By Sumayya Saleh

Building on Faith. This was the theme of the Habitat for Humanity “Raising the Roof” project a group of Islamic Society of New Tampa volunteers partook in on Saturday, September 24. Working hand in hand with members of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, and Lifepoint Church, they helped assemble the roof on a home being built for Margaret Brown, a retired Hillsborough County schoolteacher who was the fortunate recipient of a “hand up” from Hillsborough Habitat.

The group gathered in prayer, with the sun’s glorious rays slowly creeping up from behind the concrete structure that had already been assembled. Ronald E. Spoor, CEO of Hillsborough Habitat, started off by quoting the verse from the Holy Qur’an that states, “Whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved mankind entirely,” and then quoted equally inspiring passages from the Torah and the Bible. The beauty of this moment lay in the sense of unity it evoked – though the volunteers subscribed to a variety of religious traditions, they were all mindful of God’s blessings on them and the role He played in making Ms. Brown’s dream a reality.

The project for the day was to quite literally raise the roof of Ms. Brown’s home. In essence, this entailed installing wooden trusses that would eventually form the basis of the roof under which she would live. The Habitat contractors had a diagram in hand, and they split the group of thirty or so volunteers in two: the “floor crew” and the “ladders and scaffoldings crew.” It took a couple of rounds before everyone found their rhythm. The floor crew would join forces to carry a massive truss into the building, where they would then lift it and roll it up to the people on the scaffoldings. More volunteers would scurry up the eight-foot ladders, hammer and nails in tow, to then stabilize the truss.

This undertaking was quite onerous, given the size and weight of each truss, the narrow quarters, and the scorching heat. But soon enough, all the volunteers – novices and experts alike – knew exactly what to do without much added direction. In just a matter of hours, all the pieces were up and the roof had taken tangible form. 

The interfaith build was an immensely gratifying experience, on multiple levels. United by a common goal, the ISONET volunteers and their Jewish and Christian comrades worked tirelessly to achieve the goal they set out to accomplish. It served as a reminder that God has called upon us all to give back, not just within our own insular communities, but also to the community at large. Ms. Brown’s excitement was priceless, and she was truly appreciative of the individual volunteers who devoted their Saturday to help her achieve the affordable housing that Habitat for Humanity made possible through its noble efforts.

Hillsborough Habitat is eager to have more volunteers assist in its various ongoing projects. ISONET intends to arrange periodic building trips over the course of the next year and will reach out to the community for volunteers, inshallah.