Home, Friendships and Hard Hats: Why We Hard Hat LA

Guest Blog Post by Jessica Lieu, Account Director at Tyler Barnett PR and Jaclyn Mullen, Entrepreneur, JaclynMullenMedia.com

What does home mean to you?

Jessica: From Jakarta, Indonesia to Shanghai, China to the City of Angels, I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity to live in multiple locations over the years. However, no matter the time zone or zip code, the meaning of home has always remained the same for me. When I think of home, I think of a place where family and friends gather to grow, bond, and seek refuge from the outside world. Everyone deserves a home where they feel safe, stable, and loved. To me, home is essential – it is the safe harbor in a storm.

Jaclyn: My maternal grandparents immigrated to the US by way of Romania. Their Armenian ancestors had immigrated to Romania. I came from a people who were forced to move and migrate frequently. Nothing brought my Grandparents more pride than being able to eventually own several homes in the United States. It was a sign they had “made it”, that they could stop moving and have roots. As I grew up, home was the center of our family and my grandparents helped my mom and dad buy their homes! My best memories include my grandparent’s house in Vero Beach, FL—it became my sanctuary when my parents divorced. Personally as an adult, my home is my sanctuary. I share that same feeling of pride that my grandparents did in being able to have a home office, in being able to own furniture that suits my taste and in renting a place overall that ignites my creativity. I call my home my productivity palace.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer?

Jessica: I believe volunteering is important because of the very simple fact that we do not live in a vacuum. So much of where I am today would not have been possible without the help of others. The idea that we all have a stake in each other’s well being is especially true for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, which attributes a lot of its success in providing families with better housing to the assistance of volunteers and donors.

Jaclyn: Each and every one of us is connected. That is my true belief. And yes, there is a lot of madness in the world. When we volunteer, when we give back, when we set aside time to lend a helping hand and a healing heart we do make a difference, to negate and fight that madness. Impacting one person positively creates a domino effect where they want to go out and do the same. Why not share that gift and impact as many people as possible?

What’s been your favorite experience so far while being involved with Habitat?

Jessica: I had the wonderful opportunity of experiencing Power Women Power Tools for the first time last year. Seeing so many women from all walks of life come together to sweat and build in unison was nothing short of inspirational.

I also really enjoyed attending my first partner homeowner dedication in Lynwood a few weeks ago. Listening to the stories of Habitat’s partner homeowners and learning of how far they have come reinforced how honored I feel to be a part of this amazing organization. 

Jaclyn: Building with Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles for my 30th birthday which happens to be 09/11. Looking around as I stood on a scaffold some 20-30 feet above the ground watching my friends laugh and have a blast building a home for a family in need on a day as somber as 09/11--I wish I could have frozen that moment in time forever. It was a moment of realizing how truly blessed we are and that sometimes due to stress and the pressures of life, sometimes due to tragedy we forget to count our blessings! Also, meeting the family who would be moving into the house was the icing on the cake. It was the direct link and association we all needed to remember that this was real and that a tragic day can be a triumphant day if people are willing to help other people.

How did you find out about Habitat?

Jessica: I first found out about Habitat for Humanity through my dad, who is a frequent donor and customer of the ReStore. He has purchased well over 50 items from the ReStore in the past couple of years! Most people don’t know the ReStore was established to be a self-sustaining funding source for Habitat’s homes and is a great place to score vintage furniture and one-of-a-kind finds.

Later, I learned more about Habitat GLA through my good friend Jaclyn Mullen, who not only served on the marketing committee but also celebrated her 30th birthday on a Habitat for Humanity build. A few months later, she informed me there was a need for a public relations arm on the marketing committee. Since Habitat for Humanity is a cause close to my heart, I jumped on the opportunity and since have enjoyed working with this amazing team!

Jaclyn: In the summer of 2011, the tornados devastated Joplin, MO. Up until that point, I had been wondering how I would celebrate my 30th birthday—how I would make this milestone memorable? I had thought about a dinner party or trip to some far locale. Then it dawned on me with those tornados. I had the privilege of being bicoastal at that time--one apt in New York and one in LA. I realized I had to do something to help people without any home to call their own. I quickly went to Twitter and came across @HabitatLA. It hadn’t even occurred to me that there were families in Los Angeles without homes! Yvonne and I then connected via email and the rest is history. I had my birthday build and started a birthday tradition of giving back every year since then!

What did you think about it before you started volunteering? How has your perception changed since then?

Jessica: One major misconception I had about Habitat for Humanity before I started volunteering with the organization is that it gives away houses, which is not the case. One of the key messages we try to promote is that Habitat is a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out” --  meaning, Habitat for Humanity houses are sold to partner homeowners at no profit and are financed with affordable, no interest loans. This is possible through volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. HFH also requires their partner homeowners to qualify for a 0% interest mortgage and invest 500 hours of sweat equity to help build their home. The concept of HFH homes being a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out” is rooted in the organization’s mission to provide a permanent pathway out of poverty through homeownership.

Jaclyn: Like I shared above, I had no idea that a major metropolitan such as Los Angeles had a housing problem. I was so naïve to the need here in my own backyard as well as across several cities in the United States. My perception has changed entirely since learning this. I have grown to assume even less based upon my scope of things and I have been reminded that every single one of us has a challenge we are trying to overcome whether it be home ownership, a terminal illness, a family member in need.

What’s the best thing about volunteering for Habitat with your friend?

Jessica: Being able to volunteer and give back is very rewarding, but being able to do it with old and new friends is a lot of fun! From brainstorming new marketing initiatives for HFH GLA to hammering away in the blazing heat, it helps to have a friend by your side who is working towards the same goal. 

Jaclyn: They say “like attracts like.” I appreciate volunteering with a friend who isn’t just pointing out problems with the world! If there is a problem, be a part of the solution. I consider all of the marketing committee members to be friends as well. We all bring our talents and “A-game” with the sole purpose of making Los Angeles and the world a better place. And that to me is just pure awesomeness! 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Morris

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