Alumni in Action: Madelyn Smith ’13 helps build futures through volunteerism

Smith currently serves as the operations and volunteer director for Home Works of America, a non-profit based out of South Carolina that focuses on repairing the homes of low-income residents through the assistance of volunteers and donations. 

Madelyn Smith '13 on jobsite with volunteerMadelyn Smith ’13 has built her way to a bright future, quite literally. Smith currently serves as the operations and volunteer director for Home Works of America, a non-profit based out of South Carolina that focused on repairing the homes of low-income residents through volunteer assistance and donations.

Smith came to Elon after learning about the university from her high school counselor. After visiting campus one summer, she was immediately drawn to the Elon culture, the School of Communications and the many new opportunities that Elon had to offer, including study abroad.

While an undergraduate, she was involved in many different activities, including copy editor for The Pendulum, hosting a radio show at WSOE and getting involved with InterVarsity campus ministry.

“By far, the common thread that set apart my Elon experience was the fantastic group of people who were part of it. Building relationships with peers and professors from around the country and the world broadened my perspective and gifted me with friendships I still hold dear,” said Smith.

Home Works volunteersSmith is from South Carolina and decided to move back home after graduating, where she also served as assistant director for a camp and conference center that she had worked at during her summers while a student. This role eventually led to a family ministry director position for a local church where she led programs for elementary to high school students. In this work, she began participating in summer service experiences, which involved volunteering with Home Works of America, the current non-profit that she works for today.

“It was many of the students’ favorite experiences each year and mine too. The long days were full of navigating repair skills and construction hiccups, but they were met with powerful experiences serving homeowners who lifted our spirits more than we lifted theirs,” Smith said.


Four years later, Smith was asked to join Home Works as part of their full-time staff and said she felt called to step into this role. Founded in 1996, Home Works of America is a non-profit based in Columbia, South Carolina. What started as a small operation of friends and family repairing their neighbors’ houses, grew into a seven-member staff with three service regions and warehouses in South Carolina. The major areas served include the Midlands, the Lowcountry around Charleston, and the greater Greenville area.

Home Works volunteers“Repairs are completed at no cost to each low income client thanks to donations of materials and funds and the hard work of thousands of annual volunteers. We serve residents in the ‘Low and Very Low Income’ bracket based on HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) guidelines. These homeowners are often living alone, with their only income coming from Social Security, disability or Veteran benefits,” said Smith.

The goal is the repair homes and provide practical upgrades for the homeowners that are often disabled or older in age, but also to take care of many of the repairs that these owners may not be able to do on their own, without displacing them to a different home or care facility.

“Home Works is one of many organizations addressing an often complicated housing crisis. Our model of modifying existing homes is based on the consensus that most aging adults, an estimated 90%, desire to stay in their homes as long as possible instead of moving away from family or to a long-term care facility. Neighborhoods are strengthened when families remain intact and long-time residents can keep living in their homes,” Smith said.

The motto of the company is “compassionate construction,” which includes the physical repairs (re-roofing, building ramps, patching holes, painting and more) but also includes lifting the spirits of these homeowners and providing meaningful connections in the community.


Madelyn Smith '13 (left) and volunteers repairing a roof.For Smith, the relationships are the most rewarding part. Getting to see friendships kindled between volunteers and relationships formed with homeowners has been encouraging to her and gives her the “why” behind her work. “It’s a powerful reminder to me to slow down enough to really see people,” said Smith.

Smith explained that the job is not without its challenges, just like any other work, but that it is helpful for her to remember that all of the small efforts of many are what counts and that this adds up over time. In 26 years, Home Works has been able to help 3,300 neighbors with 50,000 volunteers, creating lasting change for their community.

Volunteers with homeownerSmith gives credit to Elon for preparing her for life after graduation, stating that she was able to try many new experiences and find out what she enjoyed, but that this trial-and-error approach also helped her to not fear asking for help along the way. If she could go back and tell her 18-year-old self how to approach college she said she would encourage herself to slow down and try even more things and to soak up those four short years.

One of the things Smith misses the most about campus includes the Elon luminaries tradition at the Festival of Lights and Luminaries, as well as her weekly carnival cookie that she used to get at the Acorn Coffee Shop. Smith feels that Elon has successful alumni because of the sheer amount of organizations on campus that allow students to dive into life outside of their studies as well as the incredible faculty and peer support that she received while a student.

For those considering going into non-profit work, she advised, “Always remind yourself why you initially felt called to the work and meeting this kind of need. If your role doesn’t typically involve volunteering, build in opportunities for yourself to serve and connect over and over again.”

Smith plans to continue her role with Home Works, with hopes to expand the visual storytelling of the homeowners and volunteers that they work with. “Our repair waiting list continues to grow, and with that comes a need for more volunteers and ways to creatively bring awareness to Home Works. Working with a local PR firm, we’re hoping to create more videos and infographics to show the impact of this work,” said Smith. She hopes that this will ultimately lead to partnerships with local trade schools and more youth wanting to learn trades, such as construction, to help fill the void in the current workforce.

To learn more about Home Works, check out their social media channels on Facebook and Instagram.