“If you would like the opportunity to help build houses and change lives with Habitat, experience another culture, meet like-minded people and do work that warms your heart and fills your soul, consider joining me on my next trip.” – Joel Johnson, Global Village (GV) Leader, Habitat for Humanity
Some people volunteer to make new friends. Others give back because it just feels good. I recently decided to represent my company, Stevens Realty Group, and join my friend Joel Johnson, a director at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and travel to Guatemala. Why I decided to travel around the world was a mixture of both: make new friends and feel good. According to the Central American Association for Housing, the housing deficit in Guatemala exceeds 1.6 million households, including dilapidated housing, rented and overcrowded. To this is also added the need for basic services such as potable water, sanitation, electricity, and families that still cook with open fires in rural areas.
The tagline for the trip was “everyone deserves a decent place to live”. That resonated with me. I am an only child, who was raised by a single-mother who worked tirelessly to provide for me. I was taught at a young age that in order to stand on my own two feet, I had to work hard and “build” the life I wanted, for myself. Building is the key word here; frankly, it always has been. After several years of pursuing a passionate career as a professional snowboarder in Colorado, I suffered an injury that would ultimately end my snowboarding career forever. Seemingly, instead of building my career, as a 20-something year old, I felt I was breaking my career…literally. I returned to my roots in the Hudson Valley and found myself back in the construction industry. Discouraged, I found refuge in construction. A way to tire my soul on hot days and empty my mind on cold ones. I started building in 9th grade, when I spent summers shadowing my Uncle Jimmy. He was an incredible builder – a man I looked up to as a young man myself. My cousin Billy and I spent countless Summer’s working on jobs with him in Cold Spring, NY. He taught us everything we ever needed to know about “building” – that frame, those trusses, that garage, that kitchen, that foundation, that life. I gravitated towards building. I inundated myself with learning about how things worked. In tough times, I always found an outlet in hard work. “Work”, being good ole fashion manual labor – building. Electrical, plumbing, heating, roofing, foundations. How a simple piece of wood would ultimately evolve into the structure that became “home”. A roof would ultimately cover a family and keep them warm. My passion for building evolved into my passion for real estate, but without my construction background, I would have never founded Stevens Realty Group. I have worked on hundreds of houses with my bare hands. Developed plans, worked with architects, sat with people, heard their ideas, written them down, drawn them out, and then together watched paper plans become wooden walls. For me, building is everything. Building runs my blood, it feeds my family, it feeds my mind, and it feeds my soul. It has also fed my life. I have built everything around me with the same concepts that construction has taught me: clear plans and a solid foundation. A foundation is the key to a simple life and certainly the key to any successful business. So, why I am going to travel around the world? To build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Because in the end, those same walls that taught me the importance of building, are the same walls that will change the trajectory of another person’s life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to bring my knowledge, my passion, but most importantly my wants and needs to help others, to Guatemala with me this October. Life is about giving back, paying it forward, and remembering your roots while helping to nurture others. Those same roots that brought me back to the Hudson Valley, will fly me to Guatemala, to throw a hammer, build walls, and change the lives of others. I am confident when I return to those same Hudson Valley roots this time around, my foundation will also be that much stronger. A special shout-out to my awesome team at Stevens Realty Group and my friend Joel, pictured below. – Bruce Stevens, President & Principal Broker, Stevens Realty Group, Stevens Property Management, Stevens Maintenance & Contracting.