter for edifying discourses, has become more obscene than obscenity itself. It's now almost de rigueur to expatiate on one's sexual or financial 44


conquests. The gift, on the other hand, has become taboo, unmentionable. At most it's a private matter, like religion, and if we continue to probe it must be because we suspect that, since the idea of the gift makes one blush, there may be something hidden. (1998: 6-7) They note an odd trend, how the traditionally un touchable topics of sexuality and income have grown commonplace in media and conversa tion, while the gift, once a mainstay of scholarship, is now an uncomfortable topic. We can rant all we like about physical or monetary passions, but things get messy and awkward when we begin to discuss intimacy or commitment, trademarks of the gift. Frie ndships are the most co mmon of gift systems, but gifts do not have to be intimate or co mmitted. Again, the gift according to Godbout and Cailland for this thesisis very open-ende d. It is difficult to define, not because it is uncommon but because it has become obscu red in recent centuri es by utilitarian and business-minded perspectives. The gift is a way to see exchange (of goods, services, or anything else) in terms of the symbolic de bt accrued and the interpersonal connections this debt creates and manages. The gift will not always create a personal and longstanding relationship like John and Clarks. We will find in this thesis that, more often than not, the gift is eagerly hidde nthe giver hopes to stay invisible and the receiver often hopes to get out of debt and end the relationship. Whether or not sexuality has become an easier topic for everyone to discuss in recent years as they contend (I would agree to an extent), the important obs ervation is that the gift is surprisingly uncomfortable territory. Godbout and Caill argue that the relative ly unspoken character of the gift is a hint of its prominence in mode rn society, despite appearances that modernity has freed us 45


of our need to give and receive in an y remotely disinterested fashion.2 By the end of the book, they reach the position that the gift is not only present today but constitutes a system that is more foundational than th e state and the market. Both of these constructions are newer than the gift and ar e built upon the gift. The state and market form the center of our secondary sociality, which relies on status and roles that are defined, for the most part, institutionally, as opposed to the primary sociality, which includes the realm of more intimate relations (1998: 15). The aut hors contend that the transformation of biological indi viduals into social persons does not occur first in the rela tively abstract sphere of the market and the state, even if they make a certain contribution, but in the world of primary sociality where, within the family, in relations with neighbours, in comradeship and friendship, person-to-person relationships are forged. (15) The emergent quality of social, on the ti er right above the biol ogical, arisesthey are sayingwithin the milieu of our primary social ity. The state and market, even though they may direct many of our day to day act ions, cannot be seen until the scope has refocused to allow them to appear. The gift resides largely, although not exclusively, within the primary sociality. Due in large part to the expanded role of the state and market in modern society, the gift usually stretches across the primary and secondary 2 The realms of the state and market have grown so all-encompassing, some say, that the modern individual has little space to function independently of them. Ev en the family and its traditions of exchange are growing more calculating. A column by George F. Will in the Washington Post aptly proves this: citing a book called Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays, Will argues that choosing gifts which will not be enjoyed leads to less satisfaction pe r dollar. He suggests that we should instead give money or gift cards to avoid this inefficiency. Most importantly, Will notes, in a celebratory tone, that we have improved the situation since the 1930s, based on a comparison of Christmas sales in recent years and from then: the Yuletide bump is proportionately about half of what it had been seventy years ago ( Washington Post : 11-26-2009). I find his bliss with these findings annoying not because I want the United States to continue its world-renowned habits of c onsumption, but rather because the image of family members exchanging wads of cash seems horribly bleak. 46


socialities. Money donation, for example, does not m ake any sense in terms of the gift unless a system of capital exchange exists. For Habitat, this means that there are bureaucratic structures through which volunteers funnel their time and energy. Affiliates are the primary structures, creating the time, place of gift-giving, and priorities for such exchange. To say that the gift resides within a real m in which relations are close (or at least personally felt rather than calculated ) demotes its significance, for the gift creates, manages, and articulates these relations. Fo r example, within the parents' care for a newborn originates all other gifts, since this care teaches the infant how to give, thus creating the perpetual spiral of give-receiv e-reciprocate, a general pattern the authors note. The first relationship, that of parent a nd child, is also the fi rst gift. Thus, Godbout and Caill invent a new value to denote th is social bonding function. After introducing two well-known valuesexchange and useand throwing them out as candidates for the gift's role, they forge a special value for the interpersonal aims of the gift: What sort of value is embodied in the gift? It is obviously not the value of mercantile exch ange. But is it use value? This use of things implicit in the giftthe use of goods in the service of tiesis in fact rarely included in the concept of use value, which tends to recognize only the immediate utilization of something and not to take into consideration that it may also serve to create a bond. This peculiar use of things is su fficiently different from other uses that it deserves to be clearly distinguished from them. To this end, we propose a thir d type of value, the bondingvalue: this is what an object, a service, a particular act, is worth in the world of ties and in their reinforcement. (173) The goods and services of the gi ft are neither goods nor servi ces; instead, they are objects and actions laden with social bonds. The us efulness of gifts comes through the forming 47


of ties; accordingly the usef ulness of volunteering for most volunteers arises in the link to other people. With these helpful formulations in mind, let us revisit the passages from Rick, Clark, and John which began this chapter. Does it seem like they were creating or fostering any relationships through the Hab itat volunteerism? A quick assessment of Rick's response appears bleak on the gift front: he mentioned very few people in this response, only a cursory mention of people who he would be helping. However, during the rest of the interview he spoke of a burgeoning fellowship with some of the Habitat construction staff, as well as elucidation about his wife and kids as the reasons he did not volunteer on Saturdays. Additionally, he seemed quite pleased that his Habitat work allowed him to become more familiar with the Naples Manor neighborhood, a workingclass neighborhood where most of the c onstruction in Naples was taking place. Like today I wasn't sureI knew it was in the Manor, so I went to the old house, because I was pretty sure it was done. But I didn't know, so I was just driving around. So I'd been driving around the Manor for you know like several months now trying to find 'em every morning. Oh yeah? I've gotten to where I've figured out the Manor, I know it better. Like I said, I taught high school three blocks from here, but I didn't really know the Manor. This driving around to the point that Rick now knows the neighborhood counters the usual instinct, especially in this age of Google Maps and Gl obal Positioning Systems, to know exactly where one is driving. It is a co mpliment to the process of Habitat that he has grown acquainted with the streets in this community filled with Habitat 48


hom eownerseven more effectively than when he commuted to work in the school within that community. As for John and Clark, they eventually bring up their friendshi p for one another, as we already noted, firmly securing the primary sociality aspect of their volunteer experience. Their on-site relationships onl y extended to one another, for they were disconnected and unaware of the other people on the work-site to a fascinating extent. I will discuss other parts of my interview w ith John and Clark throughout this thesis. In the previous chapter, I introduced volunteerism rationales from the social psychologists Snyder, Omoto, and Lindsay: the expression of values, a quest for understanding, membership in a social group, career-enhancement, psychological protection, self-enhancement, and community concern. These could certainly fit the motivations of the volunteers with whom I inte rviewed. As we explored earlier, Habitat creates no litmus test for its volunteersrationales are all-inclusive. I already explained that we will focus in upon the prospects for community concern as a motivating factor for Habitat for Humanity volunteers. Before we limit ourselves to this reason entirely, let us look at manifestations of the other motivations. The expression of values can be found throughout many of my interviews. Clark provided a striking portrait of this here: As far as I'm concerned, I'm here because I approve of the policies of Habitat. And the way they're dealing with the people. And how we're assured that everyone is legal. That we're not doing housing for illegal. I would not do housing for illegal. I would he lp them in other ways but I wouldn't [build them housing]. So! Clark's value of privileging documented citiz enship led him to suggest that Habitat's 49


practice of checking for papers was central in bringing him to volunteer. Again, we see that a person's reasons for volunteering will be multifaceted: Clark already laid a convincing argument that he volunteered to hang out with John, but he also expressed this political compatibility with Habitat's w ay of dealing with people. Additionally, he later emphasized that his work revolved around Jesus Christ. Some volunteers may be on a quest fo r understanding, the second reason from the list, but this was not explicit in their responses. The cl earest example of this reason came during my chat with Dave, on staf f as the Naples site supervisor: Well I volunteered one winter in Lee County, or 1999, or something. I came down and worked 3 weeks. It was really fabulous. It took me a while to get back to come down to Collier County. Just walked onto the job site like everyone else. It was just funit was a dual purpose: I wanted to get away from the cold in New York and come and help at the same time. Oh, so you grew up in New York? Yeah. I was able to leave in the winter time. We had a bicycle store, so we could leave in the wintertime. Come down just to stay for three weeks. I met Lisa in the office. Habitat doesn't get many young volunteers who wanna work a lot and have an idea of what's going on. So they hitched on to me immediately. Because I know how to swing a hammer, and I know how to work. And the enticement to stay for two more weeks to go to a dedication. We ended up staying five weekswe went to a dedication, and when we got through the dedication, I knew I was in the right place. That was the something that was missing. Dave's initial stint with Habitat persuaded him to make a career shift, selling the bicycle store and moving to the Naples area pe rmanently. He was moved by the home dedication, saying that in this symbolic and celebratory event, he found the something 50


that was m issing. While he likely was implying that this something was missing from his comprehension of the ministry and eff ect of Habitat, he may have meant that something was missing from his life, as well. We will discuss the membership in a so cial group in the following section since this reason implies the management a social relationship. Career enhancement popped up a few times, most directly with a man who had been volunteering and then finding a paid position with the Sarasota affiliate. Chip, a ma n in his thirties, told me about his recent beginnings with Habitat: I guess a friend of mine where I used to work had been in touch with Habitat and that ha d been the first time that I did any Habitat workprobably March or April of last year. And then when I got la id off in mid-July, I started working here, I started working for Habitat. And this house here on Central is proba bly thethis is first new construction project that I've worked on. I'm a general contractor and a mechanical e ngineer. But the construction that I'm familiar with is co mmunication site work in other larger government projects. I hadn't done any residential work and no carpentry at all. So really part of it's a little selfish, in that I'm looking at the construction as something to learn how some of this stuff goes together. But also, obviously I think it's a worthwhile project for work in Habitatthe owner here, Sara R oberts, she's really a really nice person and well-deserving of this house. But yeah, this has all been worthwhile. As a contracted engineer, he found interest w ith Habitat as a new di rection to take his profession, particularly since the Sarasota affiliate has taken on new energy-efficient building practices. He almost sheepishly men tioned in closing the be neficial aspect of the work for Sara, the future homeowner. Though he appeared on the work-site as another volunteer (just a well-informed one), the contract ural relationship transformed his 51


interest in Habitat. Though he may know Sara relatively well, he seemed to point her out in a moment of moral obligation. I am struggling to pinpoint an exam ple of psychological protection among my interviews. For that matter, I am not exactly sure what Snyder, et. al. mean by the term. If personal salvation (or, convers ely, fear of eternal damnati on) would be included in this concept, then certainly I ran into so me who typified this rationale. Finally, self-enhancement arguably occurr ed for every volunte er I interviewed, though for some it was more obvious than for others. One peculiar volunteer at a ReHabitat project in Sarasota who I did not interview, only observed, confounded me. He brought headphones and an I-Pod to the job-site and told us he was listening to Mad Men (a Google search informs me that this is a television show, so I do not know how an audio track would allow him to experience th e show). Thus, closed off from the social scene of men working to strip the walls of its decorative paper, he appeared curiously professional, despite his novice degree of construction/renovation know-how. Wearing headphones suggested that he was trying to make the best of an otherwise unpleasant experienceor even an experience in which he is being compelled unwillingly to participate. He periodically complained as if he was a disgruntle d workerI could not tell how overtly comical he meant these comments to bebut he carried this faux dynamic of forced labor in a direction I had ne ver witnessed. When Bert, the crew leader for most of Sarasota's ReHabitat projects, told us it was break-time, this man muttered, Okay warden. He then delivered a line from the film Cool Hand Luke something like, That'll do boysand when I asked about its context in the movie, he said it was 52


what the wa rden often called out to the laboring inmates when they could momentarily rest. Many volunteers joke about pay raises or staff cuts, but this man's insistence, in word and demeanor, that his volunteer e xperience was comparable to imprisonment bewildered me. Stepping beyond the popular co mparison of Habitat work to employment (and beyond the less popular comparison to a program of civic service duty), he found humor in imagining that we were all removi ng wall paper by court order, to recompense the state for past wrongdoings and to keep us useful as we frittered away in our institutional sequestration. I laughed, for I enjoy absurd humor as well. Bringing this back to the social psychological motivation of self-enhancement, this man took efforts to downplay any possible altruistic basis of hi s work. His jesting implied that he did not volunteer to help the homeowner whose house we were renovating, nor did he want to develop construction skillsthese would only be the side effects of his exhaustion at the hands of the state. Like Paul Newman's res tless character, he wanted to come off as a bad guy, or perhaps a bad guy in reluctant re formation. I did not actually talk to him about his reasons for coming out, but his caricat ure of volunteerism as coerced labor hits the epitome of a self-cente red perspective, sincesu ffering without choice or compensationhe implicitly seeks sympathy a nd justice. His comments seem all the more incredible when in the context of certa in volunteers whose participation is less voluntary, such as high school students n eeding to accrue service hours for college applications; or, on the other hand, in the context of homeowners' participation, whose labor is mandatory if they want to get the house and impress w ith their industry the voluntary and employed members of the affiliate. 53


