Featured Faithful: Rich Phillips
Encouraged by fellow members at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church (Gig Harbor), Rich Phillips began volunteering with Tacoma Habitat in 2002.
“I liked the fact that Habitat for Humanity helped people without giving them things,” says Rich. “I learned from personal experience that if people gave me something, it wasn’t as valuable as if I worked for it.”
For Rich, the magic of volunteering with Habitat is in connecting with the homeowners. He recalls that the first four homeowners whose homes he worked on were all named Angie. “We called them Angie 1, Angie 2, Angie 3 …”
Habitat builds became a family affair as Rich’s wife Cathy helped check in volunteers or bring lunch, and their teenage son, Richie, came along to work on the builds themselves.
“Richie was about 16 when we raised the first wall at Angie 2’s house. He noticed the woman next to him crying after the wall went up. Not knowing she was the homeowner, Richie asked if she was okay. She said, ‘I never thought I would see the walls to my house being raised.’”
In 2006, Rich was elected chair of the Gig Harbor Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which built 13 homes west of the Narrows Bridge between 2003 and 2012, most on Key Peninsula. However, building homes on the Peninsula created hardships for low-income families who had long commutes. And, with land prices and home values skyrocketing, building affordable housing in Gig Harbor became nearly impossible.
However, this spring construction will begin on the 2023 Building on Faith home just north of St. Anthony Hospital, on a parcel of land that Tacoma Habitat has owned since 2010. Rich hopes that Chapel Hill’s involvement as sponsor of this house, called the Chapel Hill Home, will prompt a resurgence in volunteerism from Gig Harbor churches.
“I hope this inspires a lot of people who have not been exposed to Habitat about how wonderful the program is.”