Program Served: AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC - 2007-2008; Atlanta, GA/New Orleans, LA
Programs: Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Alma Mater: Tulane University
Currently: unCommon Construction - Founder/Executive Director; New Orleans, LA
Aaron Frumin’s involvement in service began after Hurricane Katrina hit when he called the Red Cross hotline to make a $25 donation. While on the phone, he realized that he wanted to do more, and by the end of the call the operator had signed him up for a shift the following day. A few months later in November of 2005, Frumin was deployed to New Orleans for three weeks to help with bulk distribution of food, water, buckets, bleach, and other essential items.
“It’s tough to describe what it was like at that time,” said Frumin. “It was easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the destruction and succumb to a sense of hopelessness. There was a lot of everything…wreckage and tears, sure, but, also community and a strong sense of resilience.”
Frumin learned about AmeriCorps NCCC during his time with the Red Cross, and decided to join after being impressed by the team members’ commitment and ability to come through for the city in such a tough time. In 2007, Frumin’s team was assigned to return to New Orleans, something that made him nervous after having been so involved in the relief effort.
“Those concerns were alleviated my first day on a build site,” said Frumin. “We weren’t just giving out water anymore. We were rebuilding the city, come hell or high water - and probably both. No other project could’ve compared to the sense of accomplishment, community, and personal satisfaction of a day spent on the build site.”
After AmeriCorps NCCC, Frumin took a job as a house leader with the New Orleans affiliate and Habitat for Humanity. After three years there, he went back to earn his degree from Tulane University, and then went on to teach with Teach for America for three years in Colorado. Frumin missed physical work, being outside, and working on collaborative projects, like the ones he worked on with AmeriCorps NCCC, and when thinking about the impact he wanted to make, he kept coming back to thoughts of New Orleans.
Frumin returned to the Big Easy in September of 2014 to create unCommon Construction (uCC), a youth development program that builds character by building houses with currently enrolled high school students. The profits from the sale of the houses pay the apprentices through weekly stipends and cumulative scholarships.
“AmeriCorps taught me valuable lessons about teamwork and selflessness. Habitat showed me how strong a collective impact could be. Teach for America gave me a language and a more personal understanding of the deeply rooted problems facing our communities,” he explained. “unCommon Construction is my attempt to bring the best parts of these experiences together – a sense of teamwork, accomplishment and accountability towards a common goal, reflection and growth through meaningful work and expanded opportunities as a result.”
Frumin says he’s excited for the opportunity to put hammers to nails, and continue to gain momentum toward uCC’s vision of high school graduates with the skills and resources for the college or career path of their choice.
Working for Habitat in the years after Katrina brought a lot of opportunities to be involved with challenging and rewarding worksite experiences, and serving with AmeriCorps has helped Frumin greatly, personally and professionally.
“One incredible and ridiculous thing during that time was hosting the Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project in 2008,” he said. Frumin recalls their seemingly insurmountable goal, and said that the week of the build was a blur. “When it was done, I remember our construction manager saying, ‘That was a lot of fun. Let’s never do it again!’ But I bet we all probably would.”