When Jim Stanke retired in 2006 after a successful career as an engineer, he was excited to continue serving at St. James Catholic Church, but he wanted to do something else, too. As he looked around at all the great volunteer organizations in Milwaukee, Habitat for Humanity caught his eye. “Habitat empowers families and neighborhoods. It’s a level above direct service,” said Jim, who is the recipient of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee's Inspire by Example Adult Award.
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity will soon complete their 100th home in the area. Habitat homes are built on the sweat of volunteers like Jim, but also with the “sweat equity” of partner families. Jim embodies Habitat’s value for partnership and empowerment that not only builds homes, but relationships, neighborhoods, and communities.
“We have a lot of volunteers who love building and who have learned the skills to build homes. They are very task-driven. They like to get the job done. Jim Stanke is one of those rare volunteers who is very relational,” says Brian Sonderman, Executive Director of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. “He not only has skills. He’s an engineer by trade, but then he loves working with our habitat homeowners and partnering with them and teaching them skills.”
Jim helps partner families understand things like how to repair drywall or what to do if a windowpane breaks. By passing on such knowledge he empowers families to care for their home far beyond Habitat’s presence on their lot.
In the warmer months, Jim leads crews of 15-20 people during Habitat’s Blitz Build weeks. By the end of that seven day period, Jim has walked his volunteers through the process of building a fully framed home. Jim uses his engineering background to enhance Habitat’s house plans and takes time to teach Habitat staff and Americorps volunteers important skills that improve their service.
This year, Jim Stanke receives the Inspire by Example Adult Award. “I feel called to help people,” says Jim. “I want to work at Habitat for as long as God will let me.” He hopes that the “batteries” in his old hammer won’t run out for long because he enjoys the feeling of looking at that new house that used to be an empty lot, sitting back and saying, “We built that.”
What would Milwaukee look like if we all could say that? What if we all could point to something in this community and say, “We built that."
Join us in honoring all of the Inspire By Example award recipients at the 34th Annual Volunteer Celebration April 7, 2016, 11:30 AM - 01:00 PM CT at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago Street. Milwaukee, WI 53202. Click here to register online.