Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity has been serving the community for more than 30 years. Most recently, as part of its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, the organization completed a five-year commitment to the Washington Park neighborhood.

Located just minutes from Komatsu Mining Corp’s National Avenue facility, the neighborhood was transformed block by block. New homes were built on empty lots, boarded up homes were completely rehabbed, and existing neighbors received support with critical repairs. Through this focused effort, the neighborhood was transformed: crime went down at a greater rate than the rest of the city and property values and homeownership went up beyond new Habitat homeowners. Habitat’s concentrated effort in the neighborhood made a measurable impact and now, with that knowledge and experience in hand, they have moved to a new neighborhood — Midtown.

Komatsu Mining Corp has been supporting Habitat for Humanity since 2011, playing an integral role in the success of the efforts in the Washington Park neighborhood. Employees raised walls, installed siding, hung drywall and painted. They learned new skills and as Habitat moves, Komatsu Mining Corp employees move, ready to use their skills to make a difference in a new neighborhood. 

In early September more than 100 Komatsu Mining Corp employees participated in their first Blitz Build in Midtown, starting construction on the company’s 20th- and 21st-sponsored home since 2011. Within the crew each day you could easily find employees who have been building with Habitat since the start of the partnership. Building a Habitat home is easy for them; they know the drill and they have the skills.

At the same time, there are always new employees who step up to the plate, curious to learn what all of the excitement is about. This year, one such employee was Engineer-I John von Helms.

“I signed up because Habitat has a strong mission that I’d like to support, and I thought it would be a nice way to help give back to the city that I live in. I also thought it would be refreshing to spend a day working with my hands outdoors instead of working at a desk in the office.

“I was surprised by how organized everything was,” von Helms continued. “Habitat has a nice system for getting the most out of everyone’s volunteer time and making sure every volunteer stays safe.”  

Time and again employees share how much they appreciate the opportunity to work alongside people from other departments within the company. This sentiment was echoed by von Helms.

“Just from a day helping frame walls, I got the opportunity to meet a bunch of people from areas of the business that I don’t normally work with. The fact that everyone, from pricing analysts and planners, to machinists, engineers, and data scientists, was out there swinging a hammer made it easy to connect with people.”

Volunteering with Habitat quickly becomes an employee favorite, requiring organizers to draw names for each opportunity. By the end of the week, new volunteers like von Helms are ready to come back for more.

“After being part of this experience and learning more about Habitat as an organization, I can see why so many Komatsu employees return every year to volunteer,” he said.

Another first-time volunteer, Project Manager- CTS - Service Planning Alex Bettis, agreed.

“It was a great experience; everyone is really helpful. I would do it again,” he said.

Employees will have several opportunities in the months ahead to return to the homes and continue construction, working on drywall and painting. The homes should be completed within 9 months and the homeowners will be able to move in after completing their Habitat for Humanity sweat equity hours, attending financial literacy classes, and obtaining their mortgage through Habitat.