The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

Not a typical day at the office

Blue jeans, a T-shirt, heavy shoes and a sack lunch. Not exactly how a county supervisor prepares for a work day.

But that was how I greeted other volunteers recently in Escondido, where I joined a work crew on a San Diego Habitat for Humanity construction site.

Instead of holding a pen or a gavel, I held a paint brush and a screw gun. Instead of making policy, I helped make houses that working families and military veterans can call their own.

Some of my staff members took vacation days to join me on the North Elm Street project.

More help came from the Escondido Chamber of Commerce volunteers and CEO Rorie Johnston.

Also present was Escondido’s former mayor, Lori Pfeiler, who now serves as executive director of Habitat’s local chapter.

Months earlier, Lori and I met on the site during groundbreaking ceremonies.

I have always been impressed with Habitat for Humanity and its goal for every man, woman and child to live in dignity and safety.

A safety briefing is how the volunteer corps started its day.

Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable doing, a professional contractor and team leader told us. We don’t want any injuries.

That was good to hear!

Soon I found myself on a ladder. I tacked rolls of insulation between studs and ceiling joists. I screwed air vents onto the exterior of the structure. I brushed white paint onto the columns and trim of a front porch.

During portions of my shift, I was paired with a professional contractor.

We chattered and enjoyed the camaraderie.

He told me how important it was to measure twice and cut once. He then cut a strip of insulation two inches too short.

That became one of many running jokes that carried us through our shift. Safe, secure housing, by contrast, is no joke. Neither is affordability.

Habitat takes those issues very seriously.

The organization’s national Home Builder’s Blitz has built 1,000 affordable homes in 150 communities throughout the nation since 2006.

The homes go up quickly because Habitat is so good at enlisting professionals and volunteers. On some projects, crews work through the night and build houses from start to finish in a matter of days.

The Elm Street project includes nine duplexes and a single-family home.

Busily buzzing around these places were members of my staff.

There’s Tighe, working a circular saw. (Did he measure twice?)

And there’s Anne-Marie with a caulking gun. I can always count on her to do a good job.

Diane is handy with that paint brush, but that’s true of most Navy veterans.

Instead of simply pushing papers, all of us worked with our hands and have something to show for it. We shared a great feeling of accomplishment and I look forward to sharing that feeling again soon.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.