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From the classroom to the construction site

Former District 833 superintendent John Regan has been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for the past six years. Last week he was busy at work at a construction site in Oakdale. Staff photo by Amber Kispert.

Back in 2004 former superintendent John Regan said farewell to District 833 when he made the decision to retire from a long career in education. But retirement didn't sit as well with him as he thought it might.

For awhile Regan, 63, and his wife spent time in a trailer home on the outer banks of North Carolina fishing and relaxing.

"We looked at each other one day and said 'This is not what our life is supposed to be," he said. "You can't recreate your life away because then it doesn't have meaning.

"I flunked at retirement."

He was in search of something to occupy his time and took the suggestion of a neighbor to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Since 2005, the Woodbury resident has helped with the construction of more than 40 homes and logged nearly 5,000 volunteer hours.

"I like working with people who need homes -- it's a work of mercy," Regan said. "I enjoy this work because it's so meaningful."

Building a home for 'Humanity'

Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organization that builds homes for needy families who don't have a home.

According to the Habitat for Humanity website, the organization believes that "every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live."

"This job is all about the people -- it's serving God's people," Regan said. "Some of these people have had terrible situations that they have had to overcome to get here, but they are so excited to get these homes and that has so much meaning."

Brick by brick

When Regan first started with Habitat for Humanity, he had limited construction experience. But he didn't come in completely green either.

"If you're a homeowner, you're always doing projects," he said.

Regan said it helped that he oversaw the supervision and design of nearly $200 million in school construction as a superintendent.

Even though Regan did have some previous knowledge of construction, he admitted to having a bit of a learning curve when it came to construction codes and other nuances of building new homes.

"Habitat for Humanity never throws you in," he said. "It's not like throwing you off the end of the dock to teach you how to swim."

Regan said it takes about nine months to complete a house from beginning to end.

Many of the houses that Habitat for Humanity builds are multiplexes.

After three years, Regan said he felt so comfortable in his abilities and knowledge that he decided to apply for a seasonal supervisor position.

A seasonal supervisor, who works from April through October, oversees the work of the Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

"As a supervisor the expectation is that you know how to do this stuff, no matter what the task is," he said. "As a volunteer, you're going to be doing a much more limited task.

"I want to do both."

For the past three years, Regan acts as seasonal supervisor for six months in the spring, then for the rest of the year he goes back to being a volunteer a couple times a week.

"Every once in a while you like to put a tool belt on, but you also like the supervision because you get things done," he said. "Supervisors don't build houses, the volunteers build houses."


versus construction

With a background in education, it may seem that Regan might not have a lot to offer to a construction site, but in fact a lot of his experience as a superintendent has translated well into the construction zone.

For example, as a superintendent, Regan had to oversee teachers and administrators. As a seasonal supervisor for Habitat for Humanity, he oversees volunteers.

"That's one of the reasons they hired me," he said. "I have experience working with people."

As a superintendent, Regan oversaw school construction projects. He does the same thing with Habitat for Humanity.

One big difference however is that instead of sitting in a classroom; Regan is working at a construction site.

"I was always a pretty active administrator, I never spent much time sitting at a desk," he said. "But Habitat for Humanity is much more physical than being a superintendent -- it takes a lot out of you, especially when you get to be old like me."

Regan said he has every intention of staying involved with Habitat for Humanity for quite a long time.

"I want to volunteer for quite a while, as long as the body holds up," he said.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, visit

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976