Categories: Veteran, Habitat Happenings, Volunteer

“For our anniversary, I wanted pearls. What did you get me?” “A tool belt.”

John and Sally Evans are living a life full of traveling, learning, and a passion for helping others. They met when they were still young adults, after John’s service in Vietnam. A retired lawyer and a librarian who share a passion for the outdoors, they seem to never stop moving. Between John’s volunteering at Hospice, Sally’s volunteering at the NICU, and trips to visit their children in London and Singapore, we’re honored to receive the gift of their time, humor, and kindness every single day of the workweek.

Volunteering is a central part of the fabric of life for them. John says, “Our kids would be having sleepovers and we’d say, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re going to get up at 4 in the morning and go pack food for the food bank. We did it so our kids could truly, truly understand how lucky they were.”

They became Habitat volunteers in the 90s alongside a friend from St. Philips in the Hills, Dani Hitchcock. At Habitat, John says, “You get something done. You can see that you actually did something towards a house.” Sally adds, “It’s also fun to volunteer here. It’s always been fun. It’s really important for people our age to be getting together with younger people. That’s been a gift that came about after we were already in it. We didn’t go into this thinking, ‘We’ve got to meet people.’ It was just extra, and really a nice part about it.”

Over the past few decades, volunteering at Habitat hasn’t changed much. Before the Internet, Sally says, “We got in the habit of calling the office during the week and ask where the project was going over the weekend. That way we’d get to see Dani!” And, she adds, “They used to have donuts on the construction site- it wasn’t the healthy snacks it is now.”

There are some experiences, though, that make the highlight reel. John says that one of his favorite experiences is finishing a house.

He says, “Putting up kitchen cabinets, that’s one of the last things. I’ll never forget finishing Copper Vista, which had three or four houses. I was the last one. I mopped the floors with vinegar and water as I swabbed it out. It looked great. Then I left, and they were dedicated. I said, ‘What’s that going to do to the floor?’ But that’s what it’s all about right there- seeing it through.

Sally says, “I’ll never forget Monica.” Monica was a homebuyer just a couple of years ago. “She was in the program, got COVID, almost didn’t make it home from the hospital, then ended up on oxygen. But Habitat saved a place for her. She had to help in the office rather than the construction site, so Monica sat next to me and wrote Christmas cards and thank you notes for hours. Her son is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Habitat made Monica’s house wheelchair accessible when her old one wasn’t. If anyone needed this kind of help, she did.

Another experience that stands out to them is building a Habitat house with hay bales as walls, stuccoed in the inside and outside. One of the kids who grew up in that home, Viviana, is now in her mid-twenties. She graduated from the University of Arizona and is now employed there. “Wonderful. It’s great insulation, and it’s lasted!” John says.

Sally and John are also donors to Habitat Tucson. For John, “I like directing where our tax money goes, and I know it’s well used here.” Sally believes, “The need is everywhere. But we try to give locally because of the efficacy of the organization. It’s personal, because we know how it’s used. Here, you know what’s happening.”

“We don’t have a ton of money to give to organizations, so volunteering is another way to give to organizations. It’s part of our routine. Plus, every day you’re upright, breathing, and taking nutrition is a good day,” John says. Sally adds with a laugh, “…And not falling off ladders.”

What would they tell someone considering volunteering with Habitat? John says, “Try it. Love it. That’s it. You don’t need to know anything. Just come in with no skills, closed toed shoes and you can learn it all. Don’t be afraid to come, because it’s really, really fun.”


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