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Redefining retirement

Habitat for Humanity volunteer fills his days by helping others

Created date

March 9th, 2017
Eagle’s Trace resident Bill Deerhake maintains an active lifestyle, which includes volunteering three days a week with Habitat for Humanity.

Eagle’s Trace resident Bill Deerhake maintains an active lifestyle, which includes volunteering three days a week with Habitat for Humanity.

Bill Deerhake may have retired at 50, but now at 73, he’s more active than ever.

The former drilling engineer is on a job site by 6:30 in the morning, three days a week.

“I started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity shortly after I retired from Amoco,” says Bill. “My dad grew up on a farm and taught me some basic carpentry skills. Working with Habitat was something that interested me, and I thought I could do a little good.”

Bill volunteers with the Northwest Harris County, Tex., affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, whose mission is to build safe, affordable housing for its partner families. It takes nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service to build one Habitat Northwest Harris County home.

“When I first volunteered with Habitat, we were building a development of about 25 single-family homes in Tomball,” says Bill. “Since that time, I’ve worked on the construction of nearly 150 homes.”

Benefits of giving back

Five years ago, Bill moved from construction to deconstruction, which is the by-hand demolition of buildings in the reverse order of construction. The purpose of deconstruction is to carefully remove materials for reuse and recycling. Many deconstructed materials are sold in Habitat’s ReStore, located at the corner of Jones Road and Grant Road.

“Since I’ve been on the deconstruction crew, we’ve worked on houses from Galveston Bay to Magnolia,” says Bill. 

In addition to the positive impact of giving back, Bill credits his volunteer work with keeping him physically active and maintaining meaningful social ties.

“I’ve made a lot of close friends through Habitat,” says Bill. “We’ll get together a few times a year to watch the Super Bowl or some other sporting event.”

One of those friends, Don Gaddy, worked with Bill on both construction and deconstruction crews. Don and his wife Joyce live at Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston.

“My wife Beverly and I lived near Eagle’s Trace, so Don and I would carpool together to job sites,” says Bill.

Right time to move

As Bill and Beverly learned more about Eagle’s Trace, they began to contemplate a move of their own to the West Houston community.

Situated on 70 scenic acres, Eagle’s Trace is home to more than 675 residents. The community boasts a small-town feel with three restaurants, on-site medical and fitness centers, a convenience store, woodshop, salon, and bank, all connected to residents’ apartment homes via climate-controlled walkways. 

The community’s continuing care neighborhood offers assisted living, memory care, post-acute rehabilitation, and nursing care services.

“Since Eagle’s Trace was close to our house, we could continue to attend our church, keep our same bridge group, and my wife could still have her social circle,” says Bill. “Plus, I was interested in the woodshop at Eagle’s Trace. I had a small shop in our garage, but nothing compared to the shop at Eagle’s Trace.”

A chance phone call from Don set the gears in motion.

“Don mentioned that there was a nice two-bedroom apartment available just down the hall from his apartment,” says Bill. “Beverly and I went to look at it and decided we were ready to move.”

The couple settled into their two-bedroom, one-bath, Franklin-style apartment in April 2015.

Since moving, Bill has become more active than ever, joining the Stargazers, the Knowledge Seekers, and the Great Decisions Discussion groups, in addition to his regular work schedule with Habitat.

“It’s nice to come home after a day of work and prop my feet up,” says Bill. “I don’t have to worry about the yard or maintenance on the house.”

‘Everything fell into place’

Of course, Bill’s not one to prop his feet up for too long. He’s already made good use of the community’s woodshop, building a bookcase, a stand for his speakers, a corner table to fit behind the sectional in the couple’s apartment, and a jewelry case to hold Beverly’s necklaces.

“Everything fell into place when we moved to Eagle’s Trace,” says Bill. “We have so many amenities right here on campus, plus we can maintain the ties we had in the greater Houston community. It’s the best of both worlds.”

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