Fred Borsoni can be found most days on the construction site of the latest West Orange Habitat for Humanity home being built.
A handmade Adirondack chair adorns the front porch of every West Orange Habitat for Humanity home dedicated in recent years. Those wooden chairs are created by Habitat volunteer Fred Borsoni, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin.
Borsoni, however, does more than build the seats in his spare time — the 80-year-old has volunteered his time helping with the construction of the homes for 20 years.
He moved to Central Florida from Maryland in 2000 and was looking for something to do in his spare time.
“Someone told me … there was a West Orange Habitat for Humanity, and I found them working on a house in Oakland,” he said. “Jack Fain was there, and he said, ‘Come on,’ and I started working. … I’ve been with them ever since.”
For 10 years, Borsoni served as volunteer construction manager, stepping down when a permanent one was hired. He continues to work with seven or eight people each Wednesday and Saturday — and the occasional Friday — starting at 8 a.m.
“We’re all up in our age,” he said. “I think the youngest is about 65, 67. I’m 80, and we have other people in our little group, some even older, even 85. (It’s) a really nice group of people who always did things together. … That’s what’s keeping me from sitting down on the couch and not doing anything. It’s very helpful to do that.”
West Orange Habitat executive director Marilyn Hattaway said the organization is grateful for Borsoni’s dedication.
“Fred isn’t a big talker – but he’s a big doer,” Hattaway said. “He gets work accomplished alone or with a team. He just wants things done right when building our Habitat homes — no shortcuts, no quick-fixes. And everything must be exact.”
Borsoni said he has performed every job possible on the homes, from roofing and laying tile to electrical and plumbing.
Part of his role is to join the construction team and construction manager Randy Stuart in welcoming corporate, church and group volunteer teams that show up on the job site. He has led many teams in the building process.
“Fred has a Habitat soul, believing in our ministry,” Hattaway said. “He has a Habitat heart, as he builds for each family personally, and he has Habitat hands with the experience to solve construction challenges.”
He has worked with teams of all ages, including this summer’s Collegiate Challenge Team of 15 students from Boston’s Curry College. After recognizing their desire to help others and build a community, Borsoni was eager to share his construction knowledge and skills. They, in turn, shared their “college building dance” with him, and they all practiced on the house’s foundation.
Hattaway said team members have stayed in touch with him and with Habitat after their experience.
“He has given time, talent and treasure to build homes with pioneers of our organization like Jess Green, Bill Criswell and others with a vision,” Hattaway said. “We stand on his shoulders and theirs as we grow.”
“I made a commitment to help,” Borsoni said.
He is motivated by the stories he has heard from members of Habitat’s Family Selection Committee, such as the boy whose family lived in such a small space that he had to sleep in the same bed as his mother and grandmother.
“It seems like most of us think that owning a home is almost normal,” he said. “And then I see the faces on the homeowners after we give them the keys, and that makes all the difference. It’s looking at someone who never thought they would own a home of their own.”