We could not do what we do without the hard work, dedication, and passion of our volunteers. These are their stories.

Ed Leach

March 2022 Volunteer Spotlight

Ed Leach first started volunteering on our build sites in May 2000, and he hasn’t stopped yet. Here is our Q&A with Ed!

What led you to volunteer with Habitat?

When I found out I was going to retire in 2000, I knew I needed an activity to keep both my mind and body active. I had heard of Habitat, thus I called to get information regarding the build portion of the program. The schedule sounded agreeable, so I showed up on the first build day in 2000.

What made you choose to continue to volunteer with us?

I found a comfortable group to fit in with and stayed with them through the first year.

What did you do prior to volunteering with us?

I worked at Woodward for 38 years in the engineering department, although I occasionally held management jobs.

What other types of volunteering have you done?

I served on the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity board for about 20 years with breaks as required by Habitat for Humanity International. I was the construction lead for 10 years and still sit on the construction committee. I am on the site selection committee.

What are some of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering with Habitat?

Mostly I remember the pleasant company of the people that I work with year after year.

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat!

It’s very rewarding to help a family buy a house which they otherwise could not afford. I frequently see a homeowner who we helped get into theri home, and they always remember me and are grateful.

Peter Schmeling

November 2022 Volunteer Spotlight

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

My wife, Danielle, and I own a small farm in Winnebago. We raise grass-fed Aberdeen Angus, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, and our two labs.

How long have you volunteered with Habitat? What types of volunteering have you done? 

I have volunteered with Habitat since my first week of college at Bradley University in Peoria. When I returned to Rockford in 2017, I began volunteering on our building sites and asking every question I could about how our affiliate worked. I joined the Board of Directors in 2019 and have served on many of our committees, but with an extra passion for our construction, site selection, and cost reduction committees. I currently serve as our Board Chair.

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering?

What drew me in to volunteer was my passion for construction and building side by side with the future homeowner. These small moments on the job site chatting with the future homeowner about each other families, goals in life, and dreams for their new house are the heart and soul of our organization.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

My favorite day of every year is framing day. When every volunteer shows up bright and early in the morning, the semi-trailers are still fully loaded with wall panels, and there are still just a plethora of concrete slabs in the neighborhood. However, as the morning goes on, and even before lunchtime arrives, the families who will be one day moving into these homes, can walk through the freshly tipped up wall panels, start to pick out their bedrooms, and feel how their new home will flow! Framing day brings together an incredible amount of volunteers from skilled tradesmen, to people who have never swung a hammer, to volunteers who only show up once a year for this day. It truly is a special day for all involved.  

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

What isn’t to love about our organization? We provide safe and affordable housing for those who need it the most in our community. Our affiliate has and continues to grow so much each and every year, and I couldn’t be more proud. Our strides this year speak for themselves in terms of Restore donations and sales, volunteer hours throughout the affiliate, a new critical home repair program kicking off in partnership with the City of Rockford and RHDC, more homes being built than ever before, and a staff that is as dedicated as they get to our mission.  

Rick Reimers

August 2022 Volunteer Spotlight

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

I’ve survived cancer 3 times.  I have 4 Aerospace patents.  I have 3 college degrees.

How long have you volunteered with Habitat? What types of volunteering have you done? 

About 15 years.  Home building and training high school students.

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering?

I want to serve God with the gifts He has given me as often as I can.  I have a gift of working with my hands.  Habitat allows me to use my God given gifts to serve a worthy cause.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

In my first year on a home build, I worked with Don Kinney building a front deck.  This activity required additional accuracy that I was able provide being a Mechanical Engineer by trade.  This was Don’s first day.  Don expressed to me later that it was working that day with me that hooked him on Habitat building.  He has worked diligently as a Weekday Wonder ever since.  Don and I have a friendship from that day we will always have.

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

I enjoy working with people who are believers, very friendly, easy to work with, and extremely appreciative.  I like that you can learn on the job how to do things you can then do at your own house.  I worked 38 years in Aerospace Engineering in an office environment.  I have always enjoyed physical activities outside of work as my hobbies.  Construction provides that physical outlet that I enjoy.  You can physically see what you have accomplished every day.  That’s rewarding.

