When Betsy Wagner (seen above being awarded Construction Volunteer of the Year in 2019) moved from Southern California to Grass Valley she had no idea that a new calling awaited her. Upon arriving she joined the Lutheran church and it wasn’t long before she was approached by Alan Gaines, who asked if she’d like to volunteer with Nevada County Habitat for Humanity.
“I had always admired the Habitat philosophy and mission,” Betsy says. “So I got involved with house number three at Heritage Oaks, which was a Thrivent build.” (Note: Habitat International and Thrivent Financial have a longstanding partnership of building homes. Thrivent is a nonprofit financial institution closely tied to the Lutheran Church).
That first experience on the build-site has led to Betsy celebrating a decade of service to Habitat in 2021. She had a hand in helping to build each of the 16 homes that comprise the Heritage Oaks neighborhood, and is currently hard at work constructing the four homes at Habitat’s Park Place build site.
During her career Betsy worked in the medical field – she didn’t have a background in construction or building. So, what kept her coming out to help build Habitat homes? “Ever since I was a little girl I loved tools,” She says. “So now I get to use all kinds of tools! I’ve learned how to use a chop-saw and a nail gun. It’s a lot of fun!”
For Betsy, and for most of the volunteers she works alongside, there is a bigger purpose. “Just knowing that we are helping people create better lives for themselves is what keeps us coming out. The faces of the homeowners as they see their homes is quite gratifying. For example, when we were working on the last home at Heritage Oaks, every time Whitney (the homeowner) would come on site and see that something new had been done, she would cry tears of joy. That’s why we are doing this.
“There is also a feeling of accomplishment. Not long ago I looked at a doorway that I had caulked and just thought to myself, ‘Hey, I did that!’ It really makes you feel a part of the whole thing.”
Betsy is proud that Habitat has several other women on-site as regular volunteers., and she encourages other women to get involved. “If I can do this, other women can, too.” She says. “I’ve done things I never thought I could do. We (as women) don’t just have to sweep floors, bake cookies and do the laundry. We can help build homes for families, too.!”