Denver Bar Association
July 2005
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Building Instead of Billing: The Suprising Rewards of Blisters, Sunburns, and Bruises

by Michelle B. Ferguson

Editor’s note: For more information about Habitat for Humanity, visit

From walking dogs for animal shelters to purchasing and recording books for children with low reading skills, the past year at Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe has brought new experiences to its employees through the "12 Months of Giving" program. Each month, in an effort to reach out to the community and get out from behind our desks, we have dedicated ourselves to a new
charitable cause. In May, we took on Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s program, "Buildable Hours."

Buildable Hours was developed specifically for law firms to participate in Habitat’s important work. Habitat for Humanity is a home ownership program that instills pride and encourages hope by offering a constructive means for families to break the cycle of poverty. Working together, future homeowners and volunteers build decent, affordable homes. Families who qualify, purchase the homes with a zero-interest loan and also contribute 300 to 500 hours of sweat equity labor.
Attorney Greg Goodman (center) with Lee Kastberg, construction supervisor, and Paul Jurado, AmeriCorps volunteer.

Habitat’s "Buildable Hours" program is a combination of financial and volunteer support in which law firms make a tax-deductible donation to Habitat for Humanity and send volunteers out to build, as opposed to bill. Ireland Stapleton was the first firm to come on board. On May 20, nine of us showed up at the lot in Wheat Ridge. To our surprise, when we arrived at the lot there was no frame — only the foundation. Our job for the day was laying the subfloor,
otherwise known as "sheathing" in construction lingo. Hammers and glue guns in hand, we put down the entire floor and started building the window frames.


The Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe team in action.

Along with blisters, bruises, and sunburns, we felt a large sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. We were making a difference and it was rewarding. Even a neighbor participated in the event — returning from his granddaughter’s wedding earlier in the day, he brought us a piece of fabulous chocolate wedding cake with raspberry filling. A sweet ending to our long day.

But beyond the surface feelings of accomplishment, something more came out of the day.
While we hammered away, we were able to interact, learn more about each other, and reflect on the impact our work would have on the home’s future owners, a mother and her daughter. The team-building that took place during this project was worth more than any firm retreat or paid team-building counseling session. We had so much fun that we are planning another build day.

The Habitat staff was patient and appreciative of our work on that hot Saturday. They deserve recognition for the hard work they do day in and day out.

Michelle Ferguson and Michael Miller lay the sheathing.

I encourage other firms to participate in this project. Exchange some billable hours for buildable hours and you will be amazed at the results. If your firm is interested
participating in this project, contact Heather Lafferty, Director of Development at Habitat for Humanity, at (303) 534-2929, ext. 116 or
Now, go forth and build!

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