Craig Bederka

March 2022 Volunteer Spotlight

Craig is a ReStore True Blue and Department Leader. He’s volunteered at the ReStore for three years, and around the store he’s known as “Mr. Fix-it” because he is very skilled at evaluating and repairing all kinds of items that are donated to the ReStore. Here is Craig’s Q&A!

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

Music is one of my many passions.  I play Alto sax, Tenor sax and Clarinet as well as sing in our church choir.

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering? 

Light bulb testing box created by Craig

Sue Drennon invited me.  I’ve been doing engineering work since childhood and love the many challenges.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering? 

The light ladies check light bulbs by twisting them into a lamp socket.  Unhealthy for the wrist and time consuming.  I designed and built a test box allowing them to simply push the bulb into a socket then press a small test button.  Bulbs can now be tested very quickly with minimal health impact.

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

I believe in the business model and what it does for our community.  Being a part of the journey is very rewarding.

Any additional thoughts?

Without the flexible hours, volunteering would not fit in my busy life.  I am grateful for the opportunity.

Rochelle Price

February 2022 Volunteer Spotlight

Rochelle is one of our True Blues at the ReStore, and we’re so excited to share her Q&A. Thank you, Rochelle, for being such an awesome member of the ReStore team, and for serving the Rockford community in such meaningful ways.

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

Something that people don’t know about me is that I was a foster parent for 27 years. 

How long have you volunteered with Habitat?

I have volunteered at Habitat for Humanity for almost a year. 

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering?

I was volunteering at the Rockford schools but that was stopped because of Covid. I asked for a list of organizations that needed volunteers. Habitat was on the list and I believed in what they did and wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to help them reach their goals.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

I enjoy seeing things of the past and remember some. Sometimes it brings back memories that I have long forgotten. I enjoy everyone I work with but most of all I believe in what Habitat does and it makes me proud to be part of Habitat reaching their goals.

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

Working for Habitat also gives me a sense accomplishment. As long as I can I want to be contributing to my community and Habitat helps me to accomplish that goal. I feel Habitat helps me as much or more than I help them. I look forward to many more years of working together.

Sara Skaggs

June 2021 Volunteer Spotlight

Sara volunteers at the affiliate offices every week, and we are so grateful for her!! Here is our Q&A with Sara about her experience as a Habitat volunteer.

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

I’m a happy camper if I have a blank canvas, an assortment of brushes, and plenty of free time to paint. Acrylics are usually my choice; however, watercolors are second on the list. Creating art is something at which one never stops learning. Also, I love to ride my bicycle about 900 miles each summer.

How long have you volunteered with Habitat? What types of volunteering have you done?

I’ve been with Habitat for approximately 13 years. After retiring from Rock Valley College in 2008, I wanted to find a volunteer job that was both interesting and satisfying—Habitat was #1 on my list of choices to explore. I was on the Habitat for Humanity Board for two terms, on the Family Selection Committee, and have worked in the office for many years.

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering?

I believe in the mission of Habitat, that of providing homes for people who need affordable housing. Plus, I am familiar with Habitat as my husband has been part of the building of houses for 20+ years. It is a remarkable program, both locally and internationally.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

There have been many. When doing site visits on the Family Selection Committee, it was always a pleasure to meet the people who had hopes of being selected for one of the houses to be built. It was often eye opening for me to learn their story and to interact with the parents and, often, the children.

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

Habitat makes a difference in people’s lives. The impact of building neighborhoods has a direct influence in the community. At the conclusion of a build, it is the house dedication ceremony that brings into focus the incredible impact that Habitat has on families. The pride of ownership is evident when the keys are handed to the new owners!

Mike Hotopp

April 2021 Volunteer Spotlight

We’re so excited to feature Mike Hotopp for our April Volunteer Spotlight! We are so thankful for Mike and the many ways that he has impacted Habitat and the Rockford community. We hope you enjoy his Q&A.

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

My wife Jean and I met in 1972, our senior year at WIU. As a couple of hippies, we shared great experiences including demonstrating against the war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon, the support of changes to improve our environment and the needs of the poor and hungry people. We married in September of that year, despite the grave concerns shared by our parents.  We possessed a 12 year old Chevrolet Biscayne, a comfortable rocking chair, 250 record albums, a great stereo system, $350 in cash and deep love for each other. We stepped out into our new life together. After nearly 49 years we have found great joy in living active lives together while celebrating retirement.

