Home improvement meets self-improvement

Since the late 1970s, members of the fraternity have been building accessible play spaces and recreational structures for the disabled as part of a volunteer program now called Build America. Over the course of this summer, two dozen or so fraternity members will travel the country visiting camps for people with disabilities. They’ll build accessible nature trails, repair roofs or decks, and forge lasting bonds with disabled campers reveling in the joys of summer.

Build America’s first stop this summer was a return trip to Camp Allen in Bedford, N.H. “It’s incredible what they do,” said Mary Constance, who recently retired as the camp’s executive director. “They built a sensory garden for our campers with sensory issues, and it’s everyone’s favorite part of the camp now. The campers all clap for them when they come into the dining hall.”

So, no, it’s not your Hollywood frat-guy narrative.

Meanwhile, hammer-wielding volunteers from high school kids to chief executives have helped Habitat for Humanity’s Greater Boston chapter build more than 100 homes for low-income families in the past 28 years, opening front doors and access to the middle class.

“Habitat is not just about building affordable housing,” said Lark Jurev Palermo, president and chief executive of Habitat Greater Boston. “We’re really about helping families break generational cycles of poverty. And we’re doing it one family at a time.”

In both cases, volunteers are able to make a direct and lasting impact on people’s lives while learning useful home improvement skills from construction experts.

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