Building houses for Habitat for Humanity has been a calling that one area couple has followed for almost two decades and shown no sign of giving up, even if they are in their 80s.
Arthur, 81, and Mary Ann Mavis, 83, have been involved in almost every build in Troup County and the surrounding region covered by the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Starting with a blitz build in Atlanta in 1996 for the Olympics, the couple, then in their mid-60s, decided to volunteer their time for Habitat for Humanity.
“She had been after me to do if for a long time,” Arthur Mavis said about his wife wanting them to volunteer.
They were only able to work one day at the build because so many people were signed up to volunteer, but it left them with a desire to do more. Soon they signed up for Habitat’s caravan program and drove to different areas in an RV to build in different states for two weeks at a time.
“All in all, we’ve worked on 120 builds in the last 15 years doing this,” Arthur Mavis said. “… We concentrated mostly in eastern Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and we’ve gone to Ohio and Michigan to build.”
The Roanoke, Ala., couple has also been involved with the local chapter since it began operation. In recent years they have overseen work on houses in LaGrange, West Point, Franklin, Roanoke and Wedowee, Ala.
“I cannot imagine doing a project without the Mavises,” said local Habitat for Humanity executive director Steve Brown. “They’ve been a part of every Habitat project that I’ve been involved with as director.”
Brown noted that when Arthur Mavis began, he had no carpentry experience. He now has a huge collection of carpentry tools.
“They’re always there,” said Carol Evans, president of the local Habitat board. “… Somehow they find out where we are and show up. … They are very passionate.”
Arthur Mavis said he used to work on roofing for houses and was involved in much of the building process. Mary Ann Mavis would take care of details, cleanup, caulking and painting, but in recent years they have had to back off from heavy work.
Mary Ann Mavis has eyesight problems, but she still instructs and can help with cleanup. She notes that despite her eyesight, she can still spot a loose nail on the floor.
“I find something to do,” she said. “A lot of things people do not like to do, that’s what I like to do. So I do it.”
Although she may have a hard time caulking and painting herself, she can instruct new volunteers on the proper ways to do them. She can also tell if they’re not doing it right.
“A lot of people ask, ‘why?’” Mary Ann Mavis said about their desire to stay involved with house building. “Because it makes us feel alive, it makes us feel good. We meet a lot of good people.”
At a birthday party last week held by Habitat officials and volunteers, Mary Ann Mavis told the group, “thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do.”
“We can’t imagine doing it without you involved,” Brown responded.