LAKESIDE — Some of the bank tellers, loan officers and executives who descended on a Lakeside construction site Saturday had never actually built anything before.

Even so, it didn’t take long for these white-collar workers to get into the swing of drilling, hammering and sawing — all in the name of community service.

The team from Bank of America is the latest in a series of crews to take a turn at constructing three townhouses for wounded veterans, a project from San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

“I have done a lot of volunteer work, but never anything that required power tools. This is a whole new world. I had to stop and take a selfie just so my boyfriend would believe that I did this,” said Megan Allen, an educational training specialist who drilled exterior siding above a second-story window while gingerly navigating scaffolding.

Founded in 1988, the San Diego affiliate of the faith-based Atlanta charity has provided homes to 192 families who meet need, income and credit requirements and are willing to work 500 volunteer hours of “sweat equity” for the group’s cause. Volunteers have also renovated homes of more than 60 low-income families and veterans.

Habitat builds homes for roughly $250,000 and sells them to clients for about $150,000 to $160,000, with the goal that zero-percent 25- to 30-year mortgage payments make up no more than 30 percent of the homeowner’s take-home pay.

Habitat’s construction and renovation projects benefit families who are losing access to the American dream, said Elizabeth Berg, director of development for the local affiliate. The projects also make for an experience that often doubles as effective team-building exercises, offering volunteer employees a shared experience that transcends the confines of a traditional work environment.

“In the workplace there are set strata levels. But on our work site, everyone is on the same level,” Berg said. “This lets people make a tangible and long lasting difference in the world. You can drive by a home and know that you put that wall or tile in the kitchen. It is very gratifying.”

The $1.2 million townhouse project broke ground in March and is about halfway finished. Wall frames were prepped for dry wall, and exterior siding went up Saturday. The project is expected to be completed in June due to the efforts of thousands of volunteers.

In the coming weeks, Habitat officials will review applications to select occupants for the two-story yellow townhouses. Proximity to state Route 67 will make it easy for volunteers who helped build the homes to come back and admire their contribution to the effort.

“I can drive by and point to the strips of siding I drilled into the house,” said Allen, who lives in Pacific Beach. “I can say, ‘I did that, I did that.’”

Article by Maureen Magee, Featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 2, 2014

Photo by Nancee E. Lewis/U-T

The build day activities were also featured on NBC.