In Volunteering, Home is Where My Heart Is

By Jimmy Wester
March 26, 2015
Store Manager Jimmy Wester at Habitat for Humanity home site

Editor’s note: When 27 Walmart associates and Jimmy Wester, manager of a store in Leeds, Alabama, showed up at a Habitat for Humanity project last September, the only thing in place was a concrete slab – which the team quickly turned into a home. This story originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

Just nine hours. That’s all it took my team to deliver on our promise to put up every wall in our recent Habitat for Humanity build. Much like our work at Walmart, we delivered that and more. We put up the plywood, cut out every window and door, and installed the insulation board. 

Two weeks later, the house was done and ready to be lived in. On our last day there, we had a celebration. Afterward, I went back to the house to pick up some stuff we left behind. While I was there, I met the owner. She’s a single mom. As I talked to her, I couldn’t help but think about my own mother and the struggles she faced raising five kids. My childhood is what led me to do what I do.

Better Than What I Had
My parents divorced when I was 4, and my dad barely helped financially. I watched my mom work hard to pay the bills, keep the heat on, and cover rent on the house. I remember how hard things were. I didn’t get toys for Christmas. I got clothes: underwear, T-shirts and socks. I was excited to get them. New clothes felt so much better than what I had.

I wonder how our lives could have been easier. Maybe it would have been different if my mom didn’t have to pay so much in rent or interest — if we had an affordable home like the ones Habitat for Humanity offers. But my mom was a great example, despite our tough situation, raising and providing for five kids. She had a great work ethic, and she always made a point of helping others. I saw her do that, and, from a young age, I’ve done it, too. I started volunteering with children’s hospitals, and I built my passion from there to work with Habitat for Humanity.

Why This Matters
Working on projects like this reminds me of where I’ve been. We struggled as a family because we didn’t have a house, and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that. My team’s No. 1 goal is finishing a house quickly, so Habitat can go on to the next project. The more houses that go up, the more people won’t have to struggle like we did. I’ve seen firsthand how these projects help people.

One of them was a sales clerk. Now she’s the assistant manager who runs my automotive center. People like her don’t take stuff for granted. This is what Habitat is all about: building communities, hope, and the opportunity for families to help themselves. To see the difference that you can make by giving people a break, to show them how hard work pays off, to see how much better they can make life for their children, makes all the time I put in, all the days off I spend working to build a house, worthwhile.