What should I expect when I volunteer on the construction site?

Our fall 2016 intern, Sam, made this video so new volunteers can see how much fun it is to be on site.

Who volunteers for Habitat?
People of all ages — business people, craftspeople, lawyers, architects, accountants, plumbers, carpenters, college students, exchange students, vacationers, faith communities, service groups, retirees — in other words, a cross-section of the population. Retirees are a special resource and often work during the week or parts of the year, depending on their schedules. We also recruit skilled volunteers to be team leaders and supervisors. Volunteers are needed for construction and also for non-construction work.

Women Build Week May 2016
Women Build Week May 2016

Do I need to be skilled?
No, you do not need to be skilled – just willing to learn! Our team leaders and site supervisors will give you instruction on the job. You may wish to look at Habitat for Humanity University’s online Residential Construction Basics. Additionally, we sometimes partner with Lowe’s of Hadley to hold skills clinics.

What if I am a community service volunteer?
All court-ordered volunteers must fill out and turn in our Community Hours sheet, and read our Community Service Policy.  Please contact our office to discuss your situation before you sign up.

What is my time commitment if I want to build?
You must commit to a whole day (from 9am-4pm on Saturday and 12-4pm on Sunday).  If you know you can only commit to 4 hours, please register for a Sunday work party.

What kind of job will I be doing?
It depends on your skills, where we are in the project, and the weather.

volunteer up logo

How do I sign up to volunteer?
After you have completed an orientation, you can sign up for any open slots using VolunteerUP.

Do any groups or individuals have priority as volunteers?
Yes, Habitat families working on their sweat equity are always accommodated at the site. Also groups from organizations which fund or sponsor a house are given priority.

How do I schedule a group team build?
Do so as far in advance as possible.  During certain seasons, there is a high demand for weekend dates. Weather and the schedules of skilled professionals may delay or alter the proposed schedule, so volunteers need to be flexible.  Please contact the office to schedule a group team build day.

How many can be in a group?
To ensure that our sites do not become overcrowded, GROUPS ARE ASKED TO SIGN UP WITH NO MORE THAN 8 MEMBERS. This includes adults for youth groups. Groups that wish to bring more people must check with the PVHH office first.

How can youth groups be involved?

7-16-11 Birthday party 034

We welcome youth groups who are prepared to work hard and learn. We require adequate adult supervision (21+, around 3 or 4 youths per adult) while the group is on site.  We encourage youth to work on Sundays – this is a shorter day (12-4pm).  Please note: our insurance policy requires youth to be at least 16 years of age to be on an active construction site. 14-15 year olds can sometimes participate in on site work when the house is nearing completion and we need help with painting or landscaping.  This age group should expect to perform light duties. Youth aged 16 and 17 can perform general construction, but not use cutting power tools or be on roofs. Other volunteer opportunities offsite are available for young people ages 5-15. All youth (under 18) must bring a waiver signed by their parents or legal guardians, and all youth under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. If you are the leader of a group of young people (ages 14 through 17) coming to a Habitat site, please read the statement of expectations for these groups.

Am I insured when I’m on the site?
Habitat requests that all volunteers come to the site with their own health insurance. Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity carries limited insurance coverage for on-site volunteers. You must sign in daily to be covered, however. It is your responsibility and that of the construction supervisor to make sure you sign in as soon as you arrive at the site.

Will I be safe on site?
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. We all need to be safety-conscious and follow the supervisor’s directions. We provide appropriate safety equipment and will ask anyone behaving in an unsafe manner to leave the work site. We maintain a drug-free work site. You will not be asked to do what is inherently unsafe or what you feel uncomfortable doing. 

How do I do the online safety training?
At your orientation you were told to do an online safety training.  NOW is a great time to do this quick training!  Click this link and enter employee access code W8NAEBTG (this is the code for all Habitat volunteers), then click submit.  There are a bunch of great safety training videos on this site, we require “Volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity Job Site” and encourage you to complete as many of the recommended courses as you can.

Can I bring my child?
Children under 16 are not permitted on the site during construction. One member of a group, however, may elect to provide child care offsite for other members of a group. All youth must have a waiver signed by parents and have a responsible adult present.

What clothes should I wear?

5-7-11 Women Build (16)

Please wear sensible clothing and footwear. Be sure to bring work gloves. We will supply hard hats where needed. Regardless of the season, you may be working outside, so please dress appropriately. Boots and warm, layered clothes are recommended in the winter. Shorts and tennis shoes are usually acceptable in the summer.

What about food, comfort stations and tools?
Unless advised otherwise, please bring your own food and drink; groups sometimes cater their own lunch. There is an on-site lavatory. Feel free to bring your own tool belt or simple hand tools. Do not bring power tools. Habitat always has tools for volunteers’ use. 

Why are work dates cancelled?
Extreme cold or heat may cause us to cancel a work day. Also, unforeseen circumstances may come up in the construction process which are beyond our control (not getting a permit on time, a contractor may be delayed in the work they’re doing).  We do our best to anticipate potential problems like this and to give volunteers ample warning of cancellations.  However there are times when we must cancel a work day at short notice and we apologize for this.

How can I get publicity for my group?
You may take photographs at the site. Feel free to wear promotional clothing or bring a banner publicizing your group. 

What other volunteer opportunities are available besides building?

  • Data entry
  • Help in the office
  • Work on fundraisers
  • Help at events
  • Help with families
  • Recruit other volunteers
  • Work with faith communities
  • Other off-site projects

Call (413) 586-5430 for more information about how YOU can help Pioneer Valley Habitat as a volunteer. New volunteers must attend a Volunteer Orientation Session. These are held on the on the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm and the third Saturday at 9am. Please register on VolunteerUP to reserve your spot.