CBFers Head to the City

Written by Alex MacLennan, CBF staff writer

Alex MacLennan On Wednesday, I and seven CBF staff members spent the day volunteering with the Chesapeake chapter of Habitat for Humanity in downtown Baltimore. It was an amazing opportunity--not only did we get to help a family become homeowners, but I also learned to frame up a wall.

CBF got involved with the North Washington Street project through the efforts and energy of Claire Ellwanger, a graduate of CBF's Student Leadership Program and our 2007 Student Leader of the Year. Claire has fostered a partnership between The Park School and Habitat for Humanity--a partnership committed to building one house a year for ten years that includes the school raising $100,000 a year for H4H! And, since Wednesday's "home raising"� team was from CBF, Merrill Center staff donated a housewarming collection of green, sustainable home products. The new home will start of with a collection of long-lasting, low-energy fluorescent lightbulbs, organic cleaning products, and canvas shopping totes.

Eight of us went:  Seven educators, who are used to being physical and outdoors with the 40,000 students CBF educates each year, and me. My job at CBF is to sit at my desk and write about the issues facing the Bay--dead zones and climate change, agricultural runoff and sprawling development. It's an amazing job, but rarely do I get to head out and make a difference with my own labor and sweat. It was important to me to work just as hard as my cohorts, so naturally, when a competition sprung up--"Who can drive in a nail with the fewest hammer whacks?"�--I slammed a hammer straight into my thumb.  (Don't worry, I only whined for a minute-and-a-half.)

Alex and our educatorsWe spent the day framing the upstairs walls--lining up and marking wood, cutting wood (my first circular saw! my first nail gun!), hammering wood, standing up huge frames of wood while real carpenters and builders shored them up. Honestly, I felt a bit like a geeky schoolkid, and a bit like Indiana Jones.

For me, what was so special was that I was helping someone in a direct, visceral way. Our foreman Rodney took us on a brief tour of the street we were working on and showed us five houses--two completed, and three underway. He knew the residents (current or future) of each house. He knew their stories, and how hard each person had worked to own their own home. That my job allowed me to contribute to that effort and that it ensured that at least one of these houses will get off to a green, sustainable start, makes my work even more worthwhile.

See more pictures on CBF's Flicker site

Kim Ethridge

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