Monday, October 3, 2016

Habitat for Humanity Build #4: Omaha, Nebraska

We put Omaha on RVenture map when we saw that their local Care-a-vanner's build still needed some volunteers a few weeks ago. Omaha's local Habitat for Humanity's "Fall Framing Frenzy" takes place during the first two weekends of October, and we were intrigued to participate in a build "from the ground up". It was a fun way to check Omaha out while helping others.

In addition to hundreds of local volunteers, they count on the Care-a-vanners to help make the "frenzy" a success. Their goal: To raise the walls and rafters and seal up the exteriors of three homes so that they can work on the interiors during the upcoming cold winter months. The ultimate prize is to have the homes ready for the families to move in next spring.

A few days before we arrived, we found out that the other three couples who were signed up had to cancel out. The Wildebeest had plenty of space to stretch out in the back of the Habitat office complex when we arrived. The local affiliate extended their hospitality by providing electric and water hook-ups as well as shower, exercise and laundry facilities for us inside their building. Even with the nice accomodations, we wondered how it would work out being the only Care-a-vanners around.

Biking across "Bob the Bridge" from Nebraska to Iowa

But we decided to give it a try, building Tuesday through Saturday and exploring Omaha during our off time. We were just two miles away from Omaha's downtown and Old Market district ... an easy "Poke walk" to nice restaurants, shops, parks, breweries, and did I mention ... ice cream??!!

Some of the sights we enjoyed exploring included:

... the Pioneer Courage Park with its many life-size statues depicting the hardships and courage of the early pioneers as they ventured west in search of a better life.  I am thinking that mothers today have it a bit easier in that they can just take the fussy baby for a car ride in order to put them to sleep!

... Heartland of America Park, including water fountains, gondola rides, and Pokemon players galore!

Numerous fun shops selling just about anything you can imagine from Elvis memorabilia and pink cadillacs,

... to any kind of Pez dispenser imaginable,

... to cute lawn ornaments ... if you have a lawn to ornament. We just kept on walking.

... Thanks to a friend's recommendation, we enjoyed brunch at Wheatfields Bakery and Cafe. Doug's rule: eat dessert whenever possible!

A stop at the Omaha Visitors Center not only got us the goofy photo that you see at the beginning of this blog entry, but also a "local brewery passport" good for one free beer at each of Omaha's nine local breweries. Time to get serious with our exploration!

Over the course of the next week, we found Farnam Street, Brickway and Upstream  Breweries within walking distance. Upstream proved to be our favorite with great burgers, fish 'n chips (yes, we went more than once) and crafted barrel-aged beer served on their pleasant outdoor patio ... providing excellent "people-watching" opportunities! We helped them celebrate their 20th birthday ... one more year and they will be old enough to drink their own beer!

But the best way to discover the really unique local activities is to ask the locals ... and the recommendation that came up more than once was to check out the Thursday night Taco Ride ... and we are glad we did!

After our Thursday build day, we drove across the Missouri River into Council Bluffs, Iowa and found the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. The ten mile ride took us past corn fields and through forest land to the small town of Mineola where Tobey Jack's serves up tacos and beer to hundreds of hungry bikers.

The festive party atmosphere made this a great way to enjoy a beautiful autumn evening with the hundreds of other bikers who love a good trail ride and food as much as we do! It has been a while since we did a "night ride", but the dark ride back on the trail lit up by the glow of bike lights and the nearly full moon definitely made it an enjoyable evening!

But, getting back to the real reason that brought us to Omaha ...

Habitat of Omaha's Fall Framing Frenzy!

On Tuesday Doug and I worked a half day prepping the foundations of two of the homes. On Wednesday we got to work with the entire Habitat office staff as they came out to the construction site to do some "team building". On Thursday we met and worked alongside Israel and Amelia on the house that they and their three children will call "home" next April.

Over the course of the week, we also worked with volunteers from Offutt Air Force base, Creighton University, University of Nebraska Omaha, and many local businesses. 

Some highlights included:

... some friendly competition to see who could complete placing the floor trusses and nailing the sub-flooring first,

... the team effort involved in raising the walls,

...college students building their first garage under Doug's patient guidance,

... being grateful for the the strength of the youthful volunteers who came together to pass the trusses up to the top of the house,

... and celebrating as the trusses rise into their high place of glory!

All this work takes ...

... Strength to reach new heights!

... Collaboration of excellent minds!

... Lots of food energy including breakfast egg dish served by our always enthusiastic (but not necessarily wide awake) volunteer coordinator, Turner!

... and LOTS of cheers and encouragement from Gracey, a grateful Habitat homeowner. She continues to come out to the worksite to serve up lunch, hugs, and smiles!

We enjoyed the "frenzied" enthusiasm at the worksite and being able to work alongside future homeowners like Muhammad and his wife. It was wonderful to see their smiles as their rooftop took shape!

But when we got back to our RV site each evening, we realized that something was missing. We were missing the daily "debriefings" (otherwise known as "happy hour"); we were missing the special bonds that form when working with the same group of people every day for the two week build; we were missing the camaraderie of other Care-a-vanners. 

Yes, it is wonderful to come together and work with so many different people for the good of the future homeowners and the community.  But, we realized that one of the greatest draws of the Care-a-vanner program for us is being a part of a winning team with other Care-a-vanners ... on the jobsite and in the campsite.

So on this, the one year anniversary of our leaving Rochester in our RV, we once again found ourselves heading down the road ...

... and getting off at the famous Archway over Interstate 80 to join three other couples for a two week Habitat build in Kearney, Nebraska.

Can't get enough of a good thing!

Until next time ... keep on pursuing the "fun" in work ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!
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  1. Sounds like a great time! Habitat builds are a bit addicting, don't you know.

  2. Sounds like a great time! Habitat builds are a bit addicting, don't you know.

    1. One of the couples here worked with you in Omaha!

  3. Yeah, you betcha, they're addicting in a great way! Love all the wonderful people we meet up with and how much we learn from them (and you!) Larry and Libby, who worked with you in Omaha, are our team leaders. Kearney is another great affiliate! Happy travels!

  4. What a captivating blog! Thank you for blessing HFHO with your hard work and kind words! We look forward to having you visit again!
    Patrice (front desk)

    1. Habitat Omaha has an amazing staff! It was a pleasure to work with many of you during the staff build day. Loved Omaha also ... hopefully will visit again!