As a small child, Steven Gac would help his grandfather John, at Habitat for Humanity builds, carrying supplies and doing whatever a 5-year-old could.
Gulfport resident Gac, now 18, will join Armstrong, 77, of Long Beach, as the two rappel down the side of the IP Casino Resort. The pair will be raising money for a cause Armstrong has been involved with for almost 30 years, and reconnecting with each other.
A Mississippi Power co-worker introduced Armstrong to Habitat for Humanity in 1987. Soon, he was helping build houses.
“It became my avocation from then on,” he said.
He introduced his church to the organization and soon the entire congregation was pitching in.
Occasionally, various churches all working on houses in the same area would have friendly competitions — cooking large meals for each other.
“There’s something for everyone to do,” he said. “Raising money, getting materials, some members became contractors. There’s something for every one to do to get involved.”
Habitat for Humanity is best known for building affordable homes for families in need. But the group has become involved in other related fields as well.
Since 2007, when Harrison and Jackson counties combined to form Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the group has built 328 new homes and rehabbed 591. More than 25,500 volunteers have put in almost 490,000 hours.
Habitat for Humanity not only builds homes, but weatherizes and rehabs existing houses for those in need. It also provides financial-literacy training.
“I enjoy the work itself. And I enjoyed getting to know the families,” Armstrong said. “The family is paying for their own house, so I enjoyed that aspect. And seeing the results. The kids did better in school because they had a safe place and roof over their head. That really appealed to me.”
Armstrong and Gac will rappel together May 21 — also the day Gac graduates from high school.
This is the second year Habitat for Humanity has hosted its Over The Edge fundraiser — participants who meet a certain fundraising threshold are allowed to rappel.
With both their busy schedules they’ve been seeing each other less over the past few years than they used to and both are excited for the opportunity to do something for Habitat together again.