Volunteer with Habitat
INDIVIDUALS: To begin, decide if you are interested in construction or non-construction volunteer opportunities. You can find our volunteers on build sites, helping with fundraising efforts, serving on committees, planning special events, mentoring partner families and more!
GROUPS: If you want to get your office, church or other organization out to a build site, check out our groups page!
YOUTH: Youth are always welcome to volunteer with Habitat, though certain age restrictions apply. Check out our youth page for details on how to get involved!
COMMUNITY WORK SERVICE: If you are required by the court or your school to perform community service, please proceed to the Community Service page to learn more. We have a separate process for community service volunteers so we can better track your hours and provide you with the needed documentation.
INTERNATIONAL SERVICE: Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna supports affiliates in El Salvador and Kenya. For more information about our international efforts, or to join an overseas build trip, click here or contact Abrielle Willis.
In Memory of Joe Szymkowiak:
March 1, 1917 - April 12, 2013
Joe was one of Habitat's first and most faithful volunteers, helping to build 39 homes for families in need. We are sad to say goodbye, but we remember him with deep fondness and affection.
Below is the eulogy shared by his son-in-law, Michael. It is a beautiful tribute to a man with a beautiful heart.
Thank you all for your support and for being here with Joe’s family today to say farewell to a good man following his 96 years of a life well spent. It is my privilege to tell you about my father-in-law.
I knew Joe well, and I can tell you - Joe loved to work. And, for a man as industrious as Joe was, 96 years allowed for plenty of opportunities for him to leave us with memories in the form of his many accomplishments. Those who knew Joe can have little doubt that he responded to each opportunity that came his way, to engage himself in the business of helping others, his family, his church, and the many charities that he supported. It is hard to know where to begin to talk about the things that he accomplished in his lifetime, but it is certainly true to say that he had few if any idle moments.
Growing up in a strict Polish family in Baltimore during the great depression probably had a lot to do with forming Joe’s ideas and lifelong habits with regard to work ethic, family responsibility and duty. I can tell you from the time that we spent together, that there were precious few wasted moments. The rare times when Joe could be talked into taking a break, he would immediately note the time on his watch, and exactly 8 minutes after he sat down to a cup of coffee, he was on his feet again, loudly proclaiming “That’s enough goofing off!”. Yeah, 8 minutes: you see, he allowed 1 minute to leave the job site, 8 for drinking coffee and planning the next phase, and another minute to get back to the job, leaving a tidy 10 minute hole in the work day. Joe loved tidy organized packages.
There was more than one occasion where I would find myself exhausted at the end of a day working with Joe, wondering if he ever experienced things like fatigue that plague the normal individual. If he did, he ignored it as best I could determine. I would scratch my head and ponder, how is it that a guy in his 80’s and then even into his 90’s can tire out someone half his age?….But that was Joe – If we were going to tackle a task together, I knew that I had better eat my Wheaties and a couple of cans of spinach as well!
Joe graduated from high school at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute laying a foundation for his future career as a mechanical engineer. He did not go immediately to college; the lean times of the depression years compelled him to seek employment so as to contribute to the family income. He told of an epic year long job search, where every day he walked miles and miles, in and around Baltimore, applying for jobs at countless businesses, being turned down time after time. Not to be deterred, he persevered, finally finding an opportunity with Bendix Friez. Despite having moved quickly into a supervisory position, Joe decided, on the eve of WWII to leave his employer, and join the army; an auspicious descision that profoundly impacted the rest of his life. As a young officer stationed in San Fransisco and tending to an injured soldier under his command, he met a young army nurse, Maire Maki, whom he would soon marry and start a family with. Of Maire he later said “I knew when I met her that she was true blue”.
Returning home to Baltimore after the war, with his young bride and his infant daughter Vicky, Joe resumed his career with Bendix, attended Johns Hopkins University, earning a degree in mechanical engineering, and continued his army career in a reserve unit. He added 2 more lovely girls to his family, first Mary and then Elaine, who I was fortunate enough to marry. He began what would be a long career at Westinghouse helping to solve the many problems involved with the AWACS, the initial airborne defense radar platform that is still in use today.
Joe loved the challenge of solving technical problems. He and I worked on many projects over the years and it was always a pleasure to observe his hyper-logical methods as we tackled the mechanical and electrical problems associated with building and maintaining a home. If he was not using these skills to help his family members or on church projects, he was more than likely to be found at his second career job site - Habitat For Humanity, where he volunteered during his retirement, contributing his efforts to the completion of 39 houses over the years.
His life was not without difficulties, and despite the loss of his 25 year old daughter Mary in a tragic car accident, and then losing his Maire, after 50 years of marriage, Joe continued on, providing for his remaining family in every way that he could, up to the last moments of his life, because that was his duty, and he took his duties and responsibilities seriously. Joe was a serious guy.
But he was not without a sense of humor, although at times one might have to do some serious excavating to get a glimpse of it. Some months ago we decided to move Joe out of his apartment and into his granddaughter Alicia’s home, where she would generously provide him with the best care possible. I thought at the time, this will be quick and easy enough, there can’t be much in that apartment. Well, in addition to the usual furniture, Joe had an incomprehensible number of boxes all neatly labeled, naturally, with their contents. There were boxes that had not been opened for many years, there were boxes of tools, screws, and nails, old technical manuals and slide rules, newspaper and magazine clippings. There were boxes of canceled checks that were 4 score and seven years ago old…there were boxes that held empty boxes….I think you get the idea. We moved the last of the boxes to Alicia’s garage and called it a day. In a chiding moment I said to Joe, “I found a box labeled ‘pieces of string too short to be useful’, where shall I put it?” With no hesitation and giving me a withering glance he said “You can put it next to the box labeled ‘broken rubber bands’”….
Then there was the time that his car broke down on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the great annoyance of the motorist immediately behind him who began laying on the horn as Joe was trying to trouble shoot his problem. Finally having heard enough, Joe marched back to the offending hornblower, much to the consternation of Maire who did not know what to expect, and said “look, do me a favor, let’s trade places and I’ll sit back here and blow the horn while you try to fix my car”.
There are many more stories, too many to tell here. If they could be told though, they would mostly be different ways of saying the same thing: Joe had a simple recipe for living: Give yourself to family, church, and community, lend a hand whenever you can, work hard and be generous. The rest will take care of itself.
The last several months were tough on Joe, but not so much because of his personal discomfort, although there was that. Joe found himself in the awkward position of being the recipient of other people’s generosity, and became reluctantly dependent on others for his own wellbeing. After a life devoted to giving most of his spare time to others, he found himself on unfamiliar ground. There was nothing more he could accomplish. But we can all take comfort in knowing that in his last months and up to his very last breath, Joe was being attended to by his family, and his passing took place in the best of circumstances possible. Joe’s life is now a collection of memories and an inspiration to others for what one person can accomplish. So we say now farewell Joe, you will be sorely missed but never forgotten by all those whose lives you touched.
In Memory of Annette Stark:
November 19, 1936 - March 22, 2013
Annette Stark was a longtime Habitat volunteer who worked diligently behind the scenes. She was an incredibly gifted artist who faithfully hand-painted house signs for our partner families. We will miss her warm hospitality and quiet humility, and we will always be grateful for all she did to serve families in need.
You can read her obituary here.