The final reasoncommunity concernfra mes volunteerism as a social act, wherein the main attraction is other people and the resoluti on of their problems. This reason, along with membership in a social group will be the central fo cus for the rest of this chapter. In addition to treading the blurry division be tween these two socially-aware reasons, I will make use of Godbout and Ca ill's bonding-value to interpret these voluntary actions by seeing them as a relationship-creating gift. Volunteers' Friends: Here, Away, Famous, Destitute, Stranger, Kin Inter-volunteer camaraderie was by far th e most frequently cited rationale for service. One short interview with a volunt eer in Collier County on the Immokalee worksite typifies this sort of response. He came up to me and just began talking: I like construction. Between seventh and eighth grade in school, they put Interstate 81 through my parents' backyard. This was in the mid-fifties. They put a four-lane highway through my parents' fift y-acre farm. So they shut the farm down. I watched the machines, I like big machines. Go to work for my father in the machine shop. And I finally got through, went to college, I went to college, took civil technology. I went to work for the DOT. Got frustrated with that, went to work for a rigging contractor, that made strictly st eel bridges. Sort of fizzled and I ended up in a power company doing all sorts of construction projects. And I got retired, I ended working for them. I had to take an early retirement. I still had a son, so I had to keep working. Found a job in there, managed to make it to about sixty-one. And then I came home and I was just tired. Got laid off. So this just kind of fits into your days? Down here we'reit's a good group that comes up. There were about twenty of us that used to come up here from Crystal Lake. 54


So the camaraderie is nice. Ca maraderie. I like working construction. Though I'm not sure it was intentional, there is something quite nebulous and artful about the response this man, whose name I never ca ught, gave me. Like reading a novel, we must search between the lines of a character's dialogue to get wh at the author is trying to communicate. His insistence upon his apprecia tion for construction work (the opening and closing lines) fails to convince me th at it forms the center of his motivation to volunteer. This man walked up to me and told me all about his life. That has nothing to do with the social space that we had occupied that morninga space filled with yelling, hammering, sweating, laughing, reluctantly enteri ng the port-a-potty, and so on. Did he really expect me to believe that the construc tion of the Interstate in the backyard of his childhood home, however formative this memory may be, inspires him to come to volunteer as a middle-aged person? He doubtle ssly loved the handson, practical aspect of Habitat, but the eager summarization of his life convinced me another vital pull was for the chance to commune with others. Noting the twenty of us that used to come up here from Crystal Lake, he asserted the importance of this informal memb ership to his work, and implied that, were it not for these other residents, he likely would not be able to commit to Habitat work. At what point does this sort of social membership turn into community concern? The difference may be contextual. For volunt eerslike this manat the Immokalee work site, where some people have been driving ea st from Naples to serve for over twenty years, the network of acquain tances runs deeply enough to seem more like a concerned 55


community than a outdoor parlor of chummy but independent, m en. Keith, a volunteer of nearly a decade in Immokalee, had been ta lking about an old friend who used to drive with him to the work-site and then said, But I don't know if he's even alive. That's one thing: when you're a volunteer like this and you're from all over the country you get backif you're coming back here. But communications over the year isn't there and therefore you don't really want to ask if they passed away or they're ill or whatnot because you may never see them again. Why? They're all over sixty-five. You don't know how many more years they got. [Laught er] And you're just pleased that they're there. Keith articulated the tension of ambiguous intimacy. They may be close on the work-site, but that is only one portion of their liv esthe Floridian, vacationing portion. The bonding-value of this acquainta nceship/friendship is strong enough to move people to worry if an absent worker from years past has died but not to actually find out for certain. Thus, one part of the context which define s the border between community concern and social membership is the shared history: bonds grow with time. When some critical number of volunteersover half for the Monday crew of which Keith is a partcan fondly remember past volunteers, particular homeowners, and the beloved construction site manager who died of cancer years back, the bonding-value becomes that of a community concern. The volunteerism becomes personal, almost familial. With this increased intimacy, it become s difficult to escape from the bonds. A community softball league, depending on how many parties occur for the teams after games (and how much beer is consumed at th ese parties), likely does not reach the depth of intimacy which chains members into the or ganization. Participants will not feel shame 56


and disillusionm ent upon quitting.3 These Immokalee volunt eers proved to be an exception, for the case for the majority of Habitat volunteers is that inter-volunteer camaraderie remained superficial due to the lack of a shared history. The other factor which I argue can push volunteerism into the realm of community concern is the obj ect of a relationship. Who is getting the volunteer's attention? I call this the partner-type. Th ings become interesting when volunteers talk about relating to people who are not voluntee ring around them. The title of this section hints at this diversity of r ecipients. We have talked enough about the inter-volunteer chumminesslet us look at othe r sorts of relationships. Volunteers' relationships with crew leader s or site managers we re as important as any. An illustration of the strength of this bond comes to mind. Following the economic crash last yearan event that constantly arises during conversa tions with staff and volunteersthe Sarasota County affiliate had to let go of many important staff members including one of the Director s of Construction. He found work in central Florida for a private contractor and then returned to the co ast to take on the Director of Construction spot for the Manatee County affiliate. When longtime Sarasota volunteers found out he was back, they began working with the Manat ee affiliate where they knew and loved the 3 Ironically, my own experiences contradict this poin t. During my year of AmeriCorps in Immokalee, I participated in a softball league made up mostly of Habitat employees. I was terrible, and throughout the season, the team managerwho was also my boss at the work-siteattempted to find the field position in which I would do the least damage. My commitment was one of begrudged social obligation and I was overjoyed when the season ended. Oddly, both the manager and I wanted me to stop coming, but neither of us had the heart to tread that awkward, bond-breaking ground. Like the family member who was brought onto the team by birth rather than by choice, I could not leave without feeling like I was insulting his invitation. Quitting would have felt more like a divorce than a resignation. Most of the team members were in it for the love of the sport, however, and when we sank to the bottom of the league rankings, many stopped coming to the games. The sport was not fun anymore and there was little intimacy to chain them down. 57


work-site bo ss. I was first told this stor y by Joyce, Sarasota affiliate's Volunteer Coordinator, who had recently replaced the previous coordinator during the downsizing and shuffle of the staff. Joyce's tone sugge sted that while she wa s not taking personally the departure of these devot ed volunteers, she felt th e burden of the diminished workforce. A week later, I was volunteering at the Palmetto site with the Manatee affiliate and I ended up meeting a few of these traitors during break time. They seemed to feel very little animosity toward the Sara sota affiliate. Moreover, there was more new construction taking place for the Manatee affiliate than Sarasota's at that point and most of them lived in Bradenton anyway. Noneth eless, I could see the camaraderie between these volunteers and their familiar leader. Other volunteers related to figures who they had never met but who inspired them to work, especially Jimmy Carter. The following interview with Wendy and Brian, a couple in their sixties, pointed to the most common of these distant role models. W: I said Who's that? He said, You ever hear of Jimmy Carter? I said Sure he's a tennis player. He said, No, not Conners. I said, Never he ard of him. He said, But I like him, and you're gonna like him. He has the idealism you and Brian and a lot of us have. So anyway, we had a cocktail party at our house. B: What year was that? W: '75. Almost '76. The fall of '75. And we were so impressed by himwe had a lot of friends who worked in social services and volunteers a nd all projects like that. This friend of yours'? W: No, he was our mayor. But we had a lot of friends come to it who, you know, did a lot of volunteer work and then they graduated from colleges, worked in the innercities, stuff like that. So we asked some really tough questions and they were very impressed. So we signed up 58


to volunteer for him and we campaigned in all the New England states. Of course New Hampshire was the first primary so he, that's what he sought, New Hampshire. And when he was elected, he invited a big group from New Hampshire and about 16 of us from Rhode Island cause we went many weekendswe had another house, right. And we were all invited by him to a private party at the White House and were mailed invitations to the inauguration and the parties after the ball. Ever since then, that's been our mantra. But he really impressed us a lot. Still does. Quite a man. So he's really your main in spiration for doing this work? W: Oh absolutely. I mean, you know, Brian and I have been very blessed. We've been married for fifty-two years. We've had a good run, we have wonderful children. You gotta give something back, you know? Even if it's just some time. Since they actually worked on his campaign, th ey may more legitimately consider Carter an acquaintanceby which I mean their connection is closer to being truly social, rather than merely symbolic, as it is for most people who speak admiringly of the former president. I did not get a sense that this couple was particularly religiousthus, while Carter's devotion to Habitat inspired them they were not motivated by Carter's own inspiration, which he professes to be Christ-centered. Note in her final response how the Carter-centered motivation easily interwove with the broad gift notion of giving back. To the extent that Jesus fills a surprisingly similar motivational role as Carter, we may clump some Christ-belief into this category of reasoning as we ll. In the next chapter, I will complicate this notion, finding that there are other phenomena present in some Christian volunteers' base of service. The next group of partner-types is family whether present on the work-site or not. 59


The m ost common example of familial volunt eerism involved married couples, as we saw in the previous interview. Volunteers cited several other family connections, too. Keith, who spoke above of the possible deat h of volunteers, had been coming out to Immokalee with his two siblings for many year s. Another volunteer, Trent, told me about this: T: As a reference point. Keith's participation here is a family affair. I've been riding back and forth with them for five or six years I guess. His oldest brother, um, he's about 88? K: 86. T: And his sister is is she older or younger than Jacob? K: She's ninety. T: That's what I thought. So talk about and they've been coming out here for about 20 y ears. Talk about dedication perseverance. There's a story to be written. Well, and I'm sure I must've met them or her. K: You'd met Kathy. T: We probably built the hous e that you lived in. K: Neither of them are here this day cause Jacob's recuperating from surgery. And Kathy travels with him so she's staying behind. Otherwise, they'd be here and they'd be out here slugging away lik e everybody else. Late 80s. Keith and his sister were somewhat renowned on the work-site, due to the familial aspect of their commitment, but also to Kathy's ag e and gender. Being a female continued to prove noteworthy among volunteers. While working on a deconstruction project for the Sarasota affiliate, I met Grant, whose motivation sprung in large part from an absent family member. I had received a special email invitation to the project, or decon as they call it, and I had little idea what I was getting myself into. My first thought was that it woul d be like a ReHabitat project, 60


only with much m ore intense renovation requ ired. I imagined volunteers taking to the decrepit walls with a sledgehammer.4 The reality was dull by comparison. Decon's are essentially fund-raisers for Sarasota's affilia te. A volunteer who works in the Home Store contacts demolition companies to ask if Habitat could pillage the house before it is demolished. Habitat takes anything that might sell at the Home St ore, including doors, ceiling fans, floor boards, cabinetry, toilets, and much else. As a volunteer, I felt it difficult to motivate myself to work, sin ce were we not building new, renovating, or preparing for a new build site, but rather sc avenging for profitable trinkets, which would eventual fund future projects. Grant was the only other volunteer that day and he did not seem to mind the distant vision of productiv ity that so bothered me. He had a few generic things to say about his volunteerism, that he had been getting way too lazy. He said that this was good work that was helping people. Then he told me to put the helping people part before the lazy part, in my paper or whatever you're doing. More interesting than these reasons, ho wever, was his discussion of his daughter as a source of inspiration. He spoke softly about her work as a teacher and her passion for helping others. She lived in a differen t state, and judging by the way Grant talked about her, I gathered that sh e was a vital source of his mo tivation. I imagine that when they did talk, he could point out that he had begun following her lead by helping people. About an hour after he expressed these reasons and our conversationas we tirelessly removed kitchen cabinetshad vent ured elsewhere, Grant left to use the 4 This thought, in turn, reminded me of a practi ce I had heard about the Baptist Church in my Missouri home town doing. Fliers all around the school advertised an opportunity to take a turn smashing a car with a sledgehammer. Car Demolition for Jesus some called it. While this event may have had a fund-raising component, I believe it was primarily th e church's attempt to trigger Christian zeal in youth. I drove to the Habitat Decon with this in mind. 61


restroom He came back and then admitted to me that he had not made it in time and had wet himself, explaining that he had devel oped a bladder control problem a while back following a surgery. He may have thought that I was able to see or smell a spot on his pants, but at that point we were both so drenched in sweat and stinky that I would have noticed nothing unusual. To the extent that he shared this embarrassing personal issue without assuming that I coul d tell something had happened, I wonder if our extensive review of his intimate, familial motivations for volunteering enabled this confession. Again, I was reminded of the borders of normal privacy that these topics breach. Molly, who has been volunteering on Tues days at the Immokalee work-site for twelve years, cites her parentslong deceased by nowas providing her passion to serve: I guess I come from a little bit of a different background on volunteering in the fact that my family, my mother and father volunteered from the time I remember as a child. So that was sort of something th at I grew up in with that attitude about getting away fr om just your own family and reaching out into the community and learning to work all different sorts of people and different projects. And so basically that'sI've always considered that a real blessing that I had that opportunity as a child. Because then as I got older and had time to do things, that sort of came back and influenced me on finding oppor tunities away from my normal mother, homemaker job kind of a thing. I got to know Molly quite well when I lived and worked in Immokalee in 2005. She quickly befriended me and the other AmeriC orps volunteer, she brought us out to go shelling at her favorite spots near her condo on Marco Island. She even hosted a pool party for all of Immokalee's Habitat c onstruction staff and their families. Now in her seventies, Molly continued to find inspiration in the parental model 62


