20-year Habitat for Humanity volunteer still building houses at 83

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Toni Yates is live in New Jersey with the details.

At 83 years old, a man from New Jersey continues to improve lives.

For nearly two decades, Mr. Willie has been building homes with Newark's Habitat for Humanity, and his passion for the projects hasn't stopped with age.

He's actually a spring chicken in his family, as his mom lived to 107 and one of his sisters -- he has nine siblings -- lived to 104.

"I got a sister at 102," he said. "One died, she was 101."

It's important to get the age thing out of the way, because Mr. Willie is way too busy building houses to slow down for a chat.

The Korean War vet retired from paying jobs 20 years ago, and since then, volunteering his carpentry skills is his contribution.

"If I slow down, I won't live long," he said.

Habitat keeps him busy, working on three homes last year and triple that in 2016.

"Nine homes, and we helped 25 families with critical repairs," Newark Habitat CEO Jeffrey Farrell said. "Mr. Willie runs circles around people much younger. I hope to be like him."

But for Mr. Willie, it's all about the fulfilling experience of helping people in need.

"When you finish the house and see a family move in with kids, and they couldn't get an apartment, that's when you cry," he said. "(I've cried) about 100 times."

Mr. Willie will be shedding more tears when the houses are done in a few months. One is for an Iraq war veteran who was injured, who came home and was basically homeless. But that will be over in a few months thanks to Mr. Willie and the other 1,400 Habitat volunteers who are learning much more than carpentry from the kind gentleman.

"See, you can't beat that," he said. "That's what's keeps you awake in the morning."
Related Topics:
societyhabitat for humanityNewark
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