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Monday, October 27, 2008

San Diego McGladrey Women Create Habitat for Change

There’s more to summer than accumulating melanomas and frequent-flyer miles. Philanthropy is on the rise and a few of our employees in the San Diego office have enough brownie points to make a baker’s dozen. After being on the waiting list to volunteer for the San Diego Chapter of Habitat for Humanity for over a year, Callie U., Stephanie R., and Valerie G. received word they would soon be trading in their calculators for tool belts and skill saws.

As a firm, McGladrey firm prides itself on its high level of commitment to the financial welfare of our clients, but many of our people are also passionate about extending a hand to those in the community who are not as fortunate. It is this same zeal and dedication which Habitat for Humanity and McGladrey share that seemed so well matched and ultimately led to a few days work in El Cajon this August.

Thanks to a generous donation by NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and his foundation, Habitat broke ground last August on the first of four homes to be built on Avocado Street. The McDaniel’s, for whom the house we worked on was being built, were there working along side the skilled, and not-so-skilled, as part of the criteria necessary to receive this subsidized home. The McGladrey women were among the-not-so-skilled; however, you can imagine the follies, and there were many, which took place over the course of that hot Saturday.

The two most agile of the three were Stephanie and Callie, who were perched up on the roof, tarring, laying roofing tiles and hammering on siding. As for Valerie, since it was her second weekend working on that particular house, and evidently armed with the immense expertise that short stint provided, she was put in charge of tiling the bathroom. Her assigned assistant, a woman she had never met and who shall remain nameless, said to her upon starting the job, “Oh boy, there’s a lot of measuring for this, huh? I hope you know how to sew.” After that nonsensical remark, Valerie tuned her and all other similar commentary to her peripheral and used only her brawn for assistance. Most of the volunteers did not have the qualifications to be doing some of the things they were doing, but their hearts were in the right place. That’s their stance in the event the new homeowner wants to know why there are seventy-nine nails at the bottom of the upstairs toilet.

Stephanie summed it up for everyone when she said, "It feels so good to work so hard that your old body is sore, blistered, burned (her backside) and sunburned (her back) but to know that work was for someone else and all these unrelated lives came together for a few hours to build something for someone you will never see again."

But when did lending your hand to your fellow man become so very popular? In fact, it's so popular that it sometimes means waiting and waiting in order to find a cause with capacity. The Corporation for National and Community Service estimates that 61 million Americans volunteered in 2007, contributing 8.1 billion hours of service. That many helping hands has had a gridlock effect on the volunteer circuit. Statistically, those of us not able to forfeit our tax deductible dollars to the local tug-at-your-heart-strings society seem to have resolved themselves to driving a Bobcat while sweating through their tank tops in order to satisfy that inner call to serve. These days, whether you donate to the Red Cross or help build a refuge for starving Nicaraguan orphans, wanting to get involved will put you in a line not so different from that at your local Costco gas pump.

Right now, times are tough. Our regularly scheduled programming is being interrupted by little more than an infomercial for our “economic security”. Helping to build a home for someone will not keep us from the doldrums of financial uncertainty. But there are people out there whose very livelihood is being threatened today and they are asking questions about tomorrow. Like they say, actions speak louder than words, and if swinging a hammer in 98 degree weather doesn’t seem like an answer to some of these boggling questions about our nation’s ability to come out of a crisis, I don’t know what will.

It’s clear our McGladrey women felt lucky that summer day in August, and, well, at the risk of sounding trite and sentimental, warm and fuzzy inside. For more information on how you too can perspire for a cause, visit your local habitat agency.

If you’d like to opportunity to work alongside hero’s like Valerie, Stephanie and Callie, then be sure to check out our open needs at

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