from her childhood. Her parents had not been around, of course, to be pleased and impressed by her service ethic, meaning that her relationship with them was no longer social in the literal sense. However, this parental motivation continued to articulate the gift, for we can assume that it was because th ey gave much to others and to her that she felt she was giving back to them by giving to others. As she begins to explain, Molly's civic service resulted from a debt due to her deceased parents, which she repays by following their lesson: Especially when you get down into a retirement community where people so often think that now they're retired, they just don't owe anything really to the world, just having a good time and funwhich is all well and good, but they are too many communities that have so many needs that their skills and experiences coul d be of such great value. I think it sort of begins with the way you raise your children for reaching out to other people that there are so many needs out there that they can help meet. Debt to the world, she said, begins with parents ingr aining a sense of debt and modeling its payback. Her obvious reverence of her parents implies another debt that will exist until her own death, one which was forged during a decade of parental dependence and several more of parental suppo rt and guidance. None theless, the respect of her parents functioned in concert with many other motivating factors. Molly also cited a husband who is also involved with Habitat and other outreach pr ograms, the closeknit bunch she will find on Tuesdays at the wo rk-site, the Christian mission of Habitat for Humanity, and the prospect of shari ng a common experience with homeowners and Hispanic people. Her closing statementf illed with her infectious pluckseemed to supersede all of these, suggesti ng that she volunteers as a matter of personality: But then 63


again, I like people. Another volunteer I met while working at the Home Store for Sarasota's affiliate spoke of a granddaughter who motivated her to work. Doris had volunteered in the Home Store long enough to become a crew lead er of sorts for those volunteering in the furniture section of the store. Sarasota's Home Store is one of the largest of any affiliate in the nation. The main entrance leads into a room that appears similar to any furnitureknickknack outlet. Doors in the back beckon customers to an expansive warehouse that features literally anything one might find inside a home. An exit in the rear of the warehouse leads customers to a fenced-in area with clusters and stacks of outdoor furnishings and decorations. Though Manate e and Collier counties' Home Stores are impressive as well, they pale in compar ison to Sarasota's mammoth enterprise. When I talked to her, Doris was dire cting two high school st udent volunteers as they organized a recent donation of sundry item s. She pointed to an area where she puts things nice enough to be kept but that do not cu rrently merit shelf space in the retail area. Shooing the newly trained high school boys of f to greet a pickup truck with a donation backing into the delivery area, Doriswell into her seventies, I imagineleaned against a desk to rest as I asked her about her reas ons for volunteering with such commitment. She immediately told me that her wheelch air-bound granddaughter was her motivation. This granddaughter earned and bought a Ha bitat home several years back: I had previously heard about a home in the Sarasota affiliate's Jordan's Crossinga recentlycompleted neighborhoodthat included tracks to a ssist its physically disabled resident to get around the house. Doris affirmed that this was her granddaughter. Since her 64


granddaughter had en tered the Habitat program, Doris had become a committed volunteer, first donating her hour s to help her granddaughter complete her sweat equity requirement and then sticking with it after the move-in. Doris was the only volunteer with whom I spoke whose motivating relationship linked her to someone who was both a family member and a Habitat homeowner. Doris clearly was not seeking membership in a soci al group; did she volunt eer out of concerns for the community? This, too, is questiona ble and depends on whether family can be included in one's definition of community. This special pairing provides a segue into our next section which will look at volunt eer relationships with homeowners. The Homeowner Partner-Type: Anonymous Altruism By knowing a homeowner well, Doris bucked trends among volunteers. Many volunteers, most in fact, brought up homeowners as a source of inspiration to volunteer, but rarely does this relationshi p develop to a point of significant intimacy. Allow me to share some of my field notes I wrote after attending a volunteer-appreciation potluck in the Manatee County affiliate's Palmetto office: I was a little late getting there, but Ry an (the Executive Director) opened up the door for me and I was warmly welcomed, t hough it was chilly indoors. I placed my Publix fruit salad on the buffet table and then went into the office part of the warehouse to join others in the warmer room. Soon, everyone entered that small office and Amy (the volunteer coordinator) introduced the staff and then had a nearby woman lead the prayer. Before everyone left to get food, Linda (a volunteer) introduced me, toosome 65


people didn't hear but many did and then it seemed the rest of the hour and a half people knew that I was wanting to hear their re asons for volunteering. We got some food and then sat down. Others joined us and soon Li nda decided it was too cold and moved with her food into the lobby of the office. So then I was sitting with Darryl, his wife (Elly? She wasn't wearing a name tag), and Jimmy. There were a couple other men but they didn't say much and I never caught their names. Jimmy had a standoffish, I'm-too-good-foryou demeanor at first, but he eventually warmed up to me. Darryl and Elly, however, took me seriously from the beginning of our chat. They first wanted to to know what I was doing in New College and what I planned to do afterward. I explained my studies and my post-grad aspirations and, while Jimmy bal ked (scoffed?) at my lack of direction, Elly applauded my choice to try to teach middl e school. Jimmy then told Darryl what his children domany impressive degrees and positions in Law and Science. Darryl then opened up and explained that, similar to Linda, he volunteered to give back, help out, or something along those lines. I wanted him to tell me if there were any relationships that he felt that the volunteering was nurturingJimmy then interjected, as he stood up to get more food, that it is the par tnership with God. Darryl was slower to answer and explained that he and Elly did not participate in a church so it was not [a religious] group that brought him to the work-site. He then, somewhat vaguely, suggested that it was for the homeowners that he comes out. Jimmy sat back down and I moved us to the question of why, if we wo rk for them, do we not have much interaction with the homeowners? Should this sort of relati onship between construction volunteers and homeowners be a priority of Manatee HFH? Both men said to the first question not 66


important and to the second No with surpri sing firmness. One of them then br ought up the family selection and mentoring committees. Elly asked to know what the mentors do and the man with the felt hat sitting next to me explained their usual function. At some point we returned to the homeowner-rel ated dialogue and they both reiterated that for them, it was okay that they did not grow cl ose to any of the homeowners. I asked then if it did not matter that their assistance was anonymous. They said that is correct. Darryl and Jimmy are no exceptions to my findings: the majority of volunteers told me that getting to know homeowners is not important for them; furthermore, no one believed that Habitat's priority should include building relationships between homeowners and volunteers. Both of these pervasive opinions create a tensionif not a contradictionas I interpret the volunteers' work as a social act. Nearly ev eryone said something about homeowners or about giving back. They need the homeowners to find meaning in their workmeaning which motivated them to continuebut they did not need to become close to the homeowners, or necessari ly even meet them. As Jimmy and Darryl acceded in closing, their service was anonymous and it can remain that way. But does this anonymity mean that the volunteers want to remain hidden or that the volunteers do not want to meet the homeowner s? In other words, is the desire for anonymity a function of shyness/privacy/humility or plain disinter est? Are intimate connections with homeowners only for the volunteers who select and mentor families, as Jimmy implied by mentioning these committees? Godbout and Caill point out why these quest ions are significant to this study, as 67


they discuss the inclinations of non-pr ofits which provide social services: When we ask these or ganizations what sets them apart from public institutions working in the same field, the first thing they emphasize is the absence of any gap between those who give or provide the servic e and those who receive it. Even if, in varying degrees, they deal most frequently with strangers (this is particularly true for organizations whose territory is the Third World), th ere is a constant tendency, as we have seen, to narrow this gap and to personalize the relationship (personalized he lp for children in foreign countries, a personal commitm ent on the part of aid workers, a consistent use of volunteers, etc.). That, in essence, is what being a co mmunity organization means: that the principle and driving force for the actions taken are rooted in ties that exist between the members of the association, or between the association and the person being helped (who is almost never referred to as a client). (1998: 72-73) Habitat reframes the serviced/servicing di chotomy into a partnership with God and community, as the Sarasota affiliate's mission statement reads. We will discuss Habitat's aims toward community through partnership in mo re depth later in this chapter. The gap which remains, despite efforts, between most homeowners and volunteers establishes the dynamic of these relationships, as Jimmy and Darryl's comments exemplify. For them and most volunteers, homeowners will remain strangers. Whether or not either of the two groups actively limit these re lationships to strangerhood, this set-up allows Habitat to operate smoothly. This underlying dynamic of the homeo wner-volunteer relationship makes volunteers' explanations sometimes contradictory. Peter has been volunteering at the Immokalee work-site for over twenty years a nd has been a volunteer organizer for the Monday crew for a decade. Most people seem to enjoy him, despite his reputation for 68


being tediously work-oriented. Is it important to you to meet homeowners? P: Well, it's not that important for me to meet them. We see them when we dedicate the hom es and that type of thing, which is good. But I'm just too busy to chit-chat with homeowners. But then, at the same time, they motivate you to come out? P: Oh yeah. Oh definitely. So it's okay that you maybe don't meet the people who will be benefiting from the fruits of your labor? P: Yeah, like I said, they'r e very appreciativethe people who get the homes. The publication we put out to Collier County has pictures and stories of families that have got homes, spelling out how much they appreciate this new home. 'Cause they were liv ing in trailers before. While Peter was too busy to meet them, his belie f that their needs are great and that they are appreciative was sufficient to motivat e him. This mirrors two of the three requirements which family selection committees will assess during the application process: need and willingness to partner. They show their ap preciation through their industriousness on the work-site. It was not that he was refusing to meet themif their paths crossed, fine. But he conceived se parate spheres for the volunteers and the homeowners. Their purposes on the work-sit e were distinct and not intertwined. Homeowners prove their industriousness by earning sweat equity. Vo lunteers serve to give back to homeowners, despite likely being strangers to these particular homeowners. The desire for anonymity may then be a function of both shyness and of disinterest, as we see from Peter. He a nd others could be shy simply because the 69


hom eowners are very different from them and it can be challenging to meet people different and who may not be fluent English-sp eakers. On the other hand, some of their reluctance may spur directly from an ambi valence toward the individuals they are helping. Either way, conceiving of the homeowners as faceless beneficiaries is adequate for most volunteers. Quite matter-of-factly, Peter contended th at attendance of the dedication is an appropriateif not ideallevel of intimacy in the volunteer-homeowner relationship. As we have already heard from my descrip tion in the last chapter and from Dave, the Naples site manager, dedications can be an emotional and uplifting time. To that degree, they can be quite motivating. I remember as an AmeriCorps worker my supervisor told me that it had been a year or two since he ha d watched a dedication a nd that he needed to go to another one sometime soon to get pumpe d up about Habitat again. He referred to them as a sort of booster shot for motiva tion. For many volunteers, dedications are the primary site of understanding and intimacy between the two groups. Benjamin from the Sarasota new construction work-site on Cent ral Avenue provided his perspective on the dedications: You were saying that you thin k some [volunteers] would be doing it for altruistic reasons, but some maybe wouldn't be. Maybe more kind of camaraderie or B: Right. I mean I think that th ey all take a certain pride in what they're doing, they know they're working for a good cause. There is a lot of Christian sentiment at Habitat. But if you've ever been to a dedi cation, that's when you really feel the emotion with what you're doing. Because you seeyou know you've changed somebody's expectations in life. Whether or not they [t he homeowners] continue to come out and volunteer, whether or not they continue to 70


express their appreciation is som ething different. But on that particular day they've m oved into the house and look at all of these people who have worked, week after week, on their house. For no money. You look at the sense of commitmentI mean they're not trying to throw it together, they're trying to make sure that it is as good as it can get. There's a pride in what we'r e doing and how we're doing it. And sometimes it goes beyond the homeowner. Sometimes it's a job well-done. He began by talking about the dedications in terms of the inspiration they provide volunteers, Christian volunteers in particular. However, he shifted his scrutiny onto the homeowner experience during the dedication, em phasizing the event's role in deepening homeowner appreciation for the volunteers. Subtly turning back to the volunteer standpoint, Benjamin concluded with a cel ebration of volunteer commitment and an affirmation of non-social reasoning for vol unteerism: pride in a job well-done. Benjamin's words illustrate the paternalism which can arise within affiliates and among their volunteers. As I described in the previous chapter, Ha bitat constructs not just the houses of future homeowners, but their partnerships with the affiliates as well. This dynamic leads toat a very basic levelthe social permissibility of volunteers such as Benjamin expressing what homeow ners should and should not do, even what they should and should not feel. Throughout our conversationwhich ran the course of the morning as we labored side-by-side installing blocking between wall studs Benjamin frequently changed the topic from volunteer motivations to expectations he had for homeowners. I heard these sorts of expectations and opinions about the ideal homeowneraffiliate partnership frequently, regardless of how well the volunteers voicing them knew 71


