By Gregory Ripps, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade writer-editorFebruary 26, 2013
While the Department of Defense may be making serious spending cuts, Soldiers and civilians of the 401st Military Intelligence Company are making it clear they are not cutting back on their community service.
Nineteen volunteers from the company, a subordinate unit of the 470th MI Brigade on Fort Sam Houston, went out on their own time Feb. 21 to help Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio to work on houses in a subdivision of the Morning Star Terrace neighborhood.
Habitat for Humanity builds "simple, decent and affordable" houses using donated materials and voluntary labor and sells them to qualifying families at no profit. The area on which the new houses are being built in this Westside San Antonio subdivision had previously been occupied by dilapidated office buildings.
The 401st's volunteers received the task of finishing roofs on three houses, trying their hands at placing, cutting and nailing shingles, caulking and a variety of finishing touches.
Louis Lopez, a Habitat for Humanity house leader, explained that the roofs were a priority because the weatherman had forecasted rain.
"We divided the volunteers into three groups with a sub-house leader in charge for each," Lopez said. "We try to follow a schedule, but sometimes the weather won't cooperate or we don't have enough volunteers. We put volunteers to work wherever they are needed."
Capt. Don Sheppard, company commander, noted that, even though his unit's volunteers started their job at the top of the houses, the initiative for the event started at the bottom of the organization.
"It was entirely Soldier-driven," Sheppard said, adding that he and the company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Carlton Green, simply supported the effort.
Sgt. Courtney Jennings started coordinating the volunteer day back in January but credited Staff Sgt. Mark Howell with coming up with the idea.
"He said he liked doing volunteer work when he was in another unit and suggested we try it," Jennings said. "We've adopted families at Christmas, but nothing like this."
Because she once helped her family paint and put roofing on their home, Jennings probably had as much experience working on a house as any of the volunteers.
"It means a lot to be able to help somebody," Jennings said. "And with everyone here, it's been a lot of fun."