AmeriCorps NCCC Olivia Padilla

In June of 2006, Colorado home builders partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver to participate in a blitz build, where 15 homes were built in seven days in Aurora, Colorado. Olivia Padilla and her family of four moved into one of these Habitat homes. Prior to moving in, they were living in a small apartment surrounded by an unsafe community in the Denver area.

“I was only nine at the time, but I remember one of my happiest moments was that we were going to have our own backyard. My siblings and I would finally get bikes to ride around the neighborhood without feeling unsafe,” says Olivia.

In July 2017, Olivia joined a program called AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). AmeriCorps NCCC is a full time, ten-month, residential, national service program in which 2,100 young adults serve nationwide each year. Members in this program are assigned to one of four regions across the United States, placed onto teams of eight to twelve, and serve within various organizations throughout the region for months at a time. Olivia is currently serving in the AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region, which is based in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Growing up in a Habitat home instilled in her a love of serving others, and this, combined with her other passions made NCCC a great fit for her.

“My passions in life are working outdoors, traveling, and helping people,” says Olivia.

So far, Olivia has had the opportunity to spend four days serving with Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa in Alabama before deploying to Houston, Texas, to respond to Hurricane Harvey. Now, Olivia and her team, River 7, are serving with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) until March 25. They are building homes in partnership with the families and other community partners and helping to motivate and encourage volunteers. They join a tradition of NCCC service in New Orleans, where dozens of teams have built and repaired homes, participated in major build events (including the 2015 Habitat AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon and the 2008 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project), and served the community.

“I am learning such a broad set of skills, and I love making a real impact in the New Orleans community,” says Olivia.

The house site that Olivia is currently working on is for a family of three. The family consists of the parents named Roy and Jessica Driscoll and their son, Malikai. “Today I got to meet the family, and I believe that’s the best part about this kind of work. I spoke with their 9-year-old son, Malikai. It makes me kind of nostalgic. I remember being in Malakai’s shoes: being so young yet so full of happiness. It makes my heart happy knowing that I’m giving back, and that I can truly show my appreciation toward Habitat for Humanity over a decade later.”

When Olivia and her team first arrived in New Orleans, they received an orientation on what Habitat for Humanity was all about. “While I was attending the briefing, it brought me back to everything I knew about the organization. It was like I was sitting in the Metro Denver office again as a nine-year-old girl. I believe Habitat has the best branding, and to me, it’s the best nonprofit out there,” says Olivia.

“We often find that NOAHH homeowners want to keep giving back even after their service hours are over,” says Avery Strada, NOAHH’s Assistant Advancement Director. “It’s remarkable that Olivia has decided to give a whole year traveling the country.”

Padilla says, “I believe the mission of Habitat for Humanity was always a part of me, but now, I have truly adopted it, and I never want to stop volunteering with this organization. I am determined to help build many homes with this affiliate, and I enjoy serving alongside the many site supervisors, volunteers, and future homeowners. It is a wonderful experience to work side by side with the homeowners that will be directly impacted the most by my service!”