Volunteer Spotlight: Ralph Smith

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Standing on a front porch of a nearly completed Habitat house, Ralph looks out at the neighborhood. The wide roads, neatly landscaped yards and modest homes are all part of Grace Meadows, a beautiful, countryside community, made up entirely of Habitat for Humanity homes.

It’s a Wednesday morning, a regular volunteer day for Ralph. He’s standing in front of a home that will eventually be bought by Sharon Todd. Sharon is there too, working inside on installing the kitchen cabinets. Ralph peers out from the porch where he’s standing, “the first day that I drove in here, there was absolutely nothing in this development”. Recently retired, Ralph had arrived in Vero Beach during the winter season and a friend immediately invited him out to a new Habitat for Humanity build site.

When Ralph arrived, three concrete slabs awaited him. The slabs were the foundations for the first three homes scheduled to be built. “We were here for three days, cutting material, putting stuff together and then we nailed together the front walls for the three houses.”

The friend who had invited Ralph out to that very first build site had a granddaughter going through the Indian River Habitat for Humanity homeownership program; she would eventually own a Habitat home in the Gifford area. When Ralph’s friend told him more about the program, Ralph knew he wanted to be involved; he’s been building with Indian River Habitat for Humanity each winter ever since. “In my 35 years of working a regular job five days a week, I had to set my alarm clock to get up in the morning. I probably haven’t set an alarm clock [more than] three times when coming out to a Habitat worksite”.

While Ralph was handy in his previous life, he was by no means a professional home builder. After volunteering with Habitat though, he’s learned that construction experience is secondary to a willingness to help. Holding his arm out to a support beam on the front porch of Sharon’s nearly completed home, Ralph explains how it only takes one person to make a difference, he only needs one volunteer to help him build a porch, someone to hold the beams steady, to drill pilot holes, put screws in, but most importantly, someone who just wants to help, “there’s room here for anyone who wants to volunteer.” A couple of people are needed for the porch, a
handful for the siding, a few people can install floors in just a day or two - all that is needed to build a home are people who are willing to help.

Besides the families that he gets to know and the work that he does on site, Ralph has enjoyed the relationships he’s built with the volunteers, “You know, a lot of friendships get developed working for Habitat. I’ve worked with doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, car salesmen, farmers, housewives, store clerks. People from all walks of life come here to volunteer their time for Habitat.”

Join us sometime on a Habitat build site. We build homes, we build community, we build hope. You may even run into Ralph!