any hom eowners. One memorable example of this featured a staff person for the Sarasota affiliate who was helping to em cee the dedication of three homes express surprise that the female homeowner who had just sat down did not cry during her time at the microphone. His words were in jest, no doubt, but weeping is common enough among on-stage homeowners as to be an assume d element of the dedication. This staff person clearly knew this homeowner well a nd had worked with her closely throughout the sweat equity process. Many volunteers also exhibit this right to commentary, particularly when they feel as though something about the partnership is not fair. Complaints multiply and intensify when it seems as though the homeowner on whose house we are working does not hustle, sweat, and smile. As Godbout and Caill would put it, these volunteers may believe that the homeowners are shirking their debt in the relations hip. As we stood in the roofless house, Benjamin nodded over toward Sarathe future homeowner who was sweeping the floorand pointed out this imbalance in his presumptions about her: You know she's not really volunteering hereit's mandated that she be here. What does she think of the volunteer experience, will she recogni ze the value of volunteering, will she continue to volunteer? It's a good question to me. Why don't they want to voluntee r after they finish? I mean you'd think if somebody went in there and did all this work for you, for no compensation, then why wouldn't they give some of that back? Why w ouldn't they do the same thing for some other family that's in need? Earlier in the conversation, he mana ged to answer his own questions: One of the foundations of Hab itat is that the homeowner has to put in so much sweat eq uity. We try to give them some sense of appreciation for what it takes and what it means to be involved here. I don't know if it really has any 72


long term effectif they ever really give back. I mean you know the whole idea of pass it forward, pass it forward. Well I think some people are he re to pass it forward. But I don't necessarily think that the homeowner or most of the homeowners are in that bandwagon. And you can understand some of that, I mean the fact that their lives are still hard. They're not in the upper income, they're not middle class. They're still low-income people. Life is still a struggle for them and they probably work hard enough that they don't want to come out and volunteer on a Saturday, but there are times in which it would be nice if they did. Ways that they c ould support the organization to help us help other families. More than most other volunteers, Benjam in discussed the process of Habitat for Humanity in terms of the gift that is, a series of favors be tween people. Even if he never meets with the future homeowners, he nonetheless has expect ations of them. Homeowners owe him and other volunteers some thing. These expectations are result of his own emotional investment in his servicein this way, he has a relationship with the future homeowners. Even strangers can have pent-up feelings for one another. We do not have to agree with his conclusions about the location of debt, but his presentation of volunteerism and sweat equityand the possibility of homeowners volunteering after they move intaps into the na ture and language of the gift. He complained that they do not give back enough, but then forgave them detailing the reasons for their possible exemption. Suggesting that Habitat attempts to give [homeowners] some sense of appreciation for the work others do for thei r benefit, Benjamin alluded to a process wherein the affiliate transmits appreciation to the homeowners. Thus, if a dedication injects empathetic or spiritual motivation into the volunteers, Benjamin contends that it should inject gratitude and a sense of indebtedness into the homeowners. Continuing the 73


response from above, he concludes w ith both cynicism and hope: I don't think that even though you require them to put in so much sweat equity that their contribution is that great in most cases. And I don't think we have any long term effect from them. I think the main a dvantage is the fact most of these people have childrenor virtually all of them have children. It means a lot to the child in how he proceeds through life to have a home. To come from a home. In search of the effects of his devotion to the cause, Benjamin gave up on most homeowners. Their failure to r eciprocate in turn proved to him that they are a lost cause. This implies that the affiliate need not expend much energy in reforming them, since such programming would go to waste. Be njamin provided little elaboration on how homeowners could defy his pessimistic verdic t: what level of appreciative reciprocation would they need to reach? Furthermore, with little faith in the potential of Habitat as a change-agent for the homeowners, he also seemed to downplay the role of the affiliate in bringing homeowners together with volunteers, thus implicit ly rejecting the boons that could result from close relationships between the volunteers and ho meowners. Like a jilted lover, Benjamin found no gratification from the homeowners, so he shifted the aim of his altruism at their children. Youth are ex empt of the invisible la ws of reciprocation: they are like sponges for the gift, taking everythi ng and needing to give very little back. Other volunteers also felt motivation from th e potential for good that would come to the children living in a home. George from the Immokalee work-site offered a less downtrodden version of Benjamin's response: I think most of the motivati on that we in general have, beyond the wanting to give back is primarily the advantage we see for kids. It's really a delight to build some houses, see kids come off the school bus happy, knowing that 74


they' ve got a room of their own, and importantly a place to study, so they can get a decent education and hopefully not have to go through the same pitfalls their parents did. It's great to see families staying together and kids having a sense of pride in their family, in their self, and their community. And I think that's what really makes it all worthwhile. For these two men, as well as some other vol unteers with whom I talked, children inhabit a hopeful realm into which a volunteer may safely focus motivation. Examining the programs of child sponsorship within a Christian Development NGO in Zimbabwe, anthropologist Bornstein points out their symbolic power for non-profits and their donors: Children, as incarnations of utopi a in humanitarian discourse, serve as depoliticizing agents in highly political contexts (2005: 71; pa raphrasing Malkki 1997). Blameless and endowed with infinite potential, children in our modern era enable an escape route for players caught in an ideologically polarized environment, which at times Habitat can provoke. Volunteers may disagree on work-site prayer, immigrant status of homeowners, and the wars in the Middle East, but everyone harmonizes upon the value of a new home for a child. A lternately, interpreting politics from a different angle, this means that volunteers such as George and Be njamin can find solace from the convoluted spiral of gift/debt, a spiral which the political process often reflects.5 When they consider the homeowners' childre n as the recipients of their gift, they imagine specific returnsgood behavior at home, good grades in school, healthy lifes tyle free of drug etc.although these returns may not come for years. They do not need the kids s, to be 5 The rules of politics, when it comes to the deliberations of those with authority, can resemble the informal manners dictating a network of friends or associates. For example, the media often depicts Republican support of the recent vote on President Ob ama's health care plan as a favor to the Democrats or Obama. Democrats representing particularly right-wing districts may be forgiven if they decide to vote against the bill. 75


appreciative soon, realizing that they will li kely never see the effects homeownership has for these youngsters. Habitat for Humanity at both the Georgia headquarters and the affiliate level, realize the importance of children as inspiration, and their printed media filled with photos and stories of Habitat childrenreflect this awareness. Benjamin and others expressed to me the ups and downs of anonymous giving. They hoped to see proof that their labor was noted and appreciated, but they did not need to get to know the people who were noting and appreciating thei r labor. One might wonder if I received these res ponses reflecting anonymous altr uism due to the age of my respondents. The following interview snippet should put this hypothesis to rest. On the drive to the Sarasota work-site, I chatted with Jay and Anna, two New College students who have been volunteering with Habitat for Hu manity regularly for the past six months. Is it okay that the people who will eventually be benefiting most directly from your servicethat is, the homeowners is it okay that sometimes you're not really getting to know them? Very well or perhaps at all? J: Yeah, that's okay with me. I mean, it's always cool when you do get to meet them, but at the same time, you've gotta understand why that isn't necessarily going to happen all the time since a lot of times they have to be putting in their sweat equity. And if you th ink about all the different volunteers that come through there in the process of making one of those homes, it's a whole lot of people that they're meeting, and they can't certainly spend time with all of them. I do think it's cool that you have the chance to meet them and get to know whoever is gonna benefit from this. But at the same tim e I understand why it doesn't always happen. What about you Anna? A: Yeah, it doesn't really bother me at all not meeting them. That's not the main reason I'm doing it. And I don't think 76


they' re crazy or something. Jay cited practical reasons for why clos e relationships between homeowners and volunteers cannot abound. We can presume that he is not bothered by the restriction on relationship-building due to logistical and institutional realities, based upon his opening statement that the situation is okay. None theless, he affirmed that it is cool when these encounters occur. Anna, on the ot her hand, expressed no interest in these relationships. Her two reasons for this mer it comment: first, other motivations attracted her to the work; second, she felt certain that homeowners are not crazy. This final line referred to the possibility that a volunteer mi ght develop relationships to gain confidence that the future residents will not be crazy, by which I gather she meant that they will be hard-working with their sweat equity hours and good future neighbors. Anna ushered in the alternative utility of a homeowner-volun teer acquaintance, wherein it may act as surveillance for Habitat's performance in selecting families. A final response to my query will connect th is analysis to the next chapter. Like Peter, and other volunteers from whom we ha ve heard, Luke has been volunteering at the Immokalee work-site for about two decades. Do you feel like it's Habitat's ro le to try to involveto try to get homeowners to know construction volunteers? I mean do you think that's important? L: Well, of course they [homeowners] spend 500 hours here to start with. And their families do also, so they get to meet us that way. I don't know about later on, they have dedications and they come to dedications. And we meet them that way. I don't know that I really want to spend the time away from the job. I want to spend the time on the job. But you make a good point there because you're trying to reach people and maybe it might be a good idea to have 77


som e interplay between the residents. Hearing Luke's touch of uncertainty in clos ing was wildly refreshingly for me to hear, after so many volunteers had dismissed the notion of volunteer-homeowner relationships as secondary, if not altogether frivolous. Now we will dive deeper into the tension presented by anonymous altruism: can Habita t for Humanity spark community concern between volunteers and homeowners? 78


CHAPTER THREE VOLUNTEER-HOMEOWNER RELATIONSHIPS Respect at Arm's Length: A Community of Givers and a Community of Takers The last chapter left us with two my steries: community and anonymity. We had been charging through the motivation types, eff ectively placing them within or outside of the idea of community. When we came to the homeowner partner-type, however, the community analysis slipped aw ay as we picked apart the curious penchant volunteers have for maintaining anonymity with the homeo wners. The final step, then, is to pull community back into the pictur e: are the two terms irreconc ilable for the case of the homeowners? Can strangers feel comm unity concern for one another? Let us begin by inspecting the significan ce of community from the standpoint of the affiliate. Note its presence in each of the Habitat for Humanity affiliates' mission statements: Sarasota County: To partne r with God and community to provide decent affordable housing for people in need so they may build better lives for their family. Collier County: Our mission is to work in partnership with God, those in need and people from all walks of life, to develop decent and safe communities. We build affordable houses in our communities so that each person can experience Gods love and grow into all that God intends. Manatee County: As a Christ ian ministry in partnership with our community, Mana tee County Habitat for Humanity builds, finances and advocates affordable housing for resident low-income families. 79


While Collier county aim s to develop co mmunities, Sarasota and Manatee counties suggest that they will be p artnering with communities. As noted previously, Habitat's use of partnership enables the affiliates to bridge the divide, at least symbolically, between the homeowners and the volunteers, don ors, and affiliate staff. The use of community in terms of partnership adds anot her level of ambiguity, since the reader is not certain to what community it refers. Th e community of voluntee rs? Of future and current homeowners? Of affiliate staff and donors? Of all these groups togetheror of them all present, but separate? Somewhere ea rly in the process of this fieldwork when I read these mission statements, I automatically envisioned a contented image of all parties holding handsmuch like the scene at a home dedication. The community toward which the affiliates were aiming was not a plurality of rigid categories, but a jumble of people with shared interests, much like Tocquevill e's explication of s elf-interest properly understood from the first chapter. I certainly knew that this was not the reality, but I assumed it was the ideal. As readers might im agine, within the first few conversations with volunteers, I was corrected of this notion straight-away. For mo st volunteers I did not even need to ask: the community was something that they were buildingwe're building homes, not just houses, many told mebut the farthest most would go in annexing themselves into the community was to admit their enjoyment of inter-volunteer camaraderie. At nearly every moment, I felt the presumption of separate spheres. The volunteer coordinators, however, have a more nuanced view of the dynamic and the implications of the vague community partnership initiative. I interviewed the volunteer coordinators of both Sarasota and Manatee Counties' affiliates to gain their 80


perspectives on the process. Collier County has a dif ferent organizational structure, due to the large construction staff at both the Im mokalee and Naples sites. While there are volunteer coordinators working for both sites, they do not have the same integral, face-toface role as those at the othe r two affiliates. The site co ordinator and other construction staff usurp these tasks. Additionally, ther e are rarely any prayers on the Collier County sites. For volunteer coordinators at Sara sota and Manatee Counties, work-site tasks include gathering volunteers for the morning and break-time m eetings and then doling the responsibility of leading the prayer to a volunteer or homeo wner, or sometimes leading it themselves. Jenny, the volunteer coordinator at the Sarasota affiliate, easily believed me when I told her that most volunteers said they did not need to get to know homeowners well at all for their work to feel m eaningful. Speaking of the possi bility of volunteers getting to know homeowners, Jenny said it is: J: A benefit. That's the icing on the cake. Ok. So then it is important, or it 's nice, it's pleasurable, but it's not J: I think the word comm unity can mean so many different things. It's still a sense of fellowship. If they're not very church-goingor if they arewhatever else. They're finding like-minded people who have free time on their hands and know that there is a better thing to do than do something for themselvesthey can go do something for others on that day. And so that community is that fellowship, that like-mindedness as well. Oh, so in that sense, with other volunteers. J: Exactly. Exactly. That out of that will grow friendships, out of that will grow some respect for yourself and others. 81


