Photo: Dave Diffendal (center) mans the saw on Tuesday in Hillsville, Virginia.
Volunteer Dave Diffendal is living the dream — with contagious enthusiasm
HILLSVILLE, Va. — The Millard Fuller Legacy Build project hosted this week by The Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Carroll County has brought volunteers together from near and far — including one who came all the way from Belize, Dave Diffendal. It’s his first time on any Fuller Center for Housing build, much less a blitz blitz build like this one.
Diffendal, though, is not one to shy away from a new adventure. In fact, he lives his life by embracing new adventures, each fueled by a bottomless well of enthusiasm. It’s an enthusiasm that has been on full display this week as he has taken short breaks to appear on camera for The Fuller Center’s Facebook Live videos (see bottom of this article) from the work site. While he may look like he’s bucking for a chance to host his own HGTV show, he’s simply that enthusiastic in his everyday life.
“When I was young, I read a book by a guy named Frank Bettger, and there’s a whole chapter on enthusiasm,” Diffendal recalled during Wednesday’s lunch break. “I took that to heart when I was like 14 years old. To me, there is no better way than by being enthusiastic. So, I have a lot of enthusiasm.”
Of course, there are exceptions.
“I think my wife would tell you I could be a little more enthusiastic about Tuesday meat loaf dinner or taking out the trash,” he added with a laugh.
What spurred him to leave paradise on the coast of Belize to spend a week swinging hammers alongside other volunteers to help a family whom he’d never met before this week?
“I have a good friend (Bryce Kujat, his story tomorrow) who has been doing these builds for years and years, and he’s always been talking about them,” Diffendal said. “I have a history of being very involved in the community and very involved in community service. I grew up essentially in a Rotary Club. The timing was perfect, and my friend Bryce said, ‘Hey, you wanna come to this build?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely!’ So I flew back from Belize specifically for this build.
“I do have a lot of construction experience but not in this kind of blitz build atmosphere, which has been just an absolute blast,” he added.
He and wife Laura run a couple of resorts in Belize — one in Placencia and another in Ambergris Caye. If that sounds like living the dream, well …
“It is living the dream,” he happily admits. “I wake up every morning with Caribbean breezes that blow through my hair. I bike to work on a shore. There’s palm trees. I went there with my wife specifically because we wanted to do something different. We wanted to be bold. We wanted to live extraordinary lives.
“So we went there, looked for land and found some,” he continued. “We fell in love very quickly with the country and with the people and decided to try to make something happen with this. So this land that we bought had a couple of cabanas on the beach. We lived in one and rented the other out while building a couple more. Before long, we had 30 employees, 15 rooms and two restaurants. It grew very quickly.”
He says that his and his wife’s complementary skills made the rapid growth and expansion possible. It made their dream possible, and he shares the story to inspire others to make leaps of faith and be bold.
“My wife is a very skilled social media and salesperson, and I’m a pretty good manager and people person,” he said. “Subsequently, those two skills in that environment allowed us to make our dreams a reality. The rub is: Make the leap! Just do it! You’ll figure it out as you go. As I tell people all the time, quit thinking about it — just do it!”
While he is used to inspiring others, he said he will be heading back to Belize later this week with a ton of inspiration provided by his fellow volunteers.
“What’s always inspirational to me and specifically on this build is the different people who come together that didn’t know each other, and by the end of the week they’re going to be good friends,” he said. “And, it’s amazing to see how the pieces fall into the place — not just with the building of the house, but with the personalities and the skill sets and the work ethic. It’s amazing, it’s fascinating, and it’s also very heartwarming to see … I’m looking at two ladies who are easily in their 60s up on the roof with a 40-year-old guy who’s a professional roofer. I’m looking at another guy over there who’s probably done roofing once in his life. And there’s just throwing shingles down. That’s inspiring to think that you can just jump into an environment like this and be successful. That’s really what I think will be the big takeaway for me.”
But he does have one more “just do it” message for others:
“Come to the next build, and bring a friend,” he urged. “Let’s make this happen more often. This is powerful stuff we’re doing.”
Dave Diffendal — a natural on camera: