Bob and Barbara Rieden give much more than time to GAHH, as volunteers for the past 13 years, they have not only supported the building of dozens of homes for low-income families, they have witnessed first-hand the drive and passion necessary to keep Habitat builds going strong.
As an integral part of the Special Work Assignments Team (SWAT), Bob and Barb have donated more than 10,000 hours of time and hard work.
Bob and Barb give all the credit to their 40 person team of SWAT members, who show up rain or shine to get the job done. “I couldn’t get anything done without Hence and all the others down at the site,” says Bob, “It’s a team effort. This isn’t about me, it’s about all the men and women who make it work.”
Ask Bob about his time with SWAT and he says it’s about camaraderie – all the guys out there are used to working and when they retire they still want to be useful. “Rather than get together to have breakfast on a Saturday like some older guys do, those of us on SWAT get together to build homes,” said Bob.
Bob graduated from a technical school in Chicago, got married to Barb and moved to New Mexico to work for Sandia National Laboratories in 1962. “We didn’t know a soul,” said Barb. But the two grew to love New Mexico, making close friends and raising two children. For many years, Bob worked during the day and went to school at night, eventually earning a master’s degree. He kept moving up in the ranks at the Lab where he would manage groups of 15 to 30 employees. No doubt, this is where Bob earned the leadership skills that have come in useful down at the Habitat job site.
Bob helped on a couple of builds for Habitat in the ‘90’s, but it wasn’t until several years after he retired from Sandia Labs that he really got involved. In 2003 Bob jumped in and by 2004 Barb was volunteering with him. “My husband and family come first,” said Barb. “I like to get involved with whatever Bob is interested in and passionate about and try it out for myself. It’s been great to volunteer together.”
Bob’s passion and leadership skills claimed him the volunteer title of Team Leader. Bob orchestrates the entire build including the SWAT – he tracks every stage of the build, knows what activities can be accomplished on a given day, makes sure the materials are there and ready, organizes SWAT members as well as coordinates the specific volunteer jobs for each build. His input and work is invaluable to ensuring everyone’s time is used effectively.
Bob gives great credit to Barb for helping him achieve and participate in his varying pursuits saying, “I can’t do it myself, you have to have a strong marriage to do all the stuff you want.” He goes on to say, “I just get more and more involved and more into my activities, but doing it together is what makes it work for our marriage.”
During the 2017 Raising the Roof Breakfast, Bob and Barb Rieden were honored for giving so much of their lives and their hearts to the Habitat mission. It’s a wonderful gift they have given to our community over the years. As true leaders, this couple who has devoted several days a week for the past decade to helping others insists that this honor is not theirs alone, but it is for every SWAT member.
“I do enjoy it,” said Bob. “There would be something missing in my life if I didn’t have those friends out there on the job site.”
And there would be something missing if we didn’t have Bob and Barb on our side. Thank you both for your generosity, your dedication, your leadership and your friendship.
Julia started volunteering at the Restore 3 years ago, after she retired from UNM Hospital as a nurse. She’s a busy person, with lots of projects and a big family – Julia has three grown sons and 11 grandchildren, 9 boys and 2 girls. But volunteering allows her to use her people skills and do something she loves. She said “I have a lot of energy, I’m a little hyper I guess and volunteering gets me out of the house for the day.”
She knew about the Restore because she has been a customer for a long time saying, “I like to fix things and do projects around the house. When I was a child I would go with my uncle up on the roof. I really love painting and hammering and working with my hands. So the ReStore has always been a place I loved. Volunteering here now is great.”
She recommends that anyone interested in volunteering at the ReStore be a “people person” because “We have a lot of repeat customers. You get to know everyone because they come into the store all the time,” said Julia.
“I love the people here, they are really nice. The guys in back work really hard and they are always willing to help me. There’s always something to do and it’s never boring,” added Julia.
On Saturday February 11th the House that SWAT Built in memory of SWAT member and long time friend of Habitat Dave Ericson, was dedicated and the keys were handed over to new homeowners Sonia and her son Angel.
Among her many words of appreciation Sonia said, “My number one goal and now accomplishment has been to own my own home. It’s been an honor working with all of these volunteers. I have learned a lot of things. If it wasn’t for SWAT there would be no build. Thank you all.”
During the ceremony a plaque was dedicated to all the SWAT (Special Assignment Work Team) volunteers who have passed away. This group of hard working men and women are the backbone of our volunteer program and without them we simply would not be able to build homes for low-income families. SWAT is a core group of about 40 members who show up, rain or shine, every build day.