So then, r eally the community wouldn't be partnering in some kind of communal way with the homeowners. J: Right. Here she articulated the community of volunt eers, also called fellowship or likemindedness. Rejecting the idea of a comm unity existing among both work-site groups as a central necessity, she acknowledged the pleasure and sa tisfaction that could come from this tentative partnership. I followed this by questioning the need for this connection: What is the point of brin ging homeowners and volunteers together? J: That's still part of the respect of it all. Self-respect and respect for others. That you lear n that even if the situation appears to be dire, the people that are one step away from being homeless are willing to raise a hammer alongside of you to make their home possible, that that's a reward to that volunteer. My experience ha s been, especially on our ReHabitat projects, but on all of them, the cooperative homeownerthe one that stops to really realize and appreciate the labor going in fo r this? Those volunteers are just so much kinder in that si tuation. In a couple of them, in our ReHabitat, especially when I first started, some of those homeowners weren't really directed into You're a part of this, this is your home, you're a part of this. So I'll tell you one situation, we were in a house and this woman literally had her TV on and ignored everybody and volunteers would walk out of th at house just kind of going What?! This is awful! We shouldn't be doing this. This woman doesn't deserve it. She deserved it, she just wasn't brought into the fold to be part of what was happening in her own home. In her home apart from everyone. Like Benjamin in the previous chapter, Jenny demonstrated an articu late awareness of the gift in action. She called it respectfor oneself and for othersand, treating it mainly 82


from the angle of the volunteers, assessed this respect by its ability to motivate people to labor. She provided both scenarios: when homeowners are willing to work hard, begetting high respect, and when homeowners appear lazy and thankless, begetting low respect. In the latter scenario, volunteer s lose respect for homeowners and themselves the beneficiaries and the benefactors. They lo se respect for themselves because they feel that they may be getting taken advantage of and unappreciated labor is shameful. We have already examined Benjamin's illustration of his feeling of being exploited by unindustrious homeowners and kin. Here he showed this frus tration due to his perception of a different group. That was one of the projects my wife and I wanted to work on. But when we went to the church, they said sure, we'd love to help you with that. But helping uswe found outmeant we had to raise all the money for the house. I mean we raised it in the name of the church, but we still had to come up with all the programs and the projects for the donationscitizens and frie nds and everything elseto raise the money. And actually my wife did most of that. She did all kinds of projects and programs and we came up with the money. I started working with the crews out here because theoretically the chur ch is supposed to raise the money, but you provide a corps of volunteers that work on the house. On that part of it, we were a little more successful, but she didn't get a ny help from anybody in the church raising the money. Or very very little. We did get a half a dozen guys out hereand a few womenfrom the church that worked fairly regularly on building the house. So there's been some carry-over, but for most of those people in the church, once the house was done, they sort of trickled down in terms of thei r participation in the other houses. Some came out for another couple of houses, some stopped right away. But very few continued to work. Benjamin had already spoken of the demora lization sparked by watching homeowners earn sweat equity half-hearte dly, but here he faulted other volunteersa sponsoring 83


churchfor frustrating him This dispassiona te church caused his wife and him to need to put more than their share into fund-raising efforts. He also felt short-shrifted by the drop-off in volunteerism from the church. As Jenny would say, this lack of commitment translated for Benjamin into disrespect to the cause and his passion for it. Godbout and Caill's terminology allows us to elaborate that the church's unreciprocated debt was too heavy for him to bear without noting it in di sappointment. His an ecdote shows that the work-site and the wider sphere of Habitat service is a we b of gift-giving and giftexpecting, and that debts of resp ect can be felt among volunteers. Jenny asserted above that the homeowner who sat idly as people worked around her had not been brought into the fol d. I asked her to clarify this point: Do you think then that it's Habitat's responsibility to kind of clue her in on what she should be J: Oh absolutely. I think our difference has happened now. That we really said Let us tell a homeowner what these people are giving up on their Thursdays and Saturdays to make their house happen. And when they get that, they know that they need to be part of the process as well. This isn't being done for them; this is being done with them. And I don't think we said those words clearly enough at the beginning. In the last chapter, Benjamin spoke of giving homeowners some sense of appreciation, and here Jenny jibed with his conclusion. She assumesfor herself and affiliate staff the responsibility of communicatin g this to the homeowners. As volunteer coordinator for Manatee C ounty's affiliate, Allison echoed many of Jenny's opinions. Do you see it as ideal if volunteers and homeowners really are meeting each other on the work-site? 84


A: Oh yeah. Do you even think that that should be a priority? A: It's one of the things that we always like to say about Habitat: that one of the unique benefits of volunteering with Habitat is that the volunteer ha s an opportunity to meet the people they are helping, and conversely, the people who are being helped have an opport unity to meet the people who are helping them. So it is one the features of the Habitat program that volunteers and homeowners meet each other and get to know each other. One of the things with volunteeringif you knew w ho you're helping, and you knew who it's going toward, and you knew their story, and you knew the good that you were doing, it helps keep you motivated to do that. Without giving an urgency to the cause, A llison agreed upon the significance of the people-mixing process and retained from previ ous respondents the focus of its function as a volunteer motivator. We then discussed my observation that, for most volunteers, these empathy-creating interactions with homeowners do not have to be very involvedmany even suggesting that the more superficial, the better. Like Jenny, Allison easily believed my findings. She went on to say: I think that, during a build, it is very important that homeowners develop relationshi ps with volunteers. That relationship could just be, Thank you. Just show them appreciation for what they're doing. We have so many onetime volunteers, so they're definitely not gonna be developing relationships with families beyond that one day, unless they come back and start volunteering as a regular way of life. For our long-t erm volunteers, or our regular volunteers, there are so many families to get to know. So many stories to get to know. You know it's all dependent upon the person. The reason for volunteering. And keep in mind that the families don't necessarily continue the relationship either. 85


The balance is delicate: as volunteer coordi nators, Jenny and Allison must work to create an atmosphere of rapport between homeowners and volunteers. They do this by introducing homeowners at br eak-time, as well as firsttime volunteers, and choosing a volunteer or homeowner to lead the prayer. They treat th e two groups in similar ways, despite their obvious differences and th e tendency for volunteers to outnumber homeowners ten or twenty to one. Forced to accept and adapt to the variable interest the two groups will have with one another, Al lison and Jenny are liable to downplay the importance of intimacy-building. One might e xpect that they would rather avoid the nuisance this would seem to some volunteers than to pursue this priority for the few volunteers for whom such intimacy rules su preme. Furthermore, they assume that volunteers who want to become more invo lved will do so on their own accord. Allison pointed out in her final line that families also may fail to keep up the relationship. Does continuing the relati onship, in the case of the homeowner, mean becoming friends with a volunteergetting to know each others' families and suchor does it essentially imply return ing to volunteer after his or her family has moved in? From the volunteer standpoint, there is little question: c ontinuing the relationship means continuing to come out to volunteer. Volunt eerism is closely connect ed to friendship for the volunteers, whether that is friendship with homeowners, other volunteers, or affiliate staff. For many volunteers, going to hang out wi th a family that has just moved into a Habitat home could be construed as voluntee ring! For the homeowners however, the transition from mandated service to voluntary service adds a certain weight to their involvement in the non-prof it, once it becomes a choice. Volunteers and their 86


coordinators were unanimous in their hope th at homeowners will return to the work-site after they finish their sweat equity. Jenny told me: I mean, it would be the ideal world, but you also know that they've given up a whole lot l eading up to this. And adding that homeownership responsibility on to them prior to what they were doingI mean, like everyone, their lives are busy, more than likely. I mean a story of one of the women on Central Avenue: she has three children under the age of seven, was going to school full-time, working full-time, and getting her 300 hours to build he r house. Me? Could never have done it. Ever. You know, twins that were twenty-one months old. And not only would you see her show up on the site, but happy, engaged, and hard-working. But when her day was done, it was identified as done. Along the same lines, Allison answered my question about some volunteers complaining of the absence of current ho meowners on the work-site: I think it's legitimate. And it's certainly one of many affiliates' frustrations, is that once a homeowner family is in their home, ninety-nin e percent of them don't come out and help the next person. That's a struggle that every Habitat affiliate deals with, because it'skeeping in mind that some of the homeowners in the program have been coming out every Saturday for a yearand now that they're in their house, they probably want to get a portion of their life back. [Laughter] So I'm sure that there's all legitimate reasonsthe cost, the expe nse, the time, of getting sitterswhile they are doing th eir sweat equity hours. I'm sure it takes a toll. I'm sure it does. So, it's one of those things that I understand why it might not happenit would be wonderful if it did happen. That they could come out and help the next person. Sh are their story with the next family. Should a cessation of the relationship originate on the volunteer side, this is forgiven due to the voluntary nature of any involvement. The homeowners' excuse, which we have already heard paraphrased by Be njamin and others, that they still have 87


dif ficult lives, inspires either sympathy or ch iding for not getting to a place of financial steadiness quickly enough. As Godbout and Caill discuss throughout their book, if there is any propulsion or direction to be found within the gift, it is in th e desire to transition from receiver to giver. For homeowners th is transition is steep not only because they have difficult lives, but because the process ha s hardly let them taste the fruits of giving, due to their enforced participation. In this sense, there is a ch ance that homeowners would be more powerfully compelled to return to the site if they were treated like true partners (i.e. friends), thus creating natural obligations due to the symbolic debt built up by a relationship that would be optional ra ther than enforced. Moreover, one may wonder whether this difference of invol vementbetween free volunteers and bound homeownerscreates an additional obstacle in the way of the homeowner considering to volunteer after moving in. As Baggett writes: Because of their lower class status, in other words, homeowners need Habitat. At the same time, because the organization relies on the cost-effectiveness of unpaid labor, Habitat needs its middle-class volunteers. Volunteering is born of a commingling of sufficiency and insufficiency. The need for volunteers and the comparative neediness of homeowners creates a power differential between them based on social class. Habitat's presumed success in empowering volunteers not only obscures the fact that they are empowered mostly because of their economic privilege but frequently allows volunteers to take center stage within af filiates. 2001: 116 As a former volunteer coordinator myself, I can attest to the volunteer-centered tenor of the work-site. I often felt like the main patr ons of our services we re the volunteers, since their donations often exceeded the mortgage payments of the homeowners. So it felt strangely similar to working in the entertainment industry Come one, come all! See 88


how we stuf f insulation in between these studs! Everyone take a staple gun, but be careful: edges are sharp! Have fun! And don't forget to say Hi to the homeowners! Given this atmosphere, how can anyone expect a homeowner to return when they may truly not feel invited, may not feel like an equal? We are left, then, with a determinatio n of multiple communities. Many long for the gap to close, but either they cannot figure out how to close it, or they are not willing to do what would be required to close it. On the road to community, most decide against making concessions to their anonymity. The distinct organizational structure of Collier County's affiliate alters these patterns, though they are neve r abolished. In addition to supervisors Dave and Garry, neither of whom were homeowners, both th e Naples and Immokalee construction sites have several construction staff. Dave, the site supervisor of Naples, noted that for the number of homes built, the Collier County af filiate has an average number of staff members. (Keep in mind, however, that this affiliate is one of the most moneyed and productive in the world.) While the composition of the workers on both sites shifts regularly, most if not all of the staff member s are current or former homeowners. Dave remarked upon the advantages of the staff: You need leaders. You need somebody who can do the heavy lifting and the more like dangerous work on the roof stuff like that. Some things that need to be done properly. It also gives us a chance to prepare the work-site so that when volunteers get here, we're ready for them to work. Plus almost the whole staff are homeowners. They're all Habitat homeowners. So they have a unique view. The new homeowners that are working get to meet these people and see that they're doing all ri ght. And that they can talk about their houses. And they can talk about the program. 89


Appreciate what' s going on. Portions of office staff at all three affili ates are composed of homeownersin fact, I happened to attend the home dedication of a driver for Manatee County's Home Store. Since Collier County is the onl y affiliate of the three whic h can boast of a construction staff, this affiliate alone can provide the distinct dynamic of paid homeowners directing and laboring alongside volunteers. I did not ask why the affiliate chose to fill these positions with homeowners, but my sense is that it is a matter of convenience, preference, and trust. This trend (essentially a human resources disposition) may have been jumpstarted when the homeowner Mario becam e the Immokalee site supervisor in the 1990s, and his wife, Graciana, was brought on boar d to lead the indoor work. Mario died of cancer a few years before I arrived in 2005, and while I never met him, he had obviously been a beloved member of the staf f and a favorite among vol unteers. His wife, Graciana, continues to work in Immokalee. The construction staff became my closes t friends during my year, though most have moved on to other work and some have left the state. Though they have employed a handful of homeowners of Haitian descent, th e majority are either Mexican immigrants or Chicanos. Most speak English fluently and a few do not. At one point during my interview with Dave, a staff member, Manuel, approached to ask him about the following day's activities. Dave told him that they would be doing renovation work on some current Habitat houses and suggested, perhaps in jest, that they fix th e roof of Manuel's house. Then he turned to me and introduced me to Manuel, aware of course that I had known Manuel nearly as long as he had: 90


