Framework for Humanity

Head Coach Scott Brooks hammers nails in the frame for Thunder's 2011 Habitat for Humanity home build.
Photo by J. P. Wilson
Anyone approaching the Thunder’s service project on Tuesday in northeast Oklahoma City might have heard all the percussion and thought we had brought the Thunder Drummers along.

But the beats that rang across the clear Oklahoma morning weren’t from sticks hitting drums – they were from hammers hitting nails.

This week, more than 40 Thunder staffers – from sales staff to coaches, from basketball operations to executives – came together to help Habitat for Humanity build a home for an Oklahoma City family.

“It’s just an incredible day,” said Ann Felton Gilliland, CEO of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity. “I had a chance to visit with all the wonderful volunteers and had a chance to tell them about our wonderful addition, Hope Crossing.”

Sitting on 59 acres, the addition, once completed, will be filled with 217 homes – all built with volunteer labor and other donations through Habitat for Humanity.

“Normally we’re in suits and ties, and we’re very buttoned up … Today we see a little more informal side of everybody,” noted Jennifer Watson, community relations events manager for the Thunder.

The house that the Thunder was helping to build will be home to Nicole, a mother of five children who has never owned her own home. Nicole worked side-by-side with the Thunder staff on Tuesday, putting her share of “sweat equity” into her house.

“We gotta do 280 hours of sweat equity time to go out and build other homes,” said Nicole. This means that if her house would need any repairs, then she will know how to take care of it, she noted.

“We’ve never been able to own our own home, and I just think this is just a blessing.”

Head Coach Scott Brooks jumped right in with the rest of the staff and did his share of the hard work, even competing with other staffers over who could pound nails in with the fewest number of taps.

“I think it’s great that the Thunder, we always get behind the community,” said Brooks. “That’s … something I’m very proud of.

“Coming here and not seeing just a cement slab [anymore] and seeing the process take place – it’s really neat to see, and we’re all thankful to be a part of it.”

Throughout the day, Thunder volunteers transformed a concrete foundation and a stack of wood, plywood, insulation and nails into the full framework of Nicole’s new home. Though Brooks quipped that he was grateful everyone had a day job, Watson said the staff did pretty well.

“We haven’t had too many injuries – maybe a couple of blisters and banged fingers,” she laughed.

Habitat for Humanity was excited to be working with the Thunder, but probably nobody was more excited than Nicole, an avid Thunder fan.

When Nicole heard from Habitat for Humanity that the Thunder would be helping to build her house, “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ … I was just happy, I was jumping up and down and hollering.”

Felton Gilliland spoke warmly of Nicole and her children, who had to go through a rigorous process to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home.

“They’re just a really sweet family, and the environment in which they were living – they were in an overcrowded situation in an unsafe neighborhood, so this is just going to be wonderful for them,” she noted.

Nicole’s five children, like the rest of the families in the addition, will have access to a park, exercise stations, sidewalks and bike paths in their new four-bedroom home – a stark contrast to the two-bedroom home plus converted garage where they currently reside.

Her children, four boys and one girl, are looking forward to the day when they’ll be able to move into their new abode.

“They told me, ‘Forget Christmas presents – let’s just get in our home,’” she said.