Helping Hands
Pvt. Juan Rodriguez and Pfc. Roderick Harvey, Company I, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, work to clear debris from a Habitat for Humanity project Saturday in Petersburg, Va.

Fort Lee, Va. (Dec. 11, 2008) -- Advanced individual training Soldiers braved cold temperatures on a cloudy Saturday morning to volunteer in a community they had only seen passing through the Fort Lee gates.

In the spirit of the Army Community Covenant, the Company I Soldiers attached with the 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, offered their free time away from the training environment to support the Tri-Cities Habitat for Humanity.

Although the Soldiers arrived on post only a few weeks ago for advanced individual training, they were ready to help make the dream of owning a home a reality for two families in need of housing.

This volunteer effort is the brainchild of Staff Sgt. William Smith, Co. I platoon sergeant, who recommended a community project for the AIT Soldiers. While stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., Smith volunteered with his colleagues at a local HFH affiliate before moving to Fort Lee. He chose to dedicate his time to this organization because, as a child, his family found themselves in the same situation as many HFH applicants, living in substandard homes or homeless.

"I learned at a young age about Habitat for Humanity," Smith said. "My family almost received a HFH home but it was given to another family with a greater need."

Capt. Shawn ChuQuinn, Co. I commander, supported the idea and included it as part of the company's community service projects for fiscal year 2009.

"We support Habitat for Humanity because of its ministry mission, which is to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness worldwide," ChuQuinn said. "The American family's dream is to own a home, and it is great when we can be a part of making someone's dream come true."

Since September, Soldiers from the company have spent one Saturday a month helping with two home projects and the setup of a retail outlet where quality surplus and used building materials donated from building supply stores, contractors, demolition crews and individuals are sold. Proceeds from the ReStore help fund the construction of more homes and helps the environment by recycling items that may otherwise have been sent to the landfill.

For many Soldiers, volunteering is something they wanted to do, as opposed to being directed by their command. They seized the opportunity when their platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Love, asked who would like to spend a few hours helping in the community. The response was overwhelming.

"They love coming out here," Love said. "Each time we come we bring about 10 to 15 Soldiers, depending on the project schedule. We have to turn Soldiers away, otherwise the whole company would volunteer. We can only bring so many each time."

For two Soldiers, this was more than a routine volunteer project. Pfc. Roderick Harvey, a native of Jamaica, finally did something he wanted to do since arriving in the United States.

"Since I arrived here from Jamaica three years ago, I have been asking about where I could volunteer," said Harvey. "I have always wanted to help those who need it. This was the perfect opportunity."

Pvt. Juan Rodriguez volunteered for HFH in his hometown of Yuma, Ariz. before enlisting.

"I think this is great, helping out the community," Rodriguez said. "When I was young, we needed help from the government. So for me, this is paying back for what my family and I received."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16