D: Manuel has been here how m any yearsten years? Twelve years? M: Nine. D: Nine years. Is that at Charlee Estates? D: Right here, he lives here. Oh, Naples Manor, okay. D: He's got a nice house, they've all got nice houses, Alex's house is real nice M: [To Taylor] When I do my house, Sam (the executive director) give me the job. I tell him No, no, no. I'm helping in the hotel. D: Yeah, he worked at the Marriott inside. M: But later, about two year s later, Sam go to my house and say, Come to work for me. D: Sam recruited everybody, in fact Arnoldo the same way, right? He offered Arnoldo the job, Arnoldo said No, I have a job. And when hi s job got transferredhe was working with a surveyorthey moved his job to Sarasota, he wasn't able to go. So he went to visit Sam. M: Because before he don't have enough people to do the drywall and everything. D: Yeah, when they started they just had a very very small staff. They had Jos. Jos was the first one. Jos's been around about twelve years or so. And then you were the next longest, right? Ten years. M: Yeah. I've been working here. Rapport between homeowner and non-homeowner staff is generally solid, and while everyone is aware of the differences in class, race, and perhaps nationality, an atmosphere 91


of equality prevails. Supervisors Garry, at the Immokalee site, and Dave, at the Naples site, help to determine atmosphere. Usually homeowner staff are championed as proof of the upward mobility and reformativ e powers of Habitat partnership. The figure of a homeowner staff-member changes the work-site dynamic. In addition to their formal roles as skilled la borerssome specialize in roofing or framing, some prefer indoor workthey train and manage volunteers and homeowners (particularly now that there are no AmeriC orps volunteers on staff) and sign in homeowners and their friends and families for their sweat equity hours. They often need to translate among homeowners, volunteers, and other staffin this way, they become intermediaries between homeowners and everyo ne else on the site. For volunteers, they represent not only a source of expertise but of authority. On the other hand, they also symbolize the ideal to be pursued in for Hab itat homeowners. The few volunteers at the Collier County affiliate whom I asked about this distinct quality all appreciated it. Here George in Immokalee celebrated this aspect of the work-site: The construction staff herelots of affiliates don't have this sort of construction staff. Do you feel like that's helpful? G: Absolutely. They're kind of the glue that holds us together. They're the constant group of people that you come and see. For example Graciana here, her husband was the original site manage r for all of Immokalee when we first started coming out. And he was the only paid employee at the time. Mario. Unfortunately, he passed away with cancer. And he became family to uswe all chipped in and paid to send him down to Texas to the cancer clinic and did all sorts of things to try and help them out. But he became a very dear friend for us all and the glue that held us together. Seeing Graciana, I look forward to saying hi to her every tim e I get here, each one of the professionals who are on site. You don't like losing some 92


but on the other hand, there are better jobs and they m ight be going on to something better. As noted in the previous chapter, th e scores of long-time volunteers coming to Immokalee can enjoy a deep and rich institut ional memory. I cannot speak with as much authority for the Naples sites, since I rare ly commuted there as an AmeriCorps worker, but my understanding is that like the volunteers driving to Immokaleethere exist for work-sites in Naples devoted and cohesive volunteer groups for each day of the week (i.e., the Monday crew, the Tuesday crew, etc.). However, my interview with John and Clark at the Naples new construction site was illuminating. Do you know the staff here at Habitat pretty well at this point? C: No, the only one I know is J: Dave. We strayed from the topic for a while and eventually returned. It is pretty distinct that th ere are actual employees here. Construction staff. Do you feel like that adds a different dynamic to the setting? J: I have a hard time telling who is paid staff and who isn't. For those who were here this morning, who do you think were staff Clark, on the staff? C: Well the two guys who were doing the walls. J: They were? C: Well, I don't know if they were contracted or whether they're staff. But these two guys that did the walls they've been at every job we've been on. J: Yeah we've seen them. At other places. They definitely know what's going on. 93


C: We really don't know staff. John and Clark showed the danger of a work-s ite that lacks a volunt eer coordinator. I interpret their ignorance of who's whorecognizing faces but failing to comprehend positionsto reflect two phenomena. First, Clark and John's social insularity, since as we know, they were buddies and kept to themselves. Second, a failure of the affiliate to orient volunteers to the work-site and its member s. In contrast to fo regoing analysis, this scene illustrated a work-site thatat l east for two volunteers was not volunteercentered. Were it not for their confession, I would not have noticed this: I knew Dave and the workers and I understood Spanglis h well enough to be summoned onto the trusses to wield a pneumatic nailer as we th rust them into place. John and Clark, on the other hand, received nods of assent when they arrived and declared that they would be doing blocking, a common volunteer activity that involves fitting two-by-four blocks into the space between exterior wall studs. Few noticed them as they made their way around the skeleton of a house. Break-time during the two days of my fi eldwork in Naples included no speech or orientation. In Immokalee, by contrast, site supervisor Garry coul d often lecture to a fault, describing in depth the status of the affiliatestaff changes, finances, development plans, homeowner issues, upcoming dedi cations and ribbon-cuttings, and myriad anecdotes. Garry would then hand the floor to volunteer crew leaderssuch as Peter who often wanted to say a few things, t hough they often struggled to maintain the attention of the newly caffeinated and doughnut-stuffed crew who had already sat through Garry's sprawling spiel. During my stint as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I 94


som etimes failed to appreciate the purpose of these break-time rituals.6 Only in retrospect and during this fi eldwork have I come to unders tand the effects that such engagement can have upon the volunteers' partnership with the affiliate. Though Immokalee's sessions were perhaps exceptional, they could also be inconsistent, since they depended on Garry's presence to take place. Other staff members sometimes chimed in after Garry had begun, but if he was ab sent, they did not in itiate anything. The Sarasota and Manatee Counties' affiliates were generally much more dependable in their break-time offerings, which were directed by Al lison or Jenny (as well as the Director of Construction and sometimes a volunteer crew leader) and included a prayer. I am not certain whether Naples' break-times were usua lly idle or whether the two days of my observations were exceptions. With Collier County's structural differences in mind, perhaps it is not coincidence that I found several volunteers who expressed an interest in committing to homeowners in significant ways. I have no doubt, however, that other work sites featured similarly devoted and involved patrons. For a few construction volunteer s, the motivation to work revolved around their direct relationships with homeowners. This primary sociality often inspiredor necessitatedparticipation in other volunteer ac tivities. Allison's words may aptly introduce this next section. Do you see a lot of overlap with volunteers who like doing selection committee and mentoring and doing construction? A: Most of the people who are on our family selection and mentoring committee are not on the construction site. 6 Sometimes, when a large group of new volunteers had come, Garry chose to tell the entire story of Habitat for Humanity, from Americus onward: illumina ting for the new-comers, yawn-worthy for everyone else. 95

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There are so me. But most are not. Why do you think that is? A: It's hard to say. I take everything back to every volunteer has a different reas on for volunteering. And whatever that volunteer's r eason is for volunteering, it will manifest itself in everything they do. So if you volunteer because you truly have a passion for the ministry of the organization, and you want to do that, then you'll get involved in construction and you' ll be on the family partner committee, and you'll partner with your family, and you'll make sure that everything that they do going through the process is taken care of, and you'll go work with them on the site. We have some that do that. Majority don't. But it all goes back to: why are you volunteering? Allison posited that some volunteers truly have a passion for the ministry of Habitat and it propels them to become involved in a variety of different vol unteer activities that pull them closer to the homeowners. For some volunteers, she implied, the service becomes personal At first attracted by the mission, perhaps, they then keep coming to satisfy interpersonal ties. The bond-value of the volunteerism wins out, and true community concern arises. The Primary Sociality of Habitat: A Community of Seekers Maude stood out from all the people with whom I talked. Not only did she have close relationships with many homeowners, her construction work with Habitat for Humanity constituted one small aspect of volunteerism that entirely centered upon the homeowner-bound gift and was absorbed in the pr imary sociality. By this I mean that she was moved to serve by the sense of debt she felt to relationships, both highly intimate and symbolic/anonymous, with homeowners and their families. Fostering and advancing 96

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relationships with hom eowners proved crucial to her motivation to volunteer. She seemed to thrive upon giving, her life an ex ample of the following assertions from Godbout and Caill: Pleasure is an essential ingredie nt of the gift, especially in the current context where a num ber of acts previously seen as duties are carried out freely and where the very suggestion of sacrifice is brus hed aside by the givers, even in areas such as volunteer work, traditionally associated with the gift as a sacrifice. (1998: 184) Maude did not seem to be sacrificing anyt hing, since all of her volunteerism had become ensconced in friendships with those whom she was helping. Though she had been involved at Immokalee's Habitat work-site for many years, I had not met Maude when I worked for the affiliate. The Monday that I arrived for fieldwork, Graciana and another staff member directed me to her as an optimal respondent. Interrupting her paintwork, I spoke with Maude for nearly an hour inside a house that had only trim work left to be done White and likely in her forties, she had been a nurse in Haiti for many years and had become fluent in Creole. Since then, she had raised a family in St. Louis, Missourithough perhaps her trips back to Haiti had continued intermittently. Her husband died a few years back and so she moved to Naples to live permanently. Her volunteer activities quickly accumulated as she began her new life in Naples, as she explained to me. M: I just decided every winter or every year, I would begin a new volunteer activity and ha ve a full life. And meet people, 'cause you know I was a widow. So I actually started with ESL [English as a Second Language]. I got certified by volunteers. I star ted a class in English for Haitian people 'cause I used to live in Haiti. And I speak Creole. So I started a class w ith various other volunteers at 97

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the comm unity center downtown. So that was my first year. In Immokalee here? M: No, in Naples. I live in Pelican Bay. Well then I thought, I need one more thing. So then the next year, I started Habitat. People in our building were coming up and back then they had a mentor s program. You probably know about that. I would be assigned a family, and I always worked the day my family worked. I didn't come on Mondayslike I said, I came for my family. They always gave me Haitians because of my speaking Creole. I had a fabulous time doing that. And then the next year I added the [Nature] Conservancy. So I work at the Conservancy. And then the next year I added Young Life, a high school organization for kids, Christian group for kids. So that's my four things, and so I've just been with Habitat and I've met so many wonderful people. With the possible exception of the Nature Conservancy work, all of her activities involved the creation and management of intimate relationships. Along with nearly all of my respondents, Maude's volunteerism must be viewed in the context of her position as a white person of substantial means. I never cocked my head in confusion when Maude or other volunte ers suggested that they are giving back. This is the abstracted edge of the gift, te rritory everyone treads c onstantly without even knowing it. Just as a parent does not need to explain why she has ri sked dismissal from her job to care for an ill four-year-old ch ild, my respondents felt safely reasonable in describing their objectless gift. Giving back is a truism not so different from the refrain There's always someone in a worse situati on than you or me. These phrases imply a web of interconnected debt that is usually in one's own favor. This was certainly true for my respondents and many openly admitted to their advantaged situationif they did not 98

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describ e it explicitly, one could easily surmise the status of privilege. Habitat volunteers, particularly those who were not close to any homeowners, faced the situation which Godbout and Caill describe here: Thus most people who do volunteer work claim to have received so much from life th at it is normal that they would want to give something back. The observer who sees unilateralness in fact only sees one spatial sequence. He isolates two people who in realit y are part of a much vaster chain. We must fit every gi ft sequence into its spatiotemporal chain before making a premature judgment on unilateralness. (1998: 178) Recognizing the complexity of the indebtedne ss into which we are all tangled, in both time and space and navigating through considerat ions of class and race, can help many volunteers accept their duty to give and often inspires them to become further devoted to a cause. For Maude, the disposition toward gi ving to strangers meshed easily with and proceeded from her Christian belief. Christ ianity may have historic connections to altruism, despite the failure of nominal Chri stians to take seriou sly service-oriented scripture. Maude articulated her ow n God-centered rationale for her work. Do you feel like the Christian as pect of this is important for you? M: Very important, yeah. When I was in Haiti, I was a missionary. I am so grateful. I believe fully that God has given me everything I have, wh ether it's my home or my children or whatever. I'm not trying to do good works to win my way to heaven. I've already got that in order. [Laughter] My resources don't belong to meI feel they're God-given. And so I just depend on Him. Since she felt she already had a spot in Heav en, eternal salvation failed to motivate her. Baggett points this out in his analysis of Habitat, finding that many volunteers who 99

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professed Christian belief were quick to di spel notions that they volunteered to gain adm ission to Heaven, some repulsed by the notion (2001: 210-214). Maude's belief in a God that had given her everything may have been the spark to start the ball rolling, but more immediate networks of give and take caused her service to continue and intensify. De spite the apparent discontinua nce of mentoring programs in the Collier County affiliate which was shocking news to meshe continued her commitment to her former mentees and their fa milies, particularly with the news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti: Now do you still do any of the mentoring? M: No, because Habitat seems to have stopped thatwhere we get assigned a family and paint with them and so on. But I do work with the Haitian community. Like right now, with the earthquake, I've just been nonstop with my Haitian friends, cause so many of them. The boy who just came in here, their family only found out la st night that the family is safe in Haiti. So they've b een five days without knowing. I've just been with them all week. Visiting with my different Haitian friends. Maude's compassion for her very different friends sat atop, as one might expect, a perspective that took issue w ith worldwide injustices. Our conversation continued: For you I would presume that it's very key that you have a connection to the homeowners. Is that what you feel motivates you to be here? M: It certainly was in the be ginning. Yeah, because I got to know different homeowners. I have a photograph of my first family that I mentored, and the day they signed up, we took them to a home, a completed home, to show them what it would be like. And her eyes just got bigger and bigger and she got to the kitc hen and she went into the laundry roomI've never seen eyes so big. Her mouth was huge, her eyes were huge, and she said, For me? She just 100

