Lorraine Bell

3rd Vice President
Windermere (Fla.) Preparatory School Parent Volunteer Association


Best known for: Leading a group of students and faculty members to Biloxi, Miss., on a Habitat for Humanity mission last spring; the team helped reconstruct two homes ravaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Bell also launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign at Windermere to support the project.

The hands-on type: Bell was inspired to help Biloxi residents after she accompanied her sister and dad, a veteran Habitat volunteer, to rebuild the home of a disabled elderly woman still living in a government-supplied trailer. “I was in no way prepared for the devastation I witnessed and the magnitude of how much work still needs to be done,” Bell recalls. When she returned home, she persuaded Windermere’s headmaster and president to tie in a Habitat project to the school’s two-week study/travel program.

Making real change: “We hosted cocktail parties and car washes and everything else we could think of to raise the funds,” Bell says. During these events, she educated parents about the project and invited families to make pledges, from $10 for a box of nails to $4,000 for plumbing and electrical contracting. Students also filled giant “change for humanity” jars placed in classrooms.

Rolling up their sleeves: While in Biloxi, the Windermere Habitat crew worked power saws, nail guns, and drills for nine hours a day over six days; Bell’s father served as construction leader.

Hammering home the message: Bell says students came back on a “Habitat high” and quickly established their own Habitat for Humanity chapter. “This year, we will be heading to New Orleans to work in the Upper Ninth ward,” she says.

Hurricane proof: Bell’s own family was displaced from the Cayman Islands after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. “We moved our children to Florida temporarily while hurricane relief efforts were going on, but it ended up being a permanent move,” she says.

Sweat equity: Bell receives regular emails and calls from parents asking how they can get involved. “Many parents have volunteered on a local level with Habitat,” she says. “I encourage everyone to go out there and get their hands dirty!”