Volunteer Stories: Habitat for Humanity Builds Community in Princeton

Jan. 28, 2022

Sharon Warkala, manager, Facilities Finance & Administrative Services, volunteers as vice president of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Burlington and Mercer Counties.

By Vanessa Livingstone, Office of Human Resources

A group of Habitat for Humanity Volunteers stand in front of a home's porch.
Sharon with a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that New Jersey experiences a shortage of affordable housing available to low- and moderate-income families. As a way to break the cycle of poverty, Habitat for Humanity of Burlington and Mercer Counties creates opportunities for homeownership by building affordable homes for families to purchase with little or no down payment.

Sharon’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity began after her husband, Chris Warkala, senior manager for housing facilities, University Services, began volunteering with Habitat in 2008. Chris used his skills as a residential construction manager to help build homes and eventually served as president of the board of directors. Along the way, Sharon found herself joining Chris as a volunteer working on building projects, participating on board committees, hosting meetings at her home, and accepting an invitation to join the board as a director herself.

Almost 12 years later, the values and mission of bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope inspire Sharon to continue donating her time and energy to the cause. Habitat for Humanity believes the social benefits of homeownership such as family stability, improved graduation rates, meaningful relationships, and a sense of community are just as important as affordability.

“You don’t need to know how to swing a hammer or work a drill to volunteer for Habitat — if you do what you know and you bring it to the table…there will always be a place for you.”

Now Sharon serves in a leadership role as vice president of the board of directors and applies the skills she’s obtained throughout her 35-year career in procurement and contract administration to help with the business and financial requirements of running a nonprofit organization.

Chris Warkala stands in front of an almost finished home construction site in Princeton.
Chris Warkala in front of the duplex built by Habitat for Humanity in Princeton.

One of Sharon’s greatest achievements as a board member was the role she played in the merger between Habitat Trenton and Habitat Burlington County, resulting in what is now Habitat for Humanity of Burlington and Mercer Counties. Since then, the organization also merged with Atlantic County and Millstone Basin, expanding the organization’s capabilities and geographic reach to help provide even more New Jersey residents with affordable housing.

Closer to home, Sharon is most proud of the duplex currently under construction in Princeton’s historic Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood — a build that received a $50,000 donation from Princeton University in 2018. Habitat for Humanity expects to dedicate the building in February 2022 when its two partner families take ownership of their new homes.

"Everyone deserves decent and affordable housing in the communities where they live."

For more information or to volunteer, visit Habitat for Humanity of Burlington and Mercer Counties.

Photos courtesy of Sharon Warkala.