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went crazy because thisa lo t of itwas beyond. So it's moments like that that just And now with all this devastation in Haiti, we have so much here that, you know, our life is amazing. And they have so little and nothing now. Half the world has nothing. We have everything. With those kinds of big pict ure thoughts, do you feel like Habitat's even doing enough? M: Well, there's an awful lot of people out there who don't have homes. So, yes, I'd love to see every one of them have a home, but you know [site supervisor Garry] explained to us this morning that with the economy [prospective homeowners] not even able to apply [to partner with Habitat for Humanity]. So I think Habitat's doing as much as they can with the resources that the prospective homeowners have. That grieves me that more of them aren't applying. And unfortunately, I have several families amongst my really close friends who are not fully legal, and of course Habitat can't do anything about it. But it just grieves me because they're good people, hard workers, they're good citizens even though they don't have a green card. And I ache for us as a whole nation to be able to do something to get those people legal faster. But that's not Habitat's fault. The intimacy she has developed with Haitian immigrants has had ramifications on not only her day-to-day commitments but on her poli tical beliefs. One's debt to the world becomes all the more obvious when we meet others; for Maude this happened during her time as a missionary nurse in th e poorest country in this hemi sphere and persisted as she has gotten caught up in friendships with ne wcomers. Reforming immigration laws inevitably takes on a personal resonance wh en we know people who would benefit from changes and whose progression in life is hi ndered when the laws remain stagnant. Maude expressed her comprehension of the limits of Habitat's ability to administer justice to families, due in part to the poor economy and to the undocumented status of many 101

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prospective applic ants. The heavy reality of Haiti's hardship noticeably tainted her outward happiness amid the busy cheerful wo rk-site. Her clothes already splattered white with paint, she managed a light tone as she spoke but was obviously affected by the earthquake. When the son of the future ow ner of the home in which we stood came in to peruse progress, she alone could speak in his mother tongue. She was quick to emphasize the Haitian's gr acious culture: They're very grateful people, appreciate everything. And they give so much to everybodyamongst themselvesgive, give, give. Did this serve to justify her own service? Was she attempting to prove to me that she was not getting exploited, as Benjamin from the Sarasota site worried? Her choice to descri be an innate Haitian orientation toward givingat least among other Haitiansparalleled a point Bornstein makes in her ethnography of the Zimbabwean Christia n NGOs. An illuminating quote from her fieldwork will prove fruitful for our own efforts to comprehend Maude's assessment of Haitian culture. I asked if she [her responde nt, a Zimbabwean employee of the NGO] thought there was an African ideal of giving, and she did, although it differed from the Western model of anonymous giving: You know in the African s ituation, if someone dies, people give money toward the burial. If people get married, people give money toward the wedding. I don't think it is in our cult ure to give. What is the difference between giving and helping? Giving is in the sense of really go ing out of your way to do something for someone. Helping, I think Africans do help. I think we want to help each other, and we do our best to help. We are willing to help. African people are very he lpful, very generous to visitors. If you visit an African home, it is insulting to ask you if you want something to drink or eat. 102

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W e assume that as a visitor we give you a meal, a drink. From that point of view, we are very good at that. But when it goes beyondlike sponsoring a child. Or, I don't know Good Works; it is a different story. On a family or an interpersonal level, you can't beat us. (2005: 91) Bornstein's respondent delineated two sorts of gifts, giving (giving to strangers) and helping (giving to friends and kin), and point ed out that the latter is a strength among native Zimbabweans. This observation correlates with Maude's, who celebrated Haitians' generosity within the Haitian community, discreetly implying th at Haitians are less apt to be charitable to outsiders. Most importantly the modern gift and its proclivity for anonymity has developed in the places we a ssociate with modernitythe United States, Western Europe, and worldwide cities to va rying degrees. Godbout and Caill address this in depth as they update the study of the archaic gift initiated by Mauss. They point out that the modern gift is mostly a story of the rise of the market and the state and the resultant displacement of the gift to new realms. The gift readily mixes with the market and will partially follow a profit-centered logic. As countries rife with poverty, Zimbabwe and Haiti face barriers to participatio n in the modern gifts: a lack of wealth to share, new professional positions in addition to traditional responsibilities, and perhaps a culture that does not efficiently align to th e contemporary, market-oriented norms. These are essentially the reasons laid out by Benjamin in forgiving the homeowner Sarah for her inability to give back. Thus for Zimbabw eans, and perhaps Haitians, whose lives retain familial and community ties which have not eroded to the degree found in the West, the modern stranger-bound gift often defies bot h ability and logic. Maude may have emphasized the Haitian propensity to help, as the Zimbabwean respondent put it, to 103

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ensure m e and herself that Haitians passiona tely recognize gifts and debts. If this recognition does not occur consistently with st rangers or in systems of charity, they do not miss a chance to reciprocate within their more immediate social circles. There is much reason to believe that many homeownersfollowing the completion of their sweat equity hourswoul d become more deeply involved in the affiliate if they felt better included. Tran sitioning from helping to giving would likely be easier if the institution valued th em as highly as the volunteers. Cultural explanations for non-altruistic behavior are not tenable when poverty and racism persists, and when these populations are noted as hi ghly giving within home communities. We cannot underestimate the barricade that homeo wners-turned-volunteers face when they consider the cohort of different and uninviti ng fellow volunteers who will be prone to moralizing them. Maude had an interestin g reaction when I asked her what she felt of her uniqueness among volunteers: Does it aggravate you sometim es that other volunteers don't seem to have a connection with homeowners or don't even necessarily want to? M: It doesn't aggravate me. I feel sorry for them, because they're missing out. [Laughter] It doesn't aggravate me, because we all are in a different spot. I feel sad for people that don't have any volunteer commitments of any kind. Because lifefor me, life would be meaningless. Maybe it isn't for them. So I can't judge. What I find most noteworthy about her respon se was the term volunteer commitments, with which she replaced my connection with homeowners. Her volunteerism cannot escape the immediacy of primary sociality, nor does it seem that she would want it to. At 104

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the sam e time, despite how enthralled Maude was by her friendships, these worked in concert with her impulse toward a diffused gifta motivation that operates away from the intimate bonds that compel her to g ive back and seek justice for Haitian immigrants. George who I also met the Immokalee work-site and introduced earlier, will provides further reflection upon this homeow ner-volunteer connection. His volunteerism motivations differed from Maude's in its abse nce of Christian roots, which he told me explicitly before we move d on to these topics. G: There's a camaraderie that attracts you as well as giving people a helping hand. I know I lived in a set of rented houses and apartments all the time I was growing upI would have loved to have had a room of my own and a house for my family. We weren't fortunate enough to be able to do that and if we can spare some people from having to go through that same situation that I did of years of not having anything you could hold onto, it's worth the time we put in. So then it's really your own personal experience that inspires you to do this? G: Initially, and then once you get started with it it's a combination of seeing what you're doing for peopleand especially the kidsand then th e camaraderie of the group. George articulated various reasons for serv ing with Habitat for Humanity: camaraderie, life improvements for homeowners and their kids, and his own sympathy for those who are financially confined to tenant housing. He said this third reason, sympathy for the dire straits homeowners face, was the spar k to action. Maude's instigating reason to volunteer at Habitat, by contrast, was the development and continua tion of friendships with homeowners. Maude likely would have said that her devotion to God came before 105

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this, however In this sense, we can see how George's sympathy and Maude's Christianity functioned in a parallel way. George linke d this to his relati ons with homeowners: Have you gotten to know any homeowners? Or met any? G: A few of them, and we've been to a number of dedications. And it's nice to see their traditions come out. They're from different parts of the world and have very different traditions than we do. It's delightful to see them bring those traditions out at the housewarming and so on. They're very generouswant you to come into their home and eat their food and so on. Then how important is it for you to have those points of exchange either on the work-site when they're doing their sweat equity hours or at the de dication? Is that important for you to keep going? G: It is. And it's probably more important to talk to those putting in the sweat equity. Because you can get a sense of where they're coming from and what they hopefully are going to. Whereas the families who are already in a homeit's amazing how quickly they adapt and how if they have value changes, you know very quickly. Whereas the aspirant is looking for a home, is full of hope and vision and that sort of thing. So that's what you really like to capture. George pointed out dedications as his prime chance to see homeowners. He discussed his appreciation of witnessing them proudly disp laying their culture during this time, and he was quick to point out their generosityreciproca tion proving their cooperation in the gift. One can presume that George would have been less apt to celeb rate their traditions had they exhibited them while be ing unappreciative or inhospitable. He readily affirmed his need to know homeowners on a personal level, particularly those still working their way to homeownership. He called the prospective owner an aspirant, who is f ull of hope and vision. These qualities seemed to be most 106

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im portant to George because of their useful ness to inspiration. While he may have simply been following my lead given in the format of the question, which asked what he needed to keep going, his choice to res pond with a consistent focusthroughout our conversationon the volunteers' motivation differed noticeably from Maude's. Her answers were those of a pa ssionate and indignant friend what injustice! ; George's retain the shadows of giver and taker in their hints of paternalism. This orientation towards homeowner reformation spiked ag ain later on in the conversation. G: I think the one thing I would like to see happen with those permanent staff is that they require that any conversation that takes place on the job, take place in English and not in their nativ e language. For two reasons: one is I think that if they aspi re to better jobs in the future, language skills are extremely important. They don't develop those if they keep re verting back to their native language when they talk about construction features and things. The second thing is, from the standpoint of volunteers, we stand back and li sten to the conversation and have no ability to relate to it or understand what's going on, or contributing. So I'd like to see Habitat with a rule that says: Bring on permanent staff, you speak English only on the job. And that'll force them to get better at the English language that will help them get jobs, you know downstream. Otherwise, do you appreciate that the staff here, besides Garry, are all homeowners? Do you like that? G: Yes. They have a sense of community. But just with that qualifier that if they're here, they should be speaking English? G: When they're on the job. I really do believe that if you look at the history of immigrants coming to the U.S., those that learned the English language quickest seemed to prosper and get better jobs. It's easier to accept somebody if they can speak the language. You have a greater 107

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understanding of what they know and can do. So I think they do them selves harm if they don't hone those skills, and here's an opportunity to hone and it's being lost. But anyway they're all great workers. They all seem like clean living people and become friends to us all. The Spanish-speaking bothered George and he offered both a volunteer-specific and a homeowner-specific reason for why regulat ing the work-site patois would be advantageous. I heard many volunteers during my AmeriCorps hint at this desire for an English-only site, usually by griping about the nonsensical Spanish banter they were hearing; George was the first to infuse the complaint with such clarity and rationality. He provided a volunteer-based reasonthat nonEnglish makes volunteers feel uninformed and useless, and a staff-based reasonthat sp eaking Spanish or Creole will addle brains and dim futures. Both reasons have merit, no doubt, but George's suggestion of work-site reform is significant because it would primarily affect paid staff. The volunteer-based reason assumes that the volunteer experience should be prioritized over the staff's experience. It could be argued, however, that staff retains level footing due to George's staff-based reason. But the staff-based reas on implies that these Habitat homeowners, despite finishing their sweat equity hours many years ago, can and should be subject to the Habitat edification process. If the c onstruction staff was composed of Spanish and Creole speakers who were not Habitat homeown ers, would George keep his sentiment? The staff's identity as homeowners seems to allow the volunteers' right to commentary about homeowner dos and donts, noted earlier, to persist into thei r transition to paid employees. As discussed earlier, these homeo wner-staff occupy a distinct intermediary role. When emphasizing the homeowner aspect of their identity, they resume their place 108

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as a tar get of reformation and the staf f-based reason makes better sense. When emphasizing the contracted staff aspect of thei r identity with their on-again-off-again role as volunteer coordinators, the volun teer-based reason holds water. George's argument fashions a slippery sl ope, one that U.S. citizens and politicians alike navigate with difficulty. Interestingl y, it seems to matterat least to mewhether he is close to any of the homeowners and if he is attempting to learn Spanish or Creole. Could George's most convincing argument for an English-regulated work-site come from his efforts to learn the languages which he re quests that his work-site supervisors cease speaking? Or, more fundamentally, proof that he likes and knows the Habitat homeowners well? After all, if their very different traditi ons actually delight him as he said, one might assume that he would eagerly train himself to comprehend their languages. This approach has its own claim to efficacy: noting such efforts made by Habitat benefactors, obligations, rather than constraints, would compel staff to master English. Godbout and Caill will clar ify the difference between the two: We use the terms obligation and constraint to distinguish between a mora l obligation, whose extreme manifestation is an obligation arising from love, and constraint, which comes from th e outside and at its extreme is embodied in physical force. (1998: 151) Relationships will create obligations, but George suggested the use of constraint through work-site employee policy to regulate speec h. George's staff-constraining rationales sought two aims: to allow staff to become mo re marketable people by growing proficient in the English language and to enable voluntee rs to feel more useful on the work-site by 109

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forcing their construction bosses to speak English.7 By contrast, staff-obligating actionswherein relationships would result in mutual language practicewould attend an altogether different rationale. These efforts would champion the partnership and community-building missions of Habitat. To the extent that I am not alone in this reaction, this may be the most important conclusion from our analysis of Geor ge's commentary. This is the politics of the playground, my phrase from the introduction. We can compare George's opinion about work-site language with Maude's hope that im migration laws will shift to allow more Haitians to become citizens. Perhaps they would both agree with each others' statements, but their choices to tell me what they did tell me revealed different priorities. They both took seriously Habitat's charge to build hous es for those in need. But it seemed Maude was more concerned about nurturing Haitian friends than about the fruitson-site or offthat could come with further homeowner or staff assimilation. George, also one of the most homeowner-oriented c onstruction volunteers I met, foresaw the advantages of external constraints upon the spoken language of homeowner-staff. Foregoing analysis suggests that perhaps close relationshipsand their effectscould have made such constraint obsolete. If the work-site adopt ed the system of reciprocation natural to friendships, as Maude has apparently done to some extent, such issues of language would be shared by all participan ts. Maude and any other vol unteers who chose to mentor 7 Undoubtedly, staff will use English when speaking dir ectly to any volunteers, regardless of how poor his or her English is. Thus, George's urging applied primarily to scenarios of inter-staff conversation discussions for which George and others wished inclus ion. The unfortunate reality which I witnessed every day when I worked in Immokalee years ago was that su ch inclusion generally decreased the efficiency of the work-site. Nonetheless, for our work-site prio rities, the volunteers' experience usually trumped construction productivity. 110

