Habitat for Humanity’s construction manager, Shane Spalding, teaches volunteers contracting skills that last a lifetime

When Shane Spalding joined River City Habitat for Humanity as the full-time construction manager in March 2018, the long-time contractor and homebuilder knew it was a challenge he had prepared for throughout his career.

“Habitat changes the lives of our partner families, who are really just our neighbors and part of our community,” Spalding says. “I have been blessed in life and felt it was time to give back. With my experience in the construction business as a contractor, along with my experience teaching and developing our labor force, it’s a perfect fit.”

As Habitat’s construction manager, Spalding manages and directs the construction process, which includes choosing subcontractors and suppliers, creating budgets, and overseeing all aspects of construction work. One key difference between his Habitat work and his days as a builder and contractor is that the majority of the labor is completed by volunteers rather than skilled trade professionals.

“A significant part of my role is the recruiting, teaching, and directing of our volunteer labor force,” Spalding says. “My goal is to teach best practices of our trade and explain why we choose to do things the Habitat way. These methods and skills are something our volunteers take home with them and can then use on their own projects.”

Spalding says that residential construction includes a long series of work stages that must be completed in order to move forward to the end result. Within a year of volunteer work with Habitat, a volunteer will participate in the entire home construction project and leave with an understanding of each stage of construction. While Spalding doesn’t teach volunteers to be general contractors, he is teaching them skills that help prepare them to build their own home or oversee a remodeling project.

“At Habitat, our volunteers work with concrete, they frame houses, install insulation, install exterior siding and soffit, hang drywall, paint, install all interior doors and trim, install cabinets, and perform landscaping,” Spalding says. “Our volunteers are taught to perform each one of the work stages as trade professionals would perform them. Also, during these processes our professional trade subcontractors will install wiring, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems, all of which our volunteers get to see and learn about.”

With Spalding as their guide, volunteers and Habitat’s partner families pick up some of the finer points of the trade. Spalding recalls teaching a group of partner families how to evaluate a paint job by checking the paint on the walls and ceiling to ensure an even color and texture. With Spalding’s lesson in mind, the volunteers diligently checked the entire house, repairing any imperfections they found.

“The finished product was better than most professionals would produce,” Spalding says. “I was teasing them about how picky they’ve become, and now they’re my quality control crew for painting and finishing. They developed a pride in workmanship and knowledge that they will take with them in the future to teach someone else.”

River City Habitat for Humanity is one of the largest homebuilders in Jefferson City. So far, the organization has sold 108 homes to families in need while also increasing property values in the communities in which it builds.

“Habitat is a helping hand, not a handout,” Spalding says. “The only thing we give away is a good opportunity. We change the trajectory of a family’s life.”

Spalding began his career at the age of 16, working as a laborer for a local contractor. After working for several contractors, he built a home for himself and his wife, Pam, in 1987. Spalding then went on to build many more homes, developing raw land into subdivisions and building apartments. While he took great pleasure in growing his company and teaching his employees new, valuable skills, his role with River City Habitat has been a new, extremely fulfilling chapter in his career.

“It is a difficult thing to narrate the feeling or value of giving,” Spalding says. “When I witness the new homeowner receiving the keys for their new home, they’re near tears with appreciation, but at the same time, so are the volunteers that worked on their house. Each one is filled with emotion equally but for different reasons. I still can’t decide who gains the most. There is most certainly pleasure in giving to those who need and appreciate help. I am proud to be a part of Habitat, as it is a local organization that makes a significant difference in our community.”