Growing up in Montreal, Rachelle Lefevre was struck by the number of homeless people she saw along the city’s streets.
It’s an image that stuck, so much so that years later and miles away from her Canadian roots, the actress has reached out to help make a difference in the town she now considers home.
While in the Port City filming for the series, “Under the Dome,” Lefevre, who plays Julia Shumway on the popular CBS show, has recently begun volunteering with Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity.
“I really wanted to do something that was specific to this community. I have lived here a total of a year and a half over the course of three years,” Lefevre said of Wilmington. “I don’t feel like a visitor anymore…this is my home six months out of the year. So, I decided it was time to do something in the place I live.”
Because of her Montreal memories of the “shocking amount of homeless people” she saw there—and the impact it made on her—Habitat for Humanity, which builds affordable housing for qualified families, seemed like the perfect place for Lfevre to lend a hand.
“I’ve been aware of them for a long time. It’s one of those things where I go, ‘I really want to do that,’ but because of my schedule it sometimes takes a long time to get involved,” Lefevre said.
It might have taken awhile, but once Lefevre signed up to volunteer she hit the construction ground running. She has helped build homes on Marstellar Street and, most recently, Stanley Street in the Love Grove community, where she worked Saturday morning. She also volunteered for three days with Habitat’s Upscale Resale challenge in May.
Going onto her first work site, Lefevre admits she was a little intimidated.
“I’m physically strong and active—a bit of a slugger, I guess—so I knew I was going to be comfortable digging in the dirt and hauling lumber, but I didn’t know the first thing about construction. But everyone there is so lovely. They just teach you how to do things…The first time I ever pounded in a galvanized nail, I’m pretty sure it took me three full minutes to get the nail in…The man helping me encouraged me and gave me tips. And now I can do it. And the other day, I even gave a tip to someone,” she said, laughing.
The camaraderie—Lefevre said she has struck up friendships with some of her fellow volunteers—is certainly a bonus. But the real reward, she said, is in doing good work for deserving people.
“You know, people who want to help might think, ‘But it’s so hard and I’m so tired at the end of the week. But I filmed an 80-hour week and I was exhausted on Saturday morning, and even I thought, I’m so tired; I don’t want to get up. But I left so nourished and so full of a positive experience, and it actually gave me energy,” she said. “It really is just fun. And it’s obviously that wonderful sense of being able to do something positive, which is something I hope everyone gets to experience.”
Her cast mate Colin Ford has gotten that experience, as a volunteer at one of Habitat’s local Restores.
Part of that positive experience for Lefevre is getting some perspective. Working alongside future Habitat homeowners—who must complete hundreds of volunteer hours at their own home site and others—has really made her think about all she has, and all she should never take for granted.
“I still get a little choked up. It’s incredibly moving to see someone out there doing the work you’re doing and know, I get to go home and take a shower and see my dog in the lovely little place I’m renting here without any considerations,” she said. “To be working right next to someone whose experience is so different, who is working to one day have what you already have, that’s pretty amazing.”
As an actress, Lefevre is accustomed to taking on new roles. But the one she has taken at Habitat is one she plans to keep with her whatever she may do down the road and wherever her next home may be.
“It is an incredible experience, and it makes you want to go all the time,” she said. “No matter where I am, this is something I see myself always doing, when I am back in L.A., or wherever I go in the future.”
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.