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fa milies made the decision to forfeit some anonymity for a bit of community. Though they may not completely cancel each other out, community cannot thrive in an arena of anonymity. 111

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CONCLUSION PROSPECTS FOR COMMUNITY I began this thesis by offering a vigne tte of an average day-on-the-job for a Habitat volunteer. My incredulous tone What could impel someone of privilege in this age of convenience and comfort to go through such a physical mess, week after week? reflected the lack of obvious self-interest this activity displays. I then surveyed perspectives from dozens of volunteers, who of fered an impressive variety of responses. To comprehend this diversity I utilized several social psychological volunteerism rationales to categorize them, eventually narrowing in upon membership in a social group and community concern. For these final two, I employed the theory of the gift, which evaluates social exchange as the manifestation of relationships and their cycles of alternating debt, an imbalance that is felt rather than calculated. This theory is relevant to Habitat volunteers because the majo rity told me that they are giving to someone or something through their service. Furthermore, Habitat for Humanity claims that they are a community-oriented organi zation whose homeowners and volunteers are both Habitat partners. The first chapter relayed the reality of Habitat for Humanity, whichin contrast to the idea lsupports a deeply persiste nt power dynamic between the voluntary and non-voluntary groups pa rticipating in the process. The second chapter assesse d the volunteers' various non-social reasons for serving, then honed in upon volunteers who th rive upon particular relationships. The chapter concluded that most volunteers thri ve upon camaraderie with other volunteers, 112

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and rarely desire or seek that sam e sort of intimacy with homeowners. Rather, these relationships exhibit an ideal of anonymity to which the Habitat affiliates largely cater. Interactions, which are generally tenuous and superficialwhether on the work-site or at dedicationsseem designed for the dual purpos es of motivating volunteers and obliging homeowners to demonstrate appreciation. Where the relationships are generally vacant of intimacy, they are imbued with expectations and often paternalism from the volunteer side. The third chapter reevalua ted this homeowner-voluntee r dynamic, more directly applying the gift's value-type of the creation of social ties. This chapter began by comparing the experiences at the three affiliates from the vantage point of coordinating staff. I noted the contrast between the Sarasota and Manatee's affiliates and the Collier county affiliate, which employed current homeo wners as construction staff. From this difference derived interesting effects on volunteers' preconceptions about homeowners. The chapter continued by appraising res pondents whose actions and answers suggested that they felt some level of community c oncern for the homeowners. They revealed friendships with the beneficiaries, and in that sense were more obviously also beneficiaries in terms of a symbolic gift exchange. I analyzed in some detail the implications this has on the power dynamic between the two groups. After introducing the distinction between obligati on and constraint, I made the tentative conclusion that as relationships become less anonymous, homeowne rs will no longer seem like people to be constrained. Rather than believing that Habitat should enfo rce behaviors and activities for homeowners, the volunteers will more likel y expect homeowners to feel obligated to 113

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reform and give back out of a sense of duty to new relationships. This conclusion aims to bring forward the implications I believe th is finding has for Habitat for Humanity as a non-profit organization. At this point, readers might be wondering why I chose to interview construction volunteers rather than mentors or volunteers fo r the family selection committees. If I am so interested in relationshi ps between homeowners and volunteers, why did I choose the voluntary act within Habitat that can be mo st removed from the homeowners? I can defend the decision. First of all, Habitat is known for its construction volunteers. Everyone envisions hammer-swinging citi zens; it is a novelty too good to go unscrutinized. Second, there are far fewer volunteers taking part in the mentoring and selection committeeand Collier County's affiliate may have discontinued the mentoring programmaking my respondent pool too sm all. Third, construction volunteers effectively demonstrate modern trends of the stranger-bound gift, but they have also provided notable exceptions. The ideal of anonymity between homeown ers and volunteers that respondents have articulated and implied has provided a fasc inating tension to explore. Readers have likely gathered that I have a fondnessgoodnatured and probably navefor strong bonds between homeowners and volunteers. These bonds engross me because I weigh the people-mixing prospects of Habitat for Hu manity quite heavily. While these thoughts began during my AmeriCorps year, this proj ect has convinced me that the housebuilding project of Habitat for Humanity should be secondary to th e potential for the transcendence of class and racial divides. I do not mean to downplay the seriousness of 114

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hom elessness and substandard housing here and abroad, but I do not see in Habitat for Humanityas affiliates currently operatea viable solution to the problem, despite their insistence that they will manage to eventual ly eradicate substandard housing from the face of the Earth. I base this opinion pa rtially upon my rejection of single-tract, suburban-style development as a realistically sustainable option for long-term, big-picture aims of housing provision. Moreover, this m odern development style parallels the deeply entrenched misdirection of Habitat. To put it simply, Habitat for Humanity has gone astray by divesting itself of co mmunity. Fearful of challeng ing the separate spheres of homeowners and volunteers, affiliates must rise above this obstacle and expect far more of its volunteers. Discussing the loose empo werment volunteers easily venture, Baggett explains that volunteers remain stubbornly atomized: Unlike the homeowners, empowerment for the largely middle-class volunteers is not generally conceived of as requiring such a thoroughgoing pe rsonal change. Instead, it assumes a much more modest guise. The empowered volunteer is understood not necessarily as someone who does remarkable things but rather as a person who does at least something. The individualism symbolized by the notion of the American Dream is seen as so pervasive that many people cannot see through it to discern their connectedness to their fellow citizens. (2001: 111) The roots of Habitat for Humanity are all a bout this connectedness among citizens. The non-profit was inspired by Clarence Jordan's Koinonia Farm, a radical, racially diverse community where participants worked in tr ue partnership and th e distinction between giver and taker blurred. The s ituation that Koinonia Farm faced in Georgiawhere they partnered with the farm-working black popul ation oppressed by a region prone to Ku Klux Klan supportis frightfully similar to contemporary situations all over the United 115

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S tates. Residential composition within rural, urban, and suburban regions is split sharply by income levels, and correlations with race continue unabated. Contemporary Habitat volunteers lack the devotion of earlier efforts primarily because affiliates set the bar for their commitment so low. If affiliates do recognize the value of homeowner-volunteer friendships, since these volunteers become so devoted to the cause, why not provide more chances for these groups to socialize? Furt hermore, pools of volunteers are large enough for most affiliates that affiliates could make mandatory certain levels of commitment for volunteers and even exclude prospective volunteers who are not interested in such involvement. Affiliates can find opportunities for other volunteer activities: for example, they could construct commun ity centers in Habitat nei ghborhoods and allow volunteers, in partnership with homeowners, to forge daily and weekly activities, such as after-school tutoring. Some volunteerseven in today's re latively tame affiliatesdoubtlessly get tangled in the web of intimacy enough to consider living in or near a Habitat neighborhood. Affiliates could make this an option for volunteers. (Again, I am biased since this is exactly what my AmeriCorps pos ition forced me to do. I believe it has made me a giving person and I am always recommending similar experiences for others!) Cross-pollinating the housebuild ing project with other undertakings, such as farming and small businesses, could capita lize upon the skill-sets homeo wners and volunteers have when entering the affiliate. Not to editorialize with my personal vi sion, but I think lubricating imaginations will help reconnect this to the volunteerism as the gift. Voluntary service depends on some degree of inequality, as my respondent s aptly expressed. Thus, the new question 116

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asks how voluntee rs will relate to this inequality, both economic and symbolic. All volunteers hoped that their ef forts would somehow assist homeowners, and a few went further to say that they hope d that Habitat could reform th em somehow. Only a handful, however, declared a desire to transcend the differences between themselves and the homeowners altogether. In other words, most volunteers gave at a distance. This allowed them to remain anonymous and the homeowne rs to retain an otherness. Some volunteers even seemed to depend upon this otherness, an exotic sheen imbued with preconceptions and reformative potential, to pursue their work. The suggestion of friendship with homeowners seemed to thes e folks either laughable or frightful. Friendship has a leveling effect, since it admits that both parties desire the affection of the other. Actively building intimacy with future homeowners dissolves the boundary between the two spheres. It might elucidate the difference betw een these perspectives to compare the tension to a trite saying with in the non-profit world, Habi tat for Humanity included: Give a man a fish and you've fed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you've fed him for a lifetime. This phrase, in all its ethical romanticism, is either dated or disappointingly conservative. The fact that no one in the developed world fishes for themselves anymore is actually a significan t issue, since the society upon which it is commenting no longer exists. Taken literally this phrase would suggest that someone needs to tell impoverished people how to find fish at the grocery store.8 A more nuanced, modernized interpretationtha t charity should allow people to help themselvesshould 8 Add to this the painful irony that the people receivi ng much of the world's m onetary aid probably know how to catch fish far better than the bureaucrats allotting funds. 117

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look fam iliar as the hope typified by fiscal conservatism. Assessing the fish adage through the lens of the gift attributes value to the creation of social ties. Simply giving a fish rates weakly, then, not because it leaves the recipient ignorant of self-betterment but because it involves such little meaningful interaction between giver and taker. Teachi ng someone how to fish rates higher since it will presumably necessitate more socializing. Beyond that, it is crucial to consider: what is the dynamic between teacher and learner? As this thes is has hopefully demonstrated, rich variance exists between the teachers of fishing. The efficacy of the charitable efforts supposed by the modern mindset comes through the conversion of all people into economically contributing and efficient beings. The gift is not anti-economic; rather it reaches underneath capitalism for the ignored inter-personal fruits. As Godbout and Caill elaborate on this revelation: [D]oing away with the gift is modernity's utopia, a pervasive illusion dear to the modern mind. What characterizes modernity is not so much the negation of ties (an extreme position held by few people, even among economists) as the constant te mptation to reduce them, in practice, to mercantile status, or to think of ties and the market as isolated from each other, two discrete worlds where the first, if in contact with second, is bound to be tainted by it and, in the long run, subordinated to it. We cannot bring ourselves to think of them together. That leaves the impression that the world is divided in two: on one side science, production, businessreal and serious matters ruled by utilitarianis m; on the other poetrysong, art, religion, love, frie ndshipmatters governed by feelings. (1998: 162) The camaraderie and teamwork I witnesse d among Habitat for Humanity volunteers certainly bridged to some degree this divide they describe at the end of this passage. But 118

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rarely did this bridging occu r between hom eowners and volun teersindeed, the structure of Habitat made this difficult. When an affiliate increases its yearly output of housebuilding into the hundreds, as the Collie r County affiliate has (at least before the recession), it seems remarkably un-revolutionary Just the bustling business of affordable housing provision. Why do these houses need to be built by volunteers at all? Deeply happy people have an incredible potential to give. Unlike the market, where one's investment is limited by one's startup capital, the gift functions in a realm of give and take limited only by feelings of re spect and exploitation. And, strangely, it seems that the more one invests in the syst em of the gift, the less these feelings of respect and exploitation seem capable of restraining givers. As Godbout and Caill concisely write: Generosity gives rise to gr atitude (219). One's disposition to life proves pivotal in defining the willingness to volunteer. Those who exchange goods, services, time, and energy for the resultant rappo rt and friendship engender a gift system. 119

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LIST OF REFERENCES Baggett, Jerome P. 2001 Habitat for Humanity: Building Privat e Homes, Building Public Religion Temple University Press, Philadelphia. Bornstein, Erica 2005 The Spirit of Development Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. Eagleton, Terry 2003 After Theory Basic Books, New York. Fuller, Millard and Linda 1990 The Excitement is Building Word Publishing, Dallas. Godbout, Jacques T. and Alain Caill 1998 The World of the Gift McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal. Habitat for Humanity International 2009 About Us []: accessed December, 2009 Habitat for Humanity of Collier County 2009 About Us. []: accessed December, 2009 Habitat for Humanity of Manatee County 2009 About. [ site/]: accessed December, 2009 Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County 2009 About Us. []: accessed December, 2009 Habitat for Humanity of Sarasota County 2009 About Us. []: accessed December, 2009 Rohe, William M., and Harry L. Watson (eds.) 2007 Chasing the American Dream: New Perspectives on Affordable Homeownership Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. Snyder, Mark, Allen M. Omoto, and James J. Lindsay 2004 Sacrificing Time and Effort for the G ood of Others: The Benefits and Costs of 120

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121 Volunteerism. In The Social Psychology of Good and Evil (Arthur G. Miller, ed.): 444-68. Guilford Press, New York. Tocqueville, Alexis de 2006 [orig. 1848] Democracy in America (J. P. Mayer, ed.). HarperCollins, New York. Will, George F. 2009 The Gift of Not Giving: Solid Proof that Uncle Ralph Wasted His Money. Washington Post (online) Nov. 26.