Working in the Trenches at the Heart of Housing
by Brittany Maffett, Presentation Designer
Fannie Mae believes that providing volunteer opportunities to our employees strengthens communities and engages employees in a meaningful and impactful way. Through our SERVE (Serving, Engaged, and Ready to Volunteer Employees) program, eligible employees are permitted to use volunteer leave each year in support of relief work related to any federally declared disaster or emergency. SERVE focus areas include affordable housing and housing education, neighborhood revitalization, and preventing and ending homelessness. And, given the full scale and scope of the damage of recent storms, we know that this will be a multi-year effort.
Before I joined Fannie Mae's disaster relief deployment in Key West, Florida this past summer, I figured it would be like community service experiences I'd had in college: a few hours spent painting a few walls or planting a garden, taking a break to have a bagged lunch, and then, packing up and going home. But, once I arrived in Florida, my experience went far beyond completing light tasks to check a community service box. Working to rebuild a family's home allowed me to connect with them both physically and emotionally and understand the pain and loss caused by a natural disaster.
To help rebuild a family's house after they've experienced that kind of tragedy is more than just hauling dirt or pulling up mildewed floor tiles. It's carefully thinking about how every brush stroke or nail driven will help bring back peace of mind and stability to a family who's everything suddenly disappeared. It's listening to that homeowner tell you about their life before the hurricane and how it's changed in the face of disaster, but also how they persist with a heart full of joy.
It's a privilege to build frames and install vinyl siding when you realize that each task gets that family one step closer to the life they lived before the storm. But it's not just about the before—it's also about helping them overcome tragedy and rebuild a greater and more secure life.
My disaster relief deployment helped me understand that being at the "heart of housing" isn't just something we slap on a PowerPoint. It is the reason why we work so hard to create the best products, solutions, and ideas that provide Americans with one of the most basic human needs—a place to call home. This deployment took me from my everyday role to being right in the trenches to help deliver that home to a family in need. In the process I found myself welcomed into their hearts.
Mission-centered work can feel hard to come by when work days feel long and your to-do list is ever-growing. We are tasked with demanding and intellectually stimulating work, but it's easy to get disconnected from the people whom our work affects. I've been with the company for one year now, but in one week in Key West, I was quickly able to connect my daily "what" to the larger "why" behind our mission. I'm thankful for that opportunity and look forward to continuing my involvement with SERVE.