Anne Gustin is used to hands-on work. In addition to her career as an architectural designer, “my husband and I have remodeled every house we’ve lived in,” said the Napa resident.
So when it came to volunteering, getting connected with Habitat For Humanity was a natural fit, Gustin said. The nonprofit, via its Solano County office, helps provide affordable housing to low-income families using volunteer labor to build or remodel homes in Solano and Napa counties.
Back in 2010, Gustin had been invited to a brunch in Napa with some other local Habitat volunteers. With her experience in construction and architecture, she soon offered to join the nonprofit’s site selection committee.
“One thing led to another and I just got hooked,” she said.
Over the past few years, Gustin has worked on 10 different Habitat projects in Napa County, plus a number in Solano County.
Some have lasted as long as a year, such as a retrofit done on a dilapidated farmhouse on Laurel Street in Napa. A leaky roof was fixed and disabled access was added to that home, along with other improvements.
“Right now we’re doing a project in American Canyon for a disabled vet,” she said. Working two to three days a week, a team of volunteers has widened doorways, expanded a bathroom, added a roll-in shower, and relocated a sink and toilet for better access.
The volunteers also added wheelchair ramps to a house on Spruce Street, and poured a new patio and driveway to improve access for a resident with a brain tumor. Working with other volunteer groups to finish the remodel, “that was a fun project,” she said.
At an elderly woman’s home in Browns Valley, Gustin helped add a new fence. At other Napa-area homes she’s replaced water heaters, patched more leaky roofs, added grab bars in bathrooms and made other improvements.
“There’s a lot of elderly people who live on Social Security and are disabled and not able to afford” repairs, Gustin said. “Some of these elderly people are totally helpless and a lot of them don’t have family.”
When asked what she liked about volunteering with Habitat, Gustin said, “I just enjoy building things. I’ve always worked with my hands.
“It’s easy for me to see the potential in a project. I don’t know what other organization I could work with and help in this way,” she said. “Some people are better at grant writing or helping kids. Its just good to volunteer in an area that you have expertise.”
Besides that, “it’s just a wonderful feeling to see that you are helping a family. Most are appreciative and really know that you are going out of your way to help them,” said Gustin.
The need continues, she said. In addition to monetary donations, “in Napa we’re really looking for people that know construction that want to volunteer. Any type of tradesperson that wants to volunteer would be wonderful,” she said.