One hundred volunteers put careers on hold

IT'S been a long, hot day at Habitat for Humanity's Charlotte building project. Kay Spofford has spent it all coping with media needs in a room where a whirring fan provides the only relief. By 5 p.m. she's ready to call it a day and accepts a soda with gratitude. She hears that the weather is expected to cool off, but she'll be back at her desk the following day, whatever the temperature.

Ms. Spofford is one of 100 full-time volunteers without whom Habitat could not operate with remotely the same success. These volunteers receive no remuneration beyond housing and a $20-a-week food stipend during their stay at Habitat headquarters in Americus, Ga. Overseas workers receive a $300-a-month allowance.

These volunteers give one, two, or more years to the program before returning to their careers. Spofford resigned from a Boston law firm in her ``act of faith'' to move to Americus.

``I planned to give one year of my life to Habitat,'' she says, ``but I'm still with Habitat after two, and I'm not sure how long I will stay.''

She has, in fact, just volunteered to go overseas, which will keep her in the service of Habitat for at least three more years.

After four years of service, Rob de Rocker of New York City is beginning to look outside Habitat again. He put a career in journalism on hold to work for Habitat because he was all too aware of the effect miserable housing was having on children in New York, and he wanted to do something to alleviate the problem.

Will he stay committed to Habitat from the outside?

``Oh, yes,'' is his response. ``I'll stay on the periphery and contribute any way I can.''

Starting back to continue shingling a roof on the Charlotte project, he adds, ``There will always be a work camp or two I can attend each year.''

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