The Kingsport Regulars

Meet the Kingsport Regulars, a loose knit group of about 15 retirees who are long time volunteers for the Kingsport, Tennessee affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. No club membership dues, bylaws or secret handshakes. And no one knows who dreamt up the name, or when. But this cadre of volunteers has certainly lived up to its reputation as steadfast regulars. In 1985 the HFH affiliate was founded in Kingsport and that’s when 4 Eastman Chemical retirees began a 34 year tradition of camaraderie and volunteerism that continues to this day.

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(L to R: Ron Porter, Larry George, Jim Boushley, Jerry Jones, Jim Fischer, unknown, Bob Winstead, Dave Hafele)

According to Jon Peters, who coordinates communication for the Regulars, this informal group of guys just likes to build things and give back to the community. They can be counted on to build two homes a year for HFH. A number of the Regulars are Eastman Chemical retirees, but their members hail from diverse backgrounds. They employ their many and varied talents in construction, maintenance of the HRH tools and equipment, and operation of the flat bed trailers and hydraulic dump trailer used to transport materials to the building site and to haul off debris.

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Jon described a recent extra project the Regulars took on when the local Hampton Inn remodeled its Kingsport property. Management offered to donate used furnishings to the HRH ReStore if the Regulars would provide the labor and haul off the chairs, lamps and tables, etc. It took them a month to complete the job, working one floor at a time. The proceeds from ReStore sales are reinvested in future Habitat builds.

Not one to sit still, Jon’s personal story is one of continued volunteering and community engagement well beyond Habitat. He says he’s not alone in that, many of the other Regulars have similar stories. His own interests include two Meals on Wheels routes he shares with his wife as well as rewarding work as a coordinator for the local affiliate of Family Promise, a national network combating family homelessness. He recalls with delight the story of a single mom originally served by Family Promise who in five years’ time went from being homeless to being a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.

Jon also tells this Regulars tale with relish. A few years ago an Eastman Chemical executive who was laying the groundwork for a corporate contribution to HRH came out to an active build site to observe the Regulars in action. As they sat in a circle on their lunch break the executive asked each of them “Why do you do this?”. The answers included “I like to work with my hands”, “I enjoy the camaraderie”, “I like to see the finished product”. But when he turned to the 90 year old and most senior member of the team, quietly munching on his sandwich, the answer was a simple but elegant “I do it to help somebody out”.

For the Regulars, that says it all.

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The Doctor Is In

I was delighted with this “Self Proclaimed ‘Old Coots’” story in the Washington Post. It reminded me of the Peanuts comic strip character Lucy, who charged 5 cents for useless advice at her Psychiatric Help booth. But these guys share their accumulated wisdom for free. Originally begun as a lark, this Salt Lake City group of retirees soon realized they were providing a valuable community service.

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