MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- When not defending our country, many Moody Air Force Base airmen also volunteer their time to the Valdosta community.

One area that draws plenty of volunteers is the Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity.

Since the beginning of this year, 300 people from Moody have put in about 1,200 hours of volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity, said Chief Master Sgt. Perry Hoffman, noncommissioned officer in charge of 41st Helicopter Maintenance. There are about 21 people from his unit who are involved with Habitat on a regular basis.

Hoffman became involved with Habitat in August 2000. Before that, his only knowledge of Habitat had been on television, where he saw the Jimmy Carter Work Project assisting an Indian reservation in the Badlands of South Dakota, he said. His only experience had been with do-it-yourself carpentry, and that has steadily improved, with his being involved with building 15 homes for the Habitat. Hoffman also joined the Board of Directors of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity.

"I enjoy building and putting up a house," Hoffman said. "The fruit of the labor is seeing someone getting a new home and affecting the future generations in Valdosta."

Master Sgt. Timothy Kepsel, 479th Training Support Squadron, has been volunteering for Habitat for a year and a half. During that time, he has helped build 12 houses in Hahira, Nashville and in Valdosta, which included the three newest homes on Gainer Street. "In November, I put in 90 hours on Gainer Street," Kepsel said.

A majority of the people he sees on the job sites are from Moody, Kepsel said. The Habitat cause is admirable, and he likes being a part of something that is bigger than himself. Kepsel is already planning on being a part of the blitz build for six-houses beginning today, and he knows of two other airmen in his shop who are planning on volunteering for the two-week project.

"Me working with Habitat is my way of giving back to the Valdosta community," Kepsel said. "It's something that Valdosta has for the community, and it's my way of giving back to the community."

Hoffman said the Jimmy Carter Work Project from June 7-13 will have a big impact to Valdosta. Thousands of volunteers from across the nation and the world will arrive to build 30 homes.

"The key thing is 30 families are going to have new homes in a new community and change for the positive forever," Hoffman said. "We'll be seeing the long-term effect of home ownership."

There is a wonderful relationship between Valdosta and Moody, and airmen who volunteer for Habitat "plug" into the Valdosta community, Hoffman said. The response from the airmen is represented by their repeated visits to the work sites. On any given Saturday, there are 10-15 Moody personnel working on the sites, Hoffman said.

The chief master sergeant's participation with Habitat is his way of giving back to the community, and every Saturday he's normally at a work site.

"I don't know what organization does what Habitat for Humanity does," Hoffman said.

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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