Volunteers help raise a wall of a new home being built on the Rialto Ranch subdivision. (Photo by Ron Sundquist)
By Tomas Kassahun | Reporter
As a police officer, Tom Flanigan spent a lot of his time working to protect communities in need.
Flanigan is now retired, but his work with the community continues.
That’s because Flanigan has spent the last 15 years volunteering at Habitat for Humanity in Fresno, a faith-based organization that builds affordable homes for low-income families.
“I recognize that I have been fortunate in my life with a decent job, decent place to live,” Flanigan said. “Being an ex-police officer, I’ve seen parts of the community that were not like that. It was not because of the people’s own doing. That’s just the way things are.”
When he first started working with Habitat for Humanity, Flanigan helped at the construction sites. Two years ago, Flanigan expanded his role with Habitat for Humanity, enlisting as a board member.
Flanigan is one of many volunteers from around the world who works for Habitat for Humanity. The organization has 1400 affiliates worldwide, including a national affiliate in Fresno which was established in 1985.
The goal is to provide low cost, safe, decent housing, Flanigan said.
But not everybody qualifies for purchasing a house.
Flanigan said there’s a rigorous application process which includes a 620 credit score, background checks, proof of income and a great need to purchase a home. Once the family is selected, they are required to put in 500 hours of work at the construction site, helping in whatever task they are capable of.
“This acts as a down payment,” Flanigan said.
He adds that Fresno and the surrounding cities like Clovis have been a great place for Habitat for Humanity.
“Clovis has been wonderful with providing land development and infrastructure,” Flanigan said. “The City of Clovis has worked closely with Habitat.”
The volunteers work alongside paid staff.
“Every phase of the construction is supervised, not only by paid staff but by volunteer staff. It works nicely,” Flanigan said.
There’s also a social aspect which has become a key part of Habitat for Humanity.
“They want all the volunteers to interact with each other,” Flanigan said. “In the morning, they have the introduction of the families, introduction of the staff. The site supervisor explains what everybody is going to do today. They offer a prayer and everybody breaks off into their respective jobs.”
Although Habitat for Humanity is known as a faith-based organization, Flanigan said there’s no obligation to pray or to have religious affiliations.
“We welcome anyone to apply for a home or volunteer regardless of faith. Internationally we build in countries that are not even Christian,” Flanigan said. “As a faith based organization, they look at it as serving a god. They say a little prayer. People are welcome to participate or not.”
Flanigan said Habitat for Humanity currently builds eight homes per year.
Now, with the leadership of new Executive Director Matthew Grundy, the organization is working to expand its presence in the community.
“They want to at least double our production in the next few years,” Flanigan said.
The organization also recently started a neighborhood revitalization program.
“Volunteers go to a community once a week and provide assistance to people that are unable to do something due to age or physical condition,” Flanigan said.
The volunteers help with smaller tasks such as painting a fence, mowing a lawn, or helping clean up areas.
“I enjoy working to better the community, to better my fellow citizens lives,” Flanigan said. “If I can help my fellow citizens achieve the so called American dream of owning your own house, that gives me great satisfaction.”