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Grateful to serve

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It’s said that gratitude is a byproduct of service.

Gratitude is recognizing (and appreciating) what we have. Service is offering what we have to others. When we serve those around us, when we freely give what we have to those in need, gratitude follows.

As we enter the busiest season of the year, it’s important to slow down, to pause and reflect on what truly matters.

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to share in this heartwarming account of a special friendship formed between a volunteer and homeowner. It’s one of our favorites.

When Melissa Humphrey first stepped foot on the site of Wili & Cheryl Gramberg’s future Habitat home in March 2022, she had no idea what to expect.

“We showed up and there was nothing but a concrete slab. I thought, “Oh my gosh, who’s building this house? What are we supposed to be doing? I’m a woman and I have no idea how to frame,”. But they gave me the tools and taught me how.”

Raising the first wall of the Gramberg home

Over the next six hours, Melissa and nine other women – volunteers for our 2022 Wahine Build –  hauled, measured and cut lumber, framed panels and raised the walls of the house. By day’s end, the 2-bedroom home was completely framed.

“That was my first experience volunteering for Honolulu Habitat. I left that day wanting to give more of myself to Habitat’s mission and to the Gramberg ohana.”

Melissa immediately signed up to volunteer again and would return three more times to install siding, lay flooring, paint and assist with finishing details.

“It was so exciting to come back each time and witness the progress of the build. Slowly but surely, I watched that slab become a home.”

On her final volunteer day, Melissa met Cheryl “Auntie Cheryl” Gramberg.

“When I saw her, I walked right up and introduced myself. I told her I had been part of her home construction since day one and how excited I was for her to be so close to owning her own home.”

They sat together at lunch, talked story and looked at photos from that first build day. Cheryl delighted in hearing about the all-female volunteer crew that raised the walls of her home and they marveled together at how much had changed since then.

“After lunch, Cheryl took me back to one of the soon-to-be-bedrooms and asked my opinion about where she should put her bed. We brainstormed possible layouts that would give her the best mountain view through the windows and, most importantly, where to hang her Lebron James poster.

Later in the kitchen, I watched as she opened every cabinet and planned how she would organize everything. We talked about the first meal she would cook in her kitchen, and how excited she was to gather with her friends and family in her future house. That afternoon with Auntie Cheryl was a turning point for us both. For Cheryl, I think it was the moment she really started to take ownership of the space and realized that she was just weeks away from making it her home.

There’s just no way to describe the feeling of watching someone’s life change before your eyes… It’s this joyful, deep love that quiets everything else – all the noise of our busy everyday routine just doesn’t matter as much. Because in the end, family and community are all that truly matter.

I cried the whole way home that day. There’s just no way to describe the feeling of watching someone’s life change before your eyes. And being able to share in that experience with them, to be part of their transformation, is something else entirely. It’s this joyful, deep love that quiets everything else – all the noise of our busy everyday routine just doesn’t matter as much. Because in the end, family and community are all that truly matter.”

Melissa and Cheryl reunited at the Gramberg Home Dedication Ceremony in October.

“I felt that all that love and joy wash over me as soon as I saw her. It was like reliving that moment all over again – that moment when it all became real for her. As we hugged, I told her, ‘This is it. It’s finally your day. You’re home now.’ She pulled me in and hugged me even harder.”


When we first saw these photos of their heartfelt reunion, we were moved to tears. The recognition on Cheryl’s face and Melissa’s ecstatic smile tells a story that no words can. A story of friendship. A story built on a foundation of selfless service.

This experience has made me a Habitat supporter forever. To be a small part of this work is life-altering, not just for the homeowners, but for me.

Through it all, Melissa transcended the role of a volunteer. In helping build a new future for the Gramberg’s, she became family. In being of service to her community, her own life was changed.

And for that, we are truly thankful.

Melissa Humphrey: volunteer and ambassador

Melissa Humphrey, known for her larger-than-life energy and passion for people, has worked in Hawaii’s building industry since 2015. After studying architecture at UC Berkeley, she went on to receive her master’s degree in civil engineering at UH Manoa. Today, she is a project manager for Layton Construction and has worked on several projects across the islands – Kapiolani Medical Center, A’eo Tower and Whole Foods Flagship Store, Wai Kai Waterfront Recreational Facility, and the Kukuiula Development on the island of Kauai. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction), where her emphasis is on the development of Emerging Professionals within the construction field.

Melissa is now a member of our Wahine Build committee and endeavors to inspire more women to take an active role in the building of affordable homes with Honolulu Habitat.

“Women can be doing this; women should be doing this. [This work] is made for women with big hearts and big minds and big souls. If you come with an open-mind and a good attitude, Habitat will help teach you and give you the tools to contribute and be successful on a construction jobsite.”

Show some love to Melissa by making a donation to her 2023 Wahine Build fundraising page today!

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