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Humphrey, Volunteer Coordinator, if you have any questions about
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Habitat Volunteer John Prince: 80-Year-Old Displays
By Joe Hall
Volunteers begin to gather at a Habitat for Humanity work
site in Shawnee at about 8:30 a.m. every other
Saturday. This is a pleasant time, with most workers greeted by name
as they arrive, conversation starting and everyone anticipating
several hours of good work on the house.
One volunteer who has joined this group almost every
workday since 2003 stands straighter than the rest, talks with
authority in his voice, always finds a way to accomplish jobs that
need doing and will stay for clean-up, sometimes after everyone else
is gone. His name is John Prince, and he’s the oldest volunteer on
the job at 80 years.
Every worker who comes to help a low-income family build
a house brings a story with him, but John Prince’s story covers more
time and geography than most. Col. Prince is a military man who was
discharged with 24 years of service in 1972, a veteran of a 53-year
marriage and a dedicated volunteer in several
He was born in Shuqualak (pronounced “sugar lock”),
Miss., in 1929, and grew up among 1,300 citizens of this cotton and
saw milling town. His military orientation began when he became a
student at Columbia
Military Academy, from which he graduated in
He stayed in his home state by enrolling at Mississippi
State College (now University). He joined the Army Reserve to help
pay for college and enrolled in ROTC all four years he
was at Mississippi State, becoming a Second Lieutenant in Artillery.
By the time he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
civil engineering, he had developed his leadership qualities by
serving as president of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity for two years,
becoming company commander of Scabbard and Blade, and
president of the Fraternity Council, all while working with the Soil
Conservation Office to help pay tuition.
A telegram from President Truman in 1951 ordered him to
report to Fort Bliss, Texas, for artillery school, preparing him for
a distinguished year in Korea with the Seventh Infantry Division. He
made First Lieutenant,
receiving the Purple
Star and Legion of
After the war, he was assigned to Fort Sill, Okla., where
he first met Patricia Adams in an office where he had gone looking
for some files. He was immediately impressed, though when he asked
her to go with him to a dance, she turned him down. He persisted,
thinking he had best marry this wonderful woman, and the result has
been 53 years of marriage and three successful sons. The first son
is a lawyer, the second is a petroleum engineer and the third works with
After tours of service in the Army in Washington, D.C.,
Italy, Korea and
Alabama, John was discharged. Pat had relatives in Oklahoma, so they
drove here to find work, stopping first at Oklahoma Baptist
University where he talked with President Bill Tanner and was
hired as budget coordinator, working with Tom Terry and later with
John Parrish. He worked
13 years at OBU, the last five as assistant professor of
All of his life, John has volunteered his time,
discipline and leadership skills to worthwhile organizations. He
held offices in the Kiwanis, ran the Backpacking Club at OBU with
Dick Canham, and served on the Red Cross board with three years as
president. Over the years, he has donated 184 units of blood. He has
been involved with the Boy Scouts since he was a Cub Scout and has held
leadership positions from 1972 through 1990, including district
He has always been a churchman, serving as a deacon in
in Alexandria, Va.; Meterie, La.; Cyril, Okla.; and Shawnee.
He and Pat moved to Chickasha in 1988 and later to Cyril
to take care of her parents in their last years.
When they returned to Shawnee in 1990, John worked with
Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief in the feeding unit, but
switched to the chainsaw unit because of continued hearing loss. As
he says, “You don’t have to hear real well to be a puller to clear
the way for the cutter.”
But John doesn’t rest. He bought an Indian drum in Colorado one year and
decided years later that he could make such a drum. He’s now made
more than 30 drums, the last being 16 inches in diameter. He gave
this one to the Salvation Army Boy Scout Order of the Arrow unit.
When John Prince arrives at a Habitat work site with his
purposeful walk and alert vision, looking for the first task of the
day to tackle, those of us greeting him cannot fully conceive of the
experiences and wisdom that he brings along with his hammer and
strong, 80-year-old arm. But we can see how his
laboring hard on a Saturday to help a working family build a house
to buy is typical of John’s disciplined, wide-ranging, generous
Habitat for Humanity volunteers Dirk McElfresh (left) and
John Prince put siding on a new home in Shawnee for a Partner
Needed: Beanie Construction
We need 20 people to help construct 25 beanies
for OBU freshmen as a fundraiser for Shawnee Habitat. If you can sew
and you’re willing to help, please contact Michael Cappo during work
hours at 273-0110.
Remember: Many hands make light work!