How long have you volunteered with Habitat? What types of volunteering have you done?

In the spring of 2019, two years after moving to Rockford, a fellow member of my Church Council shared my resume with Keri. Within a week Keri and I met for breakfast at the Potato Shack; 90 minutes later I agreed to join the Board. In addition to Board membership I serve on the Executive Committee, the Governance Committee, the DEI Committee and the Construction Management Committee. I also have had the privilege to work with each of the House Leaders building homes each summer. This year I will work on the Community Build home as one of the volunteers that will be assisting Gary Trueblood.

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what has made you choose to continue volunteering?

Having served in the construction industry my entire professional career, and having a heart for those who are marginalized, I knew that upon retirement volunteering for Habitat is what I wanted to do. I continue to volunteer because I find it very satisfying. This satisfaction comes from building relationships with other volunteers and with those that we serve. I have been able to witness the difference that affordable housing means to families.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

The strongest memory I have is the dedication and diligence shown by all of our volunteers who worked through the COVID crisis in 2020. Specifically for me, it was a privilege to work side by side with others who were building homes. We were challenged by the limited number of volunteers that we could have on each site and had to start construction two months later than usual. In addition we were required to maintain social distance and wore face masks while enduring near record warm temperatures day after day. Despite these challenges there were few complaints and our goals were met.

Why do you love Habitat?

I love Habitat for many reasons. Yet the strong sense that we are providing affordable housing to those who need it and appreciate it brings me the most joy. The core of what we accomplish at Habitat absolutely exemplifies the words of Christ when He calls for us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Affordable housing creates hope for families and changes lives. Being a small part in this effort brings me great satisfaction and joy for the families that we have served. 

Connie Noling

March 2021 Volunteer Spotlight

Connie has been a Habitat volunteer in our offices for 16 years. She assists with entering information into our databases, administrative tasks for the affiliate, and more. This role is crucial to the functioning of the affiliate, and Connie’s consistent dedication to Habitat over the years is truly admirable.

Connie used to work as a realtor and then as a loan officer here in Rockford. She started volunteering with Habitat after she retired. When she initially started volunteering in the office, she wasn’t sure how long she would continue, but over the years she has become sure that she’s here to stay.

“I loved what Habitat has accomplished and what they’ve done. And once you get affiliated and know what they’re doing, you want to continue,” she said.

Every Monday, Connie comes to the office to volunteer.

“This is a good way for me to start my week,” she said, describing how much she enjoys working alongside the Habitat team. “They’re just a fantastic group of people.”

Beyond enjoying her hours in the office, Connie is deeply passionate about Habitat’s mission and history. When asked about Habitat as an organization, she quickly shared that “Jimmy Carter didn’t start it! He’s an advocate for it—so am I.”

And she definitely is.

“Everybody who knows me knows that I will speak about Habitat. If they want to know about the ReStore, I’ll give them the number to call them,” Connie said, adding that she has all of the ReStore’s information hanging on her refrigerator. “I really am a cheerleader for Habitat.”

We are beyond grateful for Connie, her generosity with her time, and the heart she has for the families we serve.

Ken and Nancy Baliga

January 2021 Volunteer Spotlight

Ken and Nancy Baliga have been volunteering with Habitat at the ReStore for 3 years. It all started when Nancy’s friend, Maureen (another ReStore volunteer), invited her to try volunteering. Ken tagged along, and the rest is history.

“The ReStore work is interesting and the people are fun,” the Baligas said. “We continue to volunteer because of the people who work at the ReStore and Habitat’s mission.”

Amongst many memories and experiences at the ReStore (including sheltering in the ReStore bathrooms during a tornado!), one of Ken and Nancy’s favorite aspects of volunteering is getting to see and learn about the items that are donated to the store.

“We continue to be amazed at the variety of bizarre items we see pass through the ReStore,” they said.

The Baligas also mentioned that they enjoy getting to work with Habitat homeowners. Ken and Nancy both feel motivated to volunteer because they believe in Habitat’s mission.

