Photo: Sisters Lori (left) and Lisa Birkenberger
Birkenbergers’ sister act a familiar sight at Millard Fuller Legacy Builds
WEST POINT, Georgia — Most of the volunteers at Millard Fuller Legacy Builds through the years have spent plenty of time on the build site with family members — parents, children, siblings, etc.
Lisa Birkenberger of Alpharetta, Georgia, and her sister Lori Birkenberger of Delaware are working at the Legacy Build together this week for the sixth time. For Lisa, these builds are not relaxing vacations, but they are a nice change of pace from her regular job. She has been to “at least” 10 Legacy Builds through the years, including the six with her sister.
“What’s really great is when work is repetitive and you’re getting nothing done, coming here is perfect,” Lisa says, somewhat tongue-in-cheek about her career as a systems engineer. “It’s different every day, and when you walk away, something is done that wasn’t done in the morning.”
As a systems engineer, Lisa is used to occasionally scrapping a plan and going back to square one to start over. She notes that doesn’t happen on a Fuller Center job site. No one frames a house and then takes it all down back to a blank concrete slab for another try.
“Even though there are times when we’ve been asked to take siding down and put it back up, by the end of the day it is back up,” she says.
The first of Lori’s six Legacy Builds was a family affair beyond sisterhood as her mother and her daughter, Adrienne Story, also volunteered.
“The first one was definitely a family thing with three generations,” Lori says.
It is the mission — helping families have simple, decent places to live — that keeps her coming back.
“I find that it’s simple work that means a great deal to the people who are getting these homes,” Lori says. “It’s easy, but it’s so important to help others. It just feels good.”
Having her sister around to trade barbs with throughout the week is a bonus.
“I get to spend a week with Lisa, and this is a week of time I wouldn’t get otherwise,” she says.
The family aspect of working together grew this year as Adrienne was finally able to join the sisters for her second Legacy Build after having attended college. She now works as a COVID contact tracer in Delaware, something she never expected to conflict with this October build.
“It’s not fun,” Adrienne says of her job. “It’s a hard time that everyone is kind of going through separately but also together. I didn’t think I was going to have a job at this point when I planned to come down here. I was thinking I’d have free time to come and help, and now it’s just a relief from work because we have been experiencing a surge that has kind of plateaued.”
Adrienne says her grandparents instilled the sense of service in generations of her family.
“Something I learned from my grandma is that giving back to your community gives you a bigger sense of purpose,” she says. “You’re not just helping a family member or a friend — you’re helping someone that you might not have met in your day-to-day life. And though this isn’t the community I live in, I feel like it’s all the community of the United States, and we’re all going through something.”