FUNDRAISING IDEAS FOR VOLUNTEER GROUPS
Volunteer groups are encouraged to
invest in costs of construction materials through sponsorship or
hosting a fundraiser. The following is a compilation of ideas that
your social group, business, congregation, or family could use in
your support of Shawnee Habitat for
Sell Square Feet: Create a stylized foot on a certificate and
have fun selling "square feet" for a house. People who purchase
square feet may come and sign the subfloor of their sponsored foot
(or feet). If you are volunteering on the build site, this is a
great way to get others to sponsor your volunteer time as well.
Golf Tournament: Requires many people to organize and promote
the tournament, but very profitable.
House Banks: Habitat for Humanity has cardboard
piggybanks. Put them in your church, in your home, ask businesses to
place them at their front counter, etc It’s a great way for youth to
begin getting involved with Habitat!
Make noise with a silent auction: Persuasive organizers
can obtain terrific do-nations from area businesses, especially
lo-cal restaurants for a variety of items like bas-kets, gift cards,
etc. This is great to pair with a dinner or other event.
Tried and true ideas: Bake Sales, car
washes, preparing mailings for businesses, clean up days for
donations, garage sales.
Special Offering: Designate a specific Sunday, a holiday, a
Habitat month or fifth Sundays as times for special Habitat
Art Sale: Have artists in your group donate pieces of artwork
to sell. Artists can get to-gether and create Habitat-themed artwork
or artwork that addresses the issue of poverty housing.
Scale Model House: Have the youth build and then place in the
lobby of the church. Place donations in the slit in the top.
Krispy Kreme Donut Sales: Check out the
Krispy Kreme website, or ask your local store manager for details.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY! TRAINING WILL BE
PROVIDED ON SITE
Shawnee Habitat for Humanity is a volunteer-driven organization.
We welcome people from all walks of life to join us as we build
simple, decent, affordable houses in partnership with God and
families in need. Though the vast majority has no construction
experience or building skills, volunteers are involved in most
phases of construction. Our crew leaders are willing to
teach anyone interested in learning. This is a fantastic way
to learn a new skill, by working side-by-side with families who
will live in the house, our volunteers experience for themselves the
joy created when people are able to realize their dreams of
Habitat volunteers contribute more than muscle. Creativity,
strategy, and technical skills are among the many invaluable traits
volunteers bring to the organization. With a minimal staff, Shawnee
Habitat depends upon volunteer committees such as Family Selection
Family Support, Public Relations, Fund-Raising, Church Relations,
and Construction. All of these committees are a tremendous help that
combine to produce the result of simple, decent, and affordable
homes in Shawnee.
What do volunteers do on site?
Volunteers perform a huge range of tasks on site, depending on
the stage of construction. On the day you volunteer you could be
assisting with: framing, porch building, installing windows,
insulating, tiling, sheet rocking, painting, siding, landscaping,
site clean up or any of the other numerous things that make a house
Some of the work is menial and grubby. We ask that volunteers be
willing to undertake the tasks assigned to them. If you are wary of
heights, please alert the construction staff when you sign in so
that they can plan accordingly.
I am unskilled, does that matter?
While we welcome skilled volunteers and want to encourage those
in the building trades to join us on site, the majority of our
volunteers have few construction skills to begin with. Many of our
volunteers remain with us on a long-term basis and volunteer
regularly in order to build skills. You will be able to learn all
aspects of construction with the hope that you will continue to
volunteer, and even perhaps share your skills with unskilled
volunteers in the future.
What kind of commitment is Habitat asking for?
Habitat needs volunteers who are able to make a regular
commitment. However, occasional workers are welcome. In Shawnee we
work every other Saturday, and sometimes on additional Saturdays or
on weekdays. We encourage volunteers to make a substantial
commitment to working with us.
What do I need to bring to the site?
We provide water at the work site, and sometimes a church or
other group will provide lunch. In case no lunch is provided,
volunteers should bring money for take-out. Volunteers should wear
clothes that can get dirty and are appropriate for the weather.
Heavy-soled shoes (athletic shoes are fine) are also important.
No open-toed or open-backed shoes (e.g. clogs, crocs, etc.) are
permitted. We recommend volunteers bring work gloves to the
site, and if possible, basic tools such as a hammer, measuring tape,
pencil, and utility knife. Tools should be labeled or easily
FAITH BASED RELATIONS
Habitat of Shawnee
depends upon the support of the faith communities in our area for
volunteers, prayer and donations. If you are a member of a faith
community in our service area and would like to arrange for your
group to volunteer, to make a donation, or would like to have
someone come speak to your group, please contact the Habitat office