During fall semester 2023, I worked with Pickens County Habitat for Humanity as a Pearce Center intern along with Kathryn Atkinson and McKenna Miller. Our team grew in countless ways throughout the semester as we learned about Habitat, learned to work together, and learned to serve a client. Our key projects were PCHFH monthly newsletter, the Homecoming Build Instagram campaign and the Giving Tuesday Campaign. Our final project for the semester is this very story!
Since we have worked so hard behind the scenes, the fantastic women we worked with throughout the semester, Tamara Dourney and Denise Watson, asked us to write about the highlights of our semester with PCHFH. They wanted us to show you, our PCHFH family, just how much we loved working for you this semester! So, the three of us interviewed each other, which resulted in a lot of fun anecdotes reflecting on the past few months working for PCHFH and how we grew personally and professionally from the experience.
Our first project of the semester was the October newsletter. The assignment was to interview a few PCHFH homeowners who each own a Homecoming House. McKenna interviewed the homeowners and said she found the opportunity rewarding because she got to hear from the homeowners themselves what the experience was like. “The homeowners were the most grateful and humble people I had ever met,” McKenna said. She was moved by the experience and found some of the interviews to be very powerful and emotional.
As I was writing that October newsletter article, I was challenged in new ways as I had never written a piece like that before. In the end, writing that newsletter was rewarding because it helped me expand my writing skills in ways that my classes could not help me with. I learned to phrase things in a professional manner and to follow the client’s style preferences. Tamara and Denise provided so much helpful feedback and editing advice that helped me to create the best newsletter I possibly could for you, the PCHFH family.
Our biggest project by far was the Homecoming Build campaign that we designed for Instagram. From the beginning, our team dreamed big to create many different ideas to help promote online engagement, encourage people to volunteer, and boost donations. This resulted in a project that generated engagement, but also allowed us to work directly with the Habitat volunteers and supervisors on the Homecoming Build itself. The time we spent volunteering with Habitat was one of the most fulfilling experiences of the whole semester!
“All three of us loved working on the Habitat House together with the other Pearce Center interns, McKenna was excited to share. “We were able to get the entire office involved!”
While working on the Homecoming House, we had the pleasure of meeting the future homeowner and her son. This was a very powerful experience since we were seeing for ourselves what Habitat’s mission truly does for the community. The experience has inspired Kathryn to continue to look for opportunities to give back to the local community.
“Interacting with communities facing various challenges has revealed remarkable resilience and strength. Despite facing housing insecurity, many individuals and families exhibit a determination to improve their circumstances,” Kathryn commented. “This resilience has been inspiring and has fueled my commitment to contributing to sustainable solutions.”
A large reason why all three of us asked to work for Habitat for Humanity was so we could better understand the inner workings of the organization, and we all firmly believe that housing should be affordable for everyone. This semester gave all of us the opportunity to understand Habitat’s mission so much better and this increased understanding led us all to develop an even greater appreciation for the work PCHFH does in our community. For example, it is a common myth that Habitat houses are free, but this is far from the truth. Habitat homeowners work with the organization to volunteer their own time as “Sweat Equity,” and they must qualify for a mortgage loan that they repay over time.
“Working with Habitat has made me truly understand the struggles families face with affordable housing,” McKenna noted. “It's more than just building houses; it involves addressing bigger issues like systemic barriers, building community connections, and giving families the support they need for a stable future.”
From learning more about Habitat homeowners, to volunteering on site with other volunteers, to working on community outreach behind the scenes, Habitat gave us opportunities to grow in many ways that will benefit us professionally in the future. Habitat taught us how to design social media campaigns, how to cater to a target audience, and how to work as a team on projects we were all less familiar with. One particular challenge I remember was when we put together the Homecoming wrap-up video and had to learn how to edit and cut together video and audio clips to make them seamless.
Habitat helped our team grow in so many ways, it’s hard to remember them all! McKenna was able to develop her interview skills, Kathryn learned how to align her ideas with a client’s vision, and I was able to learn how to write pieces that fit a client’s brand. Beyond professional development, we all grew our understanding of the current housing crisis and how Habitat is working every day to advocate for those in need of safe, secure and affordable housing. All of us are so grateful to have been given such an amazing opportunity, and we all hope to work with Habitat again in the future!