Adjele Neglokpe hefts an armful of two-by-sixes and lugs them to her station. 
Volunteers swarm around her, hauling wood, driving nails, checking quality. Lettering on the back of Neglokpe’s maroon T-shirt announces that she is the reason everyone is here: Home Owner in Progress
Neglokpe and her family eventually will move into the home being framed during a volunteer event in the parking lot of the 1 Exact Lane lab facility in Madison, Wis. Her house will sit in a small neighborhood constructed by Habitat for Humanity of Dane County in nearby Oregon, Wis.  
Three shifts of volunteers from Exact Sciences and Madison-based builder Findorff worked at stations to frame interior and exterior walls for Neglokpe’s two-story twin home. Crews will transport the finished frames to the home site to be installed later this year, once foundations are complete. 
The home should be finished by summer 2024 for the Neglokpe family — Adjele, who works as a nursing assistant, her eight-year-old son, and her mother, all of whom immigrated from western Africa.  

How Habitat works 

Since 1987, Habitat has built more than 300 homes in Dane County for families that might not otherwise have a chance at homeownership. To apply, families must have incomes no higher than 60% of the county’s median income, plus established credit and the ability to make a down payment.  
Volunteers contribute around 2,500 hours to each home built, with specialty work, such as plumbing and electrical, completed by professionals. 
Neglokpe will put in about 400 hours toward building her own home and other Habitat projects — known as “sweat equity.” Then she will then buy the home from Habitat on a zero-interest mortgage designed to fit comfortably within her family’s income. 
That’s the moment that Habitat will transition “from being the builder to being the bank,” says Adam Helt-Baldwin, vice president of construction at Habitat. It’s all part of the organization’s commitment to creating long-term stability for local families through housing.   
Today, though, is about building. Helt-Baldwin credits volunteers for measuring, cutting, and marking the stacked wood, and other volunteers lead the corporate crews in assembling it into frames.  
Watching a home begin to take shape is what makes Helt-Baldwin’s job fulfilling. 
“Like any job, you can get caught in the minutia — there’s a mistake, or a permit is hard to manage,” he says.  
But looking around a volunteer event, seeing a future homeowner helping construct her home with her own hands, “it’s, ‘Oh yeah, this is why we do this,” he says. 

Community roots  

Jared Zurbuchen agrees. The Exact Sciences real estate and construction project manager appreciates how volunteering events like this one help people build relationships outside of the office. And the Habitat project underscores for him the value of working for a company that does the right thing — infusing its own work with quality while investing in the quality of its communities. 
“This is just one example, being rooted in Madison, of how Exact gives back to the community we live in and work in,” he says. 
As Neglokpe prepares to put down permanent roots in the community, she says she looks forward to her son building friendships with neighborhood kids and to starting a garden with her mother. After years in a two-bedroom apartment, she’s excited to have a place to better welcome family and friends for get-togethers. 
The emotions that accompany homeownership will mean a lot too. “I am so happy that we will be stable and will not have to move again. And that we are safe,” she says. 
“This home is a dream come true.”

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