For the past 15 years, John Fitzharris has helped build homes for 105 of Gwinnett County’s families in need. After working as one of the Thursday Crew at Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity, John, a Gwinnett County resident himself, will be leaving Georgia to embark upon a new adventure in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Fitz,” as everyone calls him, retired after 31 years from General Motors and joined Gwinnett Habitat in 2000. Initially he had no manual skills but quickly learned how to hang sheet rock, do a little electrical work and perfect his favorite task, painting. Over the years his skills have improved, and he considers himself “pretty sharp now”.
Fitz reflected on his 15 years of commitment to the cause of affordable housing. “The greatest benefit I see working with Gwinnett Habitat is it has allowed me to help the community and be able to work with the great people on the Thursday crew, as well the dedicated volunteers on Saturdays. I’ll mostly miss working with the people like George, Kevin, and others. I’ll miss the staff too – Vicki and Lynn are good people.”
Over15 years Fitz has seen some changes at Gwinnett Habitat. “At first all work was labor intensive. As the Thursday crew got older, we incorporated labor saving devices to make our job easier and to help get the work done. In the beginning the Thursday Crew and volunteers would drive every nail by hand…now we use more pneumatic guns”.
Construction was not the only thing Fitz was involved in at Gwinnett Habitat. He has done just about everything a volunteer can do: he’s been a house leader, a crew leader, and a faithful Thursday Crew member. He has worked at the ReStore and also served on the Building Committee.
Fitz has earned the reputation as the “go to guy” when it comes to painting. Lynn Weekley, our Volunteer Coordinator, has known Fitz for 15 years, and had this to say: “He used to spray paint the exterior doors for us to get a good even coat on them and also would repaint the interior doors if they didn’t look as nice as he thought they should! He even repainted our office for us a while back. Since he lives nearby, he has always been dropping in to chat or help out with things. He has become so ingrained in our routine that it is going to be very strange not having him stopping by anymore on a regular basis.”
Fitz is looking forward to spending time with his 3 granddaughters who live in Columbia. He also plans to stay active in the building and rehab/repair trades. “I will continue to work with Columbia Habitat for Humanity, hopefully on a Thursday crew.” He doesn’t plan to be a stranger and promises to stop by and say hello when he comes back to Georgia to visit his daughter.
A celebratory sendoff was held at the Abubaker family construction site on April 2. A group of fellow Thursday Crewmen, friends, coworkers, volunteers, families and well-wishers attended. A special presentation of the Golden Hammer Award was made by Gwinnett Habitat Board President, Alice Cunningham.
Fitz, thank you for all of the help over the years. We wish you the best; you’ll be sorely