There are so many people who donate their time and talent to A Tiny Home for Good. Recently, we sat down with THG board member, Bill Elkins. Bill is currently retired and serves on the THG Board as the architect. Read more to learn about how Bill became an architect and found THG!
THG: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Bill Elkins: I started my working life as a salesman, the absolute last thing on all of those tests that I should’ve done. I wasn’t good at it and I hated it. I did it for seven years. Then I went to architecture school when I was twenty-eight. I ended up at Syracuse. We [Bill and his wife]came from Rochester when we were very young. We moved here and bought a house and I became a full-time student.
THG: How did you figure out that you wanted to pursue architecture?
Elkins: I had no idea because I had no exposure to architects. I grew up in a small town and didn't know a single architect. After we were married, we bought a house. It was a little junker and I worked on fixing it up. I wasn’t any great carpenter or anything, but somehow, I started thinking about it. I didn’t say anything to my wife, but my office in Rochester was the old women’s campus at the University of Rochester, which had then been turned into offices, institutions and various things. There was an architecture firm next door and I just wandered over there one day and there was one guy in the office and I just said “I’m thinking about architecture school and I just wanted to talk to somebody.” And the guy says “do you like coffee?” I said “yeah.” And he says “then you can be an architect!”
THG: What happened after that?
Elkins: So, I was accepted by a graduate student, except I wasn’t the first year. They looked at my undergraduate grades and said “not so hot.” I said “I know, but I have a child, I have a job, I own a home.” They said “well that’s something good, but we’d kind of like you to take a basic design course.” So, on my way home from work three nights a week in Rochester, I stopped at RIT and took a night design course. I did well in that. And then, I get out of school and it was difficult to find a job. The economy was shot. But, I found a job at a firm and I was with them for seven years. They were just starting to talk about computers and a couple of the partners said “it’ll never catch on in this business.” And I said “Yes! Yes, it will! We got to do it! We got to do it!” They said “No.” So I went on my own.
THG: How did you get involved with A Tiny Home for Good?
Elkins: She [Bill’s wife] volunteers Thursday mornings at the Samaritan Center and Andrew [Lunetta] was doing that pretty regularly. She got to know him there. I had met him at the gym at SU. I nodded at him and said “good morning.” But I think she was in the gym and saw him during graduation week. She said “so Andrew, are you going to go off to Washington and make big bucks? He said “no, I have this dream.” My wife said “Why don’t you talk to my husband about this?” She just came to my office, handed me this phone number and said “This is Andrew’s number. I’m not telling you what to do…” But I got this sort of romantic notion of doing Tiny Homes and I thought “this is so cool.”
THG: What do you think makes this organization unique to other non-profits?
Elkins: Well it seems to me that just hearing my own personal friends talk about it - it’s something that they can get their heads around. They can see these homes being built. They know that people are being taken care of. It’s something where if they donate money they can actually see something. Most people’s connection with the homeless is they see them at the interchange at the off-ramps.
THG: How has your perception of the homeless been affected by your involvement with THG?
Elkins: Well, I think the exposure, meeting some of these guys and finding out, not so much their stories, but just finding that human quality in these people. They’re just like the rest of us. It’s just that they have had some bad luck or some tough times or whatever it is. I think that’s kind of what’s really drawn me in and kept my interest.
Thank you for reading!