To many, Edgar Herrera is a quiet and unassuming young member of Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity’s (GSHFH) construction crew. But to those who work closely with him, he’s an invaluable asset and fundamental element of the team.
Edgar’s success didn’t come overnight. No, it’s been several years in the making. But, in that time, his supervisors say he has transformed from a reluctant and unsure teenager into a confident leader eager to learn and refine his skills and expand his prospects. Edgar is also a student at Springfield Technical Community College studying Civil Engineering Technologies and working toward his next chapter. He said he anticipates a 2024 graduation year and will pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at a nearby college or university.
“It’s been a drastic change,” said Sheri L. Green, GSHFH Construction manager. “He was shy, unsure of his next step, and his knowledge was a little bit here and there. Now, he takes on projects, gives opinions, and is matter-of-factly on the hows and whys as to the way something is done. He’s a great trainer and has even lost his fear of heights.”
Mary Melchiskey, Greater Springfield Habitat Construction supervisor, agreed.
“He’s always asking what he can do next. He asks a lot of great questions and is continually trying to improve his carpentry skills. I’ve truly enjoyed working with Edgar,” Mary said. “We just need to convince him he doesn’t have to cut his boards a little long.”
Edgar came to Greater Springfield Habitat while he was a senior studying carpentry at Springfield’s Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical Academy. At the time, Habitat had been building a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom home on Orchard Street in Springfield. Soon, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and restrictions limited the number of people allowed on a build site. GSHFH reached out to Putnam teachers asking if any students might be interested in working for Habitat to complete the house. Edgar and two other students were hired. Today, only Edgar remains.
Edgar said his interest in construction began at Putnam where he learned how to use power tools. His fascination grew as his knowledge expanded and became more comfortable using the machinery. He has learned better ways to do certain projects, including using a jigsaw to install flooring versus a circular saw. He said he also discovered the practicality of his skills and can repair a damaged door or broken window.
“I like working at GSHFH,” said Edgar, 20. “We do something different every time and I can work with more experienced people than me and volunteers who have different points of view and different ways of doing something. They have other methods of building.”
Edgar said he’s also learned a great deal from his supervisors, such as it’s OK not to know everything; and if you don’t know, ask so no one gets hurt or the task has to be redone.
While he’s unsure of what the future holds after he earns his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, he knows he enjoys construction and would like to do something with it. Regardless of what he chooses, he’ll always have a place at Greater Springfield Habitat. Just ask Sheri.
“I want him to stay forever. He’ll always have a job here with me,” she said. “His work ethic is impeccable. He’s always there, early, and ready to go. He’s very talented and he makes sure he gets the job done right the first time, neatly, and he’s not haphazard. He’s a good young man.”