If you’re looking for Craig Thiman on a Saturday morning between February and October, you’re most likely to find him on a construction site somewhere in northwest Atlanta.
And while Saturdays are technically part of his weekend, a day when he could be riding his road bike or relaxing after a busy week as a senior solutions consultant at NetSuite, Thiman says volunteering on a construction site is exactly where he wants to be.
For the last two years, Thiman has spent his Saturdays serving as a “house leader” with the northwest Atlanta affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. In this role, he oversees entire homebuilding sites, managing crew leaders and teaching volunteers with little to no construction experience how to frame and paint a home.
Thiman started as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta close to 10 years ago, and was introduced to his local chapter, the Northwest Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, while on a corporate build day with his former company. He ended up striking up a friendship with the house leader who asked him if he would stay on for the rest of the build season. It wasn’t long after that, Thiman says, that he was invited to attend construction meetings and asked to become a team leader, where he would be responsible for leading a small group of 5-7 volunteers during Saturday builds.
When people ask Thiman why he dedicates so much of his free time to Habitat for Humanity, his answer is that “my kids are grown, I don’t have a lot of expensive hobbies, and it’s my way of giving back to my community.” He also sees his work with Habitat for Humanity as an excellent way to be social and meet people in the community.
“You get pretty close to someone when you’re building with them nine Saturdays in a row on a house,” he said.
Thiman also says, the experience of building alongside of the people who will eventually live in the homes he is building gives him perspective about how fortunate he is.
He tells the story of an inspiring woman he met on a construction site, a disabled army veteran in her 20s who was helping to build the home her and her daughter would purchase from Habitat for Humanity. Thiman says her attitude, drive and the obstacles she had overcome were unbelievable.
“Speaking for myself, people get caught up in the day-to-day things that are frustrating or annoying to them,” said Thiman. “In the big scheme of things, if you’ve got a decent job and your making okay money and don’t have to worry about day-to-day finances, you’re doing okay.”
Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to creating safe, decent affordable homes around the world. Since its founding in Georgia in 1976, it has built and repaired more than 600,000 homes. What many people don’t know about Habitat for Humanity’s model of homeownership is that families actually purchase their home, it’s not given to them for free. The amount they pay is based on their income and family size. Another thing that people don’t often know, is that families who purchase a home from Habitat for Humanity must spend 200 hours working on the construction of their home and another Habitat home, a requirement known as “sweat equity.”
Thiman tells another story about running into a Habitat homeowner who he had built alongside two years prior.
“He was gushing, saying that the home was the best thing that had ever happened to him and his family, that he would never forget me,” Thiman said.
Thiman considers these experiences icing on the cake. What really keeps him coming back each Saturday, is he believes giving back “is the right thing to do.”
While Thiman’s volunteer commitment to Habitat for Humanity far exceeds the 16 hours he is granted as part of NetSuite’s Volunteer Time Off policy, his story is a good reminder to each of us to take advantage of our own local opportunities to give back!