“Habitat is a responsible and respectable cause,” they said, describing how Habitat supports and offers help to the community.

The ReStore isn’t the only organization that Ken and Nancy have volunteered with—they have also served in a variety of ways at Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago for many years.

We are so thankful for passionate, consistent and committed volunteers like Ken and Nancy. The impact they have in the ReStore and in the lives of members of the Rockford community is immeasurable.


December 2020 Volunteer Spotlight

We’re so excited to feature Lenny this month for our volunteer spotlight! Lenny has volunteered with us since September of 2018, and let’s just say he’s done a little bit of everything. He has worked at the dock at the ReStore, he’s worked on the Weekday Wonder team building houses, he worked on a home renovation, he’s helped with collecting donated materials, and he even helped to unload over 350 pallets of donated flooring. We had the chance to ask Lenny a few other questions about himself and his experience volunteering with Habitat. Here’s what he shared:

What is one fact that most people might not know about you?

“I also volunteer at Pec Playhouse Theatre in Pecatonica. I’ve been on the team that sells tickets and greets customers on performance nights, read and recommended scripts, acted, worked behind the scenes, worked sound, helped build sets and been a member of the board.”

What led you to volunteer with Habitat, and what made you choose to continue volunteering?

“I was looking for someplace to donate my time that I knew would be for a good cause, and I had known Kelly Day [one of the current ReStore managers] for years. I have continued to volunteer not only for the good Habitat does, but I have met and continue to meet some terrific people.”

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?

“One day I was walking through the back room [at the ReStore] and saw a large framed picture of a girl I was certain I knew. I thought it was the daughter of some longtime friend of mine. I asked Peg [another ReStore volunteer] to hold the picture for me and took a photo of it. I sent the photo to my friend, who now lives in Virginia, and called her. Sure enough, it was her daughter. I asked if she wanted the picture, and she said she would be thrilled to have it, so I bought it and went to UPS and had it shipped to her.”

Share a little bit about why you love Habitat.

“I like the fact that you can directly see how your efforts contribute. We are allowed to work whatever hours we want and in whatever capacity we are able. To be part of providing a home to deserving families is worth all the hours we donate. In addition, I have learned a lot from the employees and volunteers I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. I love what Habitat does and how they do it.”

We are so grateful to have a volunteer like Lenny. Thank you, Lenny, for sharing about your experience, and for all that you do for Habitat and the Rockford community!

Mike and Janet Butler

October 2020 Volunteer Spotlight

For the month of October, we’re spotlighting Mike and Janet Butler, two of our amazing volunteers!

When Mike and Janet were asked to share a few facts about themselves that others might not know, Janet shared that she is shy, but she loves hearing stories from other people. She also described herself as a “voracious reader”—murder mysteries and historical fiction are her favorites. Janet has even written and published poetry! Mike also said that he is fairly shy around people until he gets to know them, and shared that he would rather be helpful than need help. He also enjoys sports (he’s a White Sox fan) and playing golf. Sometime in the future, he wants to learn how to fish and camp.

Mike and Janet originally got involved with Habitat through their daughter Laura, who is the RAHFH office manager. Mike and Janet have been volunteering with Habitat in a variety of ways for about two years. They clean the RAHFH office, they volunteered at the ReStore until the COVID-19 outbreak, and they’ve helped with events, volunteer dinners, and house rehabs.

Their favorite parts of volunteering with Habitat have been getting to meet some of the homeowners, as well as hearing the stories of Habitat employees and volunteers.

“We both like the idea of giving back and helping those who need it,” they wrote in response to our interview questions. “It can be difficult finding ways to help others and Habitat for Humanity gives us the opportunity.”

Beyond their extensive volunteer work with Habitat, Mike and Janet have also supported, donated, and volunteered with many other organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Wounded Warrior Project, Southwest Indian Foundation, St. Joseph Indian School, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Rockford Rescue Mission, and Salvation Army.

We are so, so thankful for all that Mike and Janet do to help Habitat thrive as an organization. Their generosity with their time, resources and energy to serving others is incredibly inspiring.

Thank you, Mike and Janet, for everything you do!


