During his 90 years, Don Martinson has always called Wichita his home, and for the past 22 years he has given back to the city by volunteering with Wichita Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity works with low-income families, building them houses using volunteer labor and teaching classes to prepare them to become homeowners.
Martinson said he has made about 400 rosettes – which are used to trim doorways – each year and almost 100 pantry cupboards for Habitat houses. He said he donates 500 to 1,000 hours a year making the items in his woodshop.
“I’ve always been interested in working with my hands,” Martinson said. “Habitat interested me, particularly because this is something to help the working people, people who are ambitious enough to hold down a job and make payments on a house.”
Martinson has a history of working construction. He was raised on a farm where he said he “got tough” and learned about building. After he was married, Martinson built his family’s first two houses. He said he taught math and science at North High School from 1952 to 1985.
Originally, Martinson built porches for Habitat houses. Later, he had the idea of making space for a kitchen pantry with shelves. It was also his idea to make the rosettes for the corners of each doorway.
“When we find people like Don willing to step in and provide a service we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford, it’s a blessing to us and our families,” said Marci Hawks, Wichita Habitat for Humanity development director.
Hawks said the amount of time Martinson has donated is unusual because the average volunteer donates about eight hours. His efforts stand out because of the hundreds of hours he donates at his age.
Hawks said that to be a Habitat volunteer a person must have a willingness to serve with people from different faiths and mindsets. Volunteers can build homes, teach classes or work at the ReStore, at 601 N. West St.
“I think it’s just matching a specific talent they have with a need we have,” Hawks said.
Martinson said he has had a positive experience volunteering, and that the people he has met and worked with make his time memorable.
“I’ll probably volunteer for another 10 years,” Martinson said, and then laughed. “I intend to live to be at least 100.”