But mostly, his Habitat experiences have opened his eyes to this fact — that good people everywhere have needs. And that’s why the 13-year Whirlpool worker is taking his samaritan beliefs outside the U.S. borders — to the island nation of Haiti whose impoverished people are still struggling to recover from the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that badly damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in the quake’s epicenter.
Located some 18 miles from the country’s Port-au-Prince capital, the town of Leogane is considered to be among the hardest hit areas. Aubrey hopes to be among a team of 600 volunteers converging on the city’s Santo community to build 100 Habitat for Humanity homes in November as part of the 29th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
For the first time in its three-decade history, the annual Habitat for Humanity build is returning to the same location. Last year, the 28th annual construction project built 155 homes, but the need there is so great that the former U.S. president and first lady have elected to return with a new team of volunteers in helping the emotionally drained Haitian people to their feet.
At 65, hard work is nothing new to Aubrey who now serves as a first-shift group leader in Materials in the new Whirlpool plant on Benton Pike. The 35-year husband, father of three grown children and grandfather has a long slate of building experiences with Habitat.
In May 2007, Aubrey was one of six Whirlpool Cleveland employees selected to represent the local operations group in building Habitat homes in Guadalupe, Ariz., a tiny suburb of Phoenix. The build was part of the Whirlpool Building Blocks program.
A year later, Aubrey was selected to represent Whirlpool Cleveland at the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Biloxi, Miss., where he spent a week helping to rebuild houses that had been leveled and swept away by Hurricane Katrina.
In May 2009, he joined a five-member Whirlpool Cleveland team in a weeklong blitz build in Atlanta which also was a part of the corporation’s Building Blocks initiative.
In between the Building Blocks and Carter Work Project builds, Aubrey has helped to construct several Habitat houses in Cleveland, one of which followed the tornadoes of April 27, 2011.
Now he has set his sights on Haiti as part of this year’s Carter Work Project. On paper, he has been selected but his appointment also carries with it some important fundrasing. Aubrey, along with 599 other volunteers, is being asked to raise $5,000 each to go toward the purchase of building materials and supplies that will be used to construct the 100 Santo homes. Total fundraising goal is $1.6 million.
Part of the money also will pay for his transportation.
“I will be working in the Santo community of Leogane,” Aubrey said. “Just 18 miles from Port-au-Prince, Leogane is considered to be the epicenter of the earthquake. Nearly 90 percent of its buildings were damaged or destroyed.”
Aubrey said the fundraising donations will help to build Habitat homes for families left homeless by the earthquake whose magnitude was measured at 7.0 on the Richter Scale.
Aubrey’s work with Habitat for Humanity, and his additional volunteerism with the American Red Cross, are well known among his family, friends and co-workers. Even Saturday, he was allowed by Whirlpool to set up a fundrasing booth at the company’s employee and family Open House that was held at the new Benton Pike facility. It was the first time for thousands of employee family members to tour the new facility whose transition is still taking place from the current King Edward Avenue site.
The Open House was hosted exclusively for employees and their families, and was not open to the public.
Aubrey began raising funds several weeks ago and still faces a couple of deadlines in order to remain eligible for the massive homebuilding project. All JRCWP volunteers must have $2,500 of their pledges committed by July 15, and the full $5,000 must be accounted for by Oct. 1. The Haiti home build will take place Nov. 24 to Dec. 1.
The fundrasing is no cake walk and the construction and living conditions while in Haiti will be no easier. Volunteers will live in tent cities — whose location will be known only to them for now for security reasons — and temperatures are expected to be hot and humid with living conditions being described as “primitive at best.”
“The U.S. State Department still lists warnings for travelers in this area,” Aubrey said. “[Because of the devastation] they still don’t feel like some areas are safe for travel.”
Safe or not, Habitat for Humanity and its Carter Work Project partner plan to build 10,000 new homes per year in the worst quake-stricken areas through 2015, Aubrey said. Since the unprecedented devastation 2 1/2 years ago, Habitat for Humanity has rebuilt 20,000 homes and rehabilitated 40,000.
Helping others is part of Aubrey’s life. He and his wife, Denise, served as foster parents for 13 years. They began working with younger children and eventually migrated to taking in teenagers.
Aubrey has worked several emergencies as an American Red Cross volunteer and is a certified First Aid Responder through the Red Cross. He serves as a Red Cross-certified responder at his Whirlpool worksite. Aubrey has been affiliated with ARC for seven years.
“These (Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross) are the volunteer activities I focus on,” Aubrey said. “I have had some fantastic relationships with both. I want to be involved in both these entities when I retire [from Whirlpool]. I feel real good about the work these two agencies do.”
Aubrey doesn’t know when he’ll retire from his Whirlpool job.
“I’d like to see the next decade there,” he said.
Unlike most, Aubrey has seen the devastation on the Gulf Coast left by Hurricane Katrina. He also worked directly as a volunteer in helping Bradley County emerge from the carnage of the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. But as bad as both tragedies were to the cities and people left in their wake, the people of Haiti have suffered even more. The damage was compounded by the country’s limited infrastructure, Aubrey said.
“I worked the Gulf Coast after Katrina and I’ve worked with the Red Cross after the tornado devastation in Bradley County,” Aubrey pointed out. “I saw how volunteers helped, and how everyone worked together to give a helping hand. I saw what neighbors helping neighbors could do.”
He added, “Yet, we had nowhere near the damage that Haiti had. In many ways, because of the infrastructure, the insurance ... their needs were even greater.”
That’s why the Cleveland volunteer wants to extend his outreach.
“This is just a week of my time to help make a difference for another family,” he said of the Haiti event.
The one-week Carter Work Project blitz build will do what other Habitat projects do — they will offer a hand up and not a handout, Aubrey cited.
Donors are welcomed to make whatever amount of contribution to Haiti-bound volunteers like Aubrey. In perspective, a $100 donation by 50 people would fund the entire trip, materials and supplies. Those wishing to make electronic donations may visit http://share.habitat.org/cwp2012participants86. Those wishing to talk with Aubrey may also call him on his cell phone at 618-4576.
Donors, and others interested in the Carter Work Project, can also keep up with the work by visiting the program website which will include a video link for work updates.
Aubrey’s efforts to join the JRCWP build in Haiti have earned the strong endorsement of the Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland affiliate.
“We’re very excited that one of Cleveland’s own hopefully will be traveling to Haiti and participating in the 29th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project,” according to Matt Carlson, excecutive director of the local Habitat group. “Recovery work in Haiti is ongoing and Habitat plans on building at least 50,000 homes to help in rebuilding communities in that region. Ray has been an avid supporter of Habitat over the years, both locally and around the world. We in turn support his efforts to help rebuild homes in Haiti.”
Carlson added, “Habitat is directing this type of disaster recovery work around the world in many different regions that have been affected by disasters. It now hits a little closer to home since Cleveland and Bradley County have been through our own disaster and recovery process.”
Of the local resident’s passion for helping others, Carlson stressed, “Ray has been very involved with Habitat locally through Whirlpool and his commitment to helping others in need is inspiring and very impactful. Habitat supports Ray’s efforts in Haiti. For those interested in supporting Ray, we encourage them not to hesitate in giving us a call at the local Habitat office to find out more information.”
Habitat’s affiliate in Cleveland can be reached at 423-476-6947 or by sending an e-mail to Carlson at email@example.com or visiting the local website at www.habitatofcleveland.org.
Those who sponsor Aubrey’s work as donors are reminded their electronic donations are being made to Habitat for Humanity, and specificially to the Haiti blitz build, and not to him personally.