September 2020 Volunteer Spotlight

Ted Brolund is one of our long-time volunteers, and he was recently selected as a 2020 recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. He is definitely a deserving recipient—his dedication, generosity, and passion for serving his community have made quite the impact over the years.

Ted started volunteering with RAHFH in 1988, right after he retired. He says that he was originally encouraged by a reverend to get involved at Habitat, and that his faith motivates his service.

“I love working with Habitat, where we have good fellowship with like-minded people who want to serve,” he said.

Over the years, Ted has helped to lead teams of volunteers, build 25 Habitat homes, refurbish six homes, and remodel the Habitat ReStore’s last two locations. One particular memory of Habitat that stands out to him is when he helped build a home for a refugee and her family.

“I love seeing a family working on their home and having the pride of ownership,” Ted said.

Habitat isn’t the only organization that Ted serves and volunteers with. He is an active member of his church, is a Fellow in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and serves on the board for both the SwedishAmerican Operating Committee and The Gideons International.

Ted has been happily married for 64 years to his wife, Murlaine, and they have three children, eight grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.

Once again, thank you Ted! We are so appreciative of and thankful for you.


August 2020 Volunteer Spotlight

This month, we’re highlighting Peg for our Volunteer Spotlight. Here’s what some of the Habitat family had to say about this long-time volunteer:

“This month, our ReStore has experienced a high volume of donations, and has been busier than ever. Daily we talk to our staff and volunteers at the ReStore, and one name is continuously mentioned to be thanked: Peg. Multiple staff and volunteers tip their hats to Peg, who oversees our Vintage Department with grace and determination. It is because of volunteers like Peg that we can continue to do what we do. From the entire team at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, we thank you Peg. You are one of a kind.” – Greta, RAHFH Volunteer Coordinator

“Every non-profit dreams of having a volunteer like Peg.  Dependable.  Passionate.  Loyal.  Hard-Working.  Not afraid to get their hands dirty.  Peg is the definition of each of those traits, and we are so lucky to have her as part of the Habitat family.  She’s made an incredible impact on the ReStore, the affiliate, and the families we are privileged to serve every day.” – Keri Asevedo, RAHFH Executive Director 

“Peg is really good at what she does– taking care of Vintage and much more. She is a hard worker who dedicates loads of her time to the Restore.  Yet even on her busiest days, she will always take time to answer questions and help the other volunteers.” – Maureen Hargrove, ReStore Volunteer

“A few words about Peg: loving, kind, compassionate, dependable, awesome. When I did not have a place to live, she opened up her home and welcomed my wife to stay with her a few days. She loves Habitat.” – Steve Church, ReStore General Manager

Thank you, Peg. We are so thankful for you!

Chuck and Stella

July 2020 Volunteer Spotlight

Chuck and Stella are recipients of Rockford Rotary’s Service Above Self award

Chuck and Stella approach their many volunteer roles with a quiet spirit of “service above self,” for which they were recognized with the award of that name by the Rockford Rotary this spring. The couple brings a distinct compassion and humility to their volunteerism, and it is worth noting that much of what they do as volunteers, they do together.

Chuck and Stella have been bolstering the work and mission of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity (RAHFH) for the last six years through their philanthropic and volunteer work in a variety of capacities. This service includes helping to raise funds at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, where they both volunteer two full days each week. They always bring an unfailing spirit of kindness and fellowship with them.

Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity is in good company among organizations that benefit enormously from the generous involvement of the Schroeders. Chuck and Stella have brought the same conviction, leadership, longevity, and spirit of servitude to Rockford Promise’s scholarship program, United Way’s IRead program, and the RPS205 uniform co-op program, which Stella co-founded. They have both now been instrumental leaders of the uniform co-op for years, and they have expanded it from one school to three to make sure that as many RPS205 families as possible have dignified access to low-cost uniforms. Both Chuck and Stella have also been very involved in their church community at Saint Mark Lutheran Church, where they both served for a number of years as President at different times. Stella has served on the Board of Directors at Katie’s Cup since its beginning, and Chuck is a lifelong Kiwanis Club member and leader.

The Schroeders are a guiding light in the Rockford community. They demonstrate daily that through compassionate and ongoing, committed community service, individuals have the power to make change in their communities.