Finch, 95, is the Longest Serving Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity Affiliate
By Mina Corpuz
FITCHBURG -- Carleton “Zeke” Finch considers himself a longtime resident, a World War II Navy veteran, a gardener, and a woodworker.
To the North Central Massachusetts Habitat for Humanity, he is a founding member of the affiliate and its longest serving volunteer.
“It’s always been part of my life to do things for other people,” the 95-year-old said at his Fitchburg home last week. “I can’t escape from being involved with something for some reason.”
Finch has been part of Habitat for Humanity for about 30 years.
In 1986, the pastor from Pilgrim Congregational Church in Leominster sent out a message to churches in the area about meeting to form an affiliate for Habitat for Humanity, Finch said. He and a delegation from his church, Faith United, went.
Nearly 50 people showed up, Finch said. He and others from the group continued to help get the affiliate running and ready to start building homes.
“The only reason they give me special treatment now is because I’m the only one left,” he said.
Finch got involved with Habitat for Humanity shortly before retiring as a computer services coordinator for the Leominster School District.
He is seen as the “poster guy” for volunteering, Finch said, because he has continued to help over the years. This has included painting homes and serving as the affiliate’s treasurer for about 12 years.
Nowadays, Finch commutes to Acton once a week to help out at the affiliate’s office.
The administrative work may not be as impactful as building a house, he said, but it’s a way to continue supporting the organization.
“I can’t stop because it’s in here,” Finch said, referring to the sense of mission Habitat for Humanity gives him. He balled his hand and placed it over his heart. “The work is too important to stop,” he said.
The North Central affiliate serves 25 communities spanning from Gardner to Acton and Townsend to Berlin.
Volunteers build houses and complete critical home repairs like replacing a roof or weatherization improvements.
Finch said the organization helps clients who are in need of housing and have income.
“These are hardworking people but they could never afford to own their own homes,” he said.
To date, the North Central Habitat for Humanity has built 33 houses, 11 of which are in Fitchburg, Finch said.
He likes volunteering because it is in line with his faith and the way he was raised.
Finch grew up in Northfield, a town that borders New Hampshire and Vermont.
He attended the preparatory school founded by 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody and absorbed religious teachings from the community.
After living and working in the Boston area, Finch and his late wife, Arline, moved to Fitchburg in 1951. Together they raised five biological children and four foster children.
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