Bill Reilly, Habitat Construction Manager, closed out the ceremony by adding a few words about Dave Ericson, whom the house was dedicated to, saying, “As I got to know Dave over the years I knew that he wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions when he had his Habitat Board of Director hat on. And when he didn’t have his board hat on, he was a kind, gentle man. When Dave stood behind you he would give you words of encouragement, and when he stood beside you he would support you and when he stood in front of you he would protect you.” Bill added, “These keys that open Sonia and Angel’s house represent all the encouragement and support and protection that Dave stood for. Congratulations!”
Though I grew up poor in a small community on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, every family had a home of their own. We were a community that supported one another by celebrating the victories and dividing the grief. Our home was a space to call our own.
As an adult, I volunteered a few times on a Habitat build. I was impressed by seeing families working alongside volunteers. It wasn’t until later when I moved to Albuquerque and was asked to join the board of GAHH that I came to realize the depth of what it took for those families to get to that point of working on their own home.
When I went to my first Habitat home dedication, I had an epiphany. I took for granted that there was always a roof over my head, my worries were for other things. Here was a family that lived in substandard conditions and only dreamed of ever owning their own home.
The tears of joy from the parents as they could barely speak to the crowd, and absolute glee in the children when they showed me their “own rooms” was overwhelming. I knew then that I was called to continue working with Habitat – you could say I got “Habititus.” That was 10 years ago, and the passion is still there, stronger than ever.
GAHH has built 181 homes in Albuquerque. I have had the privilege of witnessing the struggle that families experience as well as watching them work toward fulfilling that dream of homeownership.
The reward of being associated with Habitat is sharing their joy. Just recently, a homeowner came running into my office and gave me a big hug. She said, “It is one year since I got my home. Have you seen it? It is so beautiful! I want you to come see what I have done. And guess what? I pre-paid my mortgage for a whole year, and I am going to pay $250 extra each month from now on. I want to pay my house off in 10 years, so my girls will never have to worry about not having a home like I did.”
Last week, I was with another partner family whose home is not yet finished. The mother told me that she had never dreamed she would graduate from college, but she did. Now, she is going to have a home of her own. She said that once she gets in her home and situated, her next goal will be to go back to school and get her MBA. “Dreams can come true,” she commented. Her son was there and also told me that he definitely will go to college – that is his goal. What we do impacts lives in more ways than I can say, but there is no doubt that having a home is life-changing.
Miss M told me she was homeless twice, and lived in her car with her 2 children. She fought and struggled and managed to get a job and apartment for her family. She was translating at an outreach event where we were looking for families. It was on the second round that it dawned on her that she herself might qualify. She now has a home of her own, a steady job, her daughter graduated recently and was accepted into Culinary School. She volunteers and participates in many of our events and outreach. Her warmth and excitement is contagious, and she is truly a part of our Habitat family here.
There are so many stories to tell – I wish you could hear them all. For us, the tears are always tears of joy. When people invest in GAHH they are in turn investing in changing lives forever. Our investment in low-income families, through educating them on various aspects of homeownership gives them the tools they need to become an active part of a community.
As one homeowner put it, once she turned the key and opened the door to her new home, she asked herself, “Okay, what’s next?”
That last question is a daily mantra here at GAHH. We march forward, looking for more lives to change, more communities to impact and more ways to provide the hope that so many seek. Blessings to all!
GAHH Executive Director
Friends and family gathered on Saturday November 19, just in time for Thanksgiving, to celebrate Victor Hoak, an Army Veteran, to welcome him home to his new Habitat house!
Lori Valdez, Board President welcomed everyone and introduced Victor, saying “Victor is a young man who has impressed me beyond his years. And he is a great addition to the community we are building here on Mesa del Rio.”
Victor’s mother Ruby is part of the Blue Star Mothers, a group of mother’s whose sons and daughters are currently or have previously served in the military. It’s this group that recommended Victor apply for a home with Habitat for Humanity.
A representative from the Blue Star Mothers, Carol SAnchez, spoke during the dedication saying, “We cannot give enough back to our veterans and we cannot thank Habitat for Humanity enough for helping Victor.”
Victor stood calmly as many volunteers and friends congratulated him and wished him well. When he spoke, Victor graciously said, “It’s been quite a journey getting here, starting about a year ago I was unsure where I was going to live. This is just so great, I wish the world could experience this more often. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.”
Congratulations Victor. We are forever grateful for your service to our country and we are inspired by your hard work and dedication to bettering your life. May your journey be blessed.