Habitat for Humanity of Washington County volunteer goes the extra mile

November 04, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • David Fisher retired a dozen years ago, but he says volunteering as director of finance for Habitat for Humanity for Washington County keeps him busy and fulfilled.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

These are supposed to be his golden years, filled with well-earned leisure and relaxation.

But most days, you'll find him behind a desk preparing financial reports, making sure state and federal requirements are met and serving as a troubleshooter for various projects.

So, why does David Fisher work so hard?

It's partly because he has worked hard most of his life as a certified public accountant.

But it's also because the Hagerstown resident believes in service to others.

Service in Fisher's case means volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.

Fisher currently is in his 12th year of lending a helping hand at Habitat, coming on board, he said, immediately after his retirement in 2000.

"Toward the latter part of 1999, I started becoming more cognizant of opportunities to keep busy in retirement, particularly those opportunities that would mesh with my background as a CPA," Fisher said. "A friend recommended me to Habitat personnel who were searching for new persons for its board of directors."

After doing some research into the organization — "I was unfamiliar with Habitat's mission," he said — Fisher agreed to an interview with a committee person and accepted the invitation.

"At the time, the organization was in its infancy and had just hired its first executive director," he recalled. "The period ahead looked like it would be very interesting from a growth standpoint, as well as challenging in meeting the financial record keeping and reporting obligations."

Today, Fisher is volunteer director of finance and has been among Habitat's most dedicated workers.

While the staff at Habitat says Fisher often puts in 40-hour weeks, he humbly disagrees.

"It appears that the reporting of my hours has been somewhat exaggerated — although it sometimes feels like 40-hour weeks," he joked. "As with many jobs, I have busy times."

Those times include the monthly closing of the books, preparation of financial reports for the board, annual closing and preparation of statements, meeting various state and federal reporting requirements, "and what seems like a multitude of troubleshooting projects that arise throughout the year," he said.

On almost a daily basis, he is reviewing and signing checks, handling bank transactions and directing other accounting volunteers.

In a recent Habitat newsletter, Fisher was credited with saving the organization at least $200,000 in accounting fees over the years, "allowing donor funds to be used to build homes and lives without being needed for administrative expenses."

"Admittedly," Fisher said, "my strong feelings for Habitat and the people within the organization lead me to spend time on procedures that may not be absolutely necessary but result in improved procedures and financial reporting."

In addition to being finance director, Fisher has served on the board of directors for 11 years. He was appointed treasurer immediately upon becoming a board member and has served two-year terms as vice president and president.

"As a board member, I also get involved in developing policies and procedures and other projects that arise from time to time," he said. "I know my limitations and refrain from doing much on-site construction work, as I would probably not want to live in a house that I helped build."

While he could find other ways to fill his retirement days, Fisher prefers volunteering with Habitat, particularly with executive director Sherry Brown Cooper.

"The thing that has kept me with Habitat for a long period is the satisfaction I get from seeing the organization grow and from working with some very dedicated people — particularly a very enthusiastic and dedicated executive director," he said. "There are times that the work gets a little tiring or frustrating. But then I attend a house dedication and listen to a new homeowner very emotionally describe what the vast improvement in living conditions will mean to them and their family, and I return to my work rejuvenated for what lies ahead."

Fisher said he would "certainly recommend that others get involved with Habitat."

"In addition to the obvious construction efforts, there are many other opportunities, such as helping families prepare for home ownership, fundraising, acquisition of building sites, public relations and helping in the ReStore home improvement retail operation," he said.

Fisher said the volunteer manager is always glad to talk to anyone about volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and can be reached at 301-791-9009.

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