BLOOMINGTON - When Bill Waller went to work at Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, he didn’t expect to stay for 14 years and counting.
He didn’t expect to oversee construction of what will soon be his 100th house for Habitat. And he certainly didn’t expect to jump from an airplane to demonstrate his passion for the Habitat mission.
But all that and more are in store for Waller, construction manager for the McLean County affiliate.
From the beginning, he said, Habitat for Humanity ignited a passion in him that’s still going strong.
“You just have to see the look on the people’s faces, not just at the completion but at the beginning,” Waller said. “You can only imagine seeing the hope in somebody’s face.”
Waller described himself as “a little rough around the edges,” but Sarah Franzen, the affiliate’s development director, said, “He has a go get ’em attitude” and when he is on a job site, volunteers “light up when he comes out.” “As a coworker, you can’t help picking up on his passion,” Franzen said.
Groundbreaking for his 100th home will be this fall in Bloomington, Waller said. It’s a milestone for him but, Waller said, “It’s more than a number.”
For each family moving into one of those homes, Waller said, “when they achieve that goal, that’s a milestone for them as well.”
The individual families aren’t the only ones who are helped, he notes. “The economic impact of a Habitat home is huge,” Waller said. “It’s about the whole community.”
The community gains property tax revenue, suppliers make sales and delivery drivers and skilled craftsmen benefit, he said.
This 100th home also will have an educational mission, with students from the Bloomington Area Career Center learning skills by working on the house and interacting with people in various building trades, Waller said.
To mark his personal milestone, Waller decided he wanted to raise the $40,000 needed for the house.
“I wanted to say, ‘I built my hundredth house and I paid for it,’” Waller said, and he wanted to show “one person can make a difference in this community.”
Franzen said that when Waller started talking about raising money for the house, “One day, jokingly, I said, ‘You know, Bill, people might pay good money to push you out of a plane.’”
That became “Falling for Families,” a plan to raise $10,000 in exchange for Waller agreeing to jump out of a plane — with a parachute, of course.
Waller won’t be alone. Three other staff member will also make the leap of faith. Only Franzen has jumped before.
Waller hopes that because the skydive is different, it will attract more attention — and more donations. Other fund-raising projects for the 100th house include a Holes for Habitat golf tournament Sept. 9 (registration deadline Aug. 15) and T-shirts.
“You’ve got to think outside of the box,” Waller said — or, in this case, outside of the plane.