If ever there was a person who embodied the spirit of Habitat for Humanity, it’s Ian Nansen.

A Bay Area native (but who spent significant time in the small town of Mineral, near Lassen National Volcanic Park), Ian earned his BA and MA in Political Science from San Francisco State University. While attending school he volunteered with the Habitat affiliate in San Francisco. He had a great time.

Looking for a meaningful adventure upon graduation, he joined Ameri-Corps and ended up with the Habitat affiliate in New York City for 18 months.

“That was definitely interesting and fun,” Ian says. “I was a site leader there, supporting twenty to thirty volunteers every day. It really was an amazing experience.”

Once his stint was up in New York, he rejoined Ameri-Corps and found himself in Hickory, North Carolina, where he had an entirely different Habitat experience. “I was in a similar role, but the day-to-day was so enjoyable. It was more casual and relaxed, I really got to know the people better.”

And that set his course for landing in Nevada County. Desiring to be in a small town where they would be closer to family, Ian and his wife, Sarah, and their young son made Nevada City their home (since moving here they have welcomed a new addition to their family, a beautiful baby boy).

He joined the team at ReStore and then, in May 2019, became Nevada County Habitat’s first Construction Coordinator.

“Ian was a natural choice for this new role,” says Lorraine Larson, Nevada County Habitat’s Executive Director. “And he’s been great. There are so many details in the building process. Permits, plans, coordinating teams, purchasing – Ian just hit the ground running and has made a tremendous difference.”

Three areas in which Ian has had an impact are in interfacing with City of Grass Valley planners in the permitting process; working with suppliers to ensure the construction team has the right materials, tools and safety equipment; and, perhaps Ian’s favorite duty, working with volunteers.

“I approach supporting volunteers by ensuring they have all the tools necessary to be successful, empowering each person to let their passion and power shine. I really want to lay the groundwork so new volunteers can hit the ground running.

“I really enjoy being around all of our long-time volunteers, people who have been coming to the sites for a decade and longer. I love learning from everyone. It’s infectious and makes me want to come to work every day. This is the most fun way to build a house – working side-by-side with someone who has passion and joy, with no expectation of compensation. They’re here because they love what they are doing and they love the people they are working with, and working for.”

And that fuels Ian’s outlook. “I’d like to get as many passionate community members as possible to become involved. Our construction site is safe, and we have a great model for housing. I’d like members of the community to learn and experience what they are capable of doing.”

And the underlying goal for all of this is for the community to feel and experience the spirit of Habitat. As Ian said, it’s infectious – in a good way.


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