A second act for a passionate volunteer

How Habitat LA brings generations together

Throughout the month of May each year, the Administration for Community Living leads the observance of Older Americans Month—to honor seniors and to recognize their continuing contributions. From long-time employees to seasoned volunteers, Habitat LA is appreciative every day not only for the experience of our older team members, but for the drive, dedication, and talent they bring to the Habitat for Humanity mission.

Meet Ben Benya, a former media consultant and now a familiar face at Habitat LA build sites and events. With 45 years of experience in advertising, marketing, and management, he decided to “take the toolkit” and follow up on a Habitat for Humanity marketing coordinator position through the AmeriCorps volunteer program. After a year in that role, Ben moved to the Habitat LA volunteer group where he’s been working for almost four years—often with teams of younger volunteers.

Ben Benya, Habitat LA Volunteer Services Coordinator, pictured second from the left with other Habitat LA AmeriCorps members.

Ben Benya, Habitat LA Volunteer Services Coordinator, pictured second from the left with other Habitat LA AmeriCorps members.

“The great joy in what I’ve been doing these past years is being out in the field at job sites and events. With these kids (at the ACE Playhouse Build event), we saw the opening of their eyes… What it means to give back and to have a skill that is valued.” While every Habitat event starts with a comprehensive orientation to help volunteers make the connection between the work they’re doing and those they’re helping, Ben believes it’s meeting the Habitat partner families that has the greatest impact. “If you give them (the volunteers) a grasp of it earlier, you give them the time to find the path that’s right for them.”

That’s where Habitat for Humanity can lead the way says Isabel Lee, Chief of Staff at Habitat LA. “The beauty of the organization is that it brings together people from all walks of life—different industries, backgrounds, religions, and ages—who are all there for the same mission. We are able to meld the best of all worlds so that we can learn, build, and work together, to have an impact and to make change toward the same vision: That everyone has a decent place to live.”

Ben acknowledges that at a younger age, “I was a little less willing to admit that someone of the age I am now had that much value to add, but I think young people today do have a sense of appreciation.” At a recent AmeriCorps conference, he was encouraged by the questions they asked and the advice they sought. “There were lots of conversations about ‘what do I do, how do I move forward, what happened to you,’ and that’s a charming part of my experience with AmeriCorps and being able to help them is part of why I came.”

With his AmeriCorps assignment ending in July, it’s become obvious to Ben that after working for the Habitat LA organization, returning to a general business role isn’t enough. “I need to have the juice that comes from working on a great mission.”

“During Older Americans Month, we honor our Nation’s seniors and the tremendous impact they have made in helping build a more perfect Union. Older Americans contribute their time and wisdom to make our communities stronger, more informed, and better connected. They are our loved ones, friends, mentors, essential workers, volunteers, and neighbors.”President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. from A Proclamation on Older Americans Month, 2022