CHICAGO — As colder weather sets in across Chicago, the Habitat for Humanity build in West Pullman enters a new phase. 

“Today, honestly, I’m really excited,” Jose Morales, a Retired U.S. Army Sergeant said. “I woke up super early, I was extremely excited.”

As a habitat employee, Morales is in charge of mustering the volunteers and training them in construction, and even in a November chill, this day warms his heart. 

“I actually feel so at home today, just being around all of these veterans and talking to everyone,” Morales said. 

For years he was known as Sergeant Morales, but after leaving the military, he found a new way to serve, like many others taking part in the build. 

“There’s this thing that’s inside of veterans, that like, you know, a call to serve, and a call to able to provide and give,” Morales said. “So for me, that meant joining Habitat, and being a part of the organization to continue helping and serving and then just seeing everyone here, continuing to do the same thing.”

Among those is retired National Guard Sergeant Lourdes Fernando, who uses her connections to serve the veteran community, as a Chicago realtor.

“This is my third build that I’ve done. So every year we the veterans build and it’s very important to me because I’m in housing every day, and I do see some of the challenges, some of the barriers that we do face, within the veteran community, to get affordable housing,” Fernando said. 

According to Fernando, even with the VA loan program, many veterans simply can’t afford to buy their own homes, making programs like Habitat for Humanity crucial.

“Honestly, it just helps so much,” Morales said. 

For Jose and the other veterans taking part, it is a continuation of service. From country to community. 

“It’s really nice to be out there with people we know, people that we see in the community and everyone here has a really big heart and gives so much to the community,” Fernando said. 

30 veterans from three service organizations, the Mission ContinuesChicago Veterans, and Merging Vets & Players, took part in the build on Friday. They were just a handful of about 150 veterans who took part in builds throughout Chicagoland.