Long before Milton "Orin" Scandrett built homes for Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer, he laid the foundation for the growing nonprofit.

The longtime Free Methodist pastor and Dakota County crisis counselor served as the first executive director of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in the 1980s, setting the groundwork for what is now a $33 million organization that builds and rehabs homes for low-income residents.

"He was a person who lived his life devoted to improving the lives of people who lived in poverty," said Susan Haigh, former CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. "He served people because he felt called by God, and his work with Habitat exemplified acting on that call to serve."

Scandrett, 92, of Minneapolis, died June 15 of cancer.

He grew up in rural South Dakota, one of four sons, and attended a Christian high school where he met his wife Donna Lou and was inspired to pursue ministry. He spent years working at churches across South Dakota and was the Free Methodist superintendent, overseeing congregations across four states.

As people began moving to urban areas, Scandrett followed, taking his wife and two sons to Minneapolis and joining a coalition of congregations in the Phillips neighborhood looking for a new way to tackle poverty. They landed on creating a Twin Cities chapter of the international Habitat for Humanity in 1985 and tapped Scandrett to serve as its first leader — an unpaid job working out of a church basement.

He also worked as a pastor at the former First Free Methodist Church in Minneapolis and at Cedarcrest Free Methodist Church in Bloomington for more than two decades while juggling numerous jobs — from Minneapolis Police chaplain to crisis counselor at Hennepin County Medical Center and Dakota County, fielding late night calls from people in crisis.

"He just emulated love and caring for people," said his son Michael Scandrett of Minneapolis. "For countless people, he made a difference in their life."

When someone was struggling with a divorce or mental health, Scandrett was a keen listener. When a man who was blind was being mistreated, Scandrett advocated for him and helped him get housing, said Shawn Morrison, who was a pastor at Cedarcrest.

"He really reached out to the broken, those who were hurting," he said. "Maybe some of them felt like have-nots of society, but to Orin they were the most valuable people."

In retirement, Scandrett wasn't idle, volunteering as a pastor, growing roses with his wife and running around Lake Harriet. At 68, he ran his first marathon. By 85, he ran his 36th and final marathon.

Then at 87, he traveled outside the United States for the first time, trekking to a remote village in Cambodia to build houses for Habitat. In the muddy, hot climate, the octogenarian scaled scaffolding and laid cement blocks. Haigh worried about the toll on the trip's oldest volunteer, but Scandrett never wavered or complained about the difficult conditions.

"You look at him and think 'that's the kind of person I want to be when I'm 87.' But he's been that way his whole life," she said. "He's a very joyful man, just radiated kindness and excitement about life."

Scandrett inspired many volunteers on the 2017 trip, said Cathy Lawrence, Habitat's chief development officer. He lived simply but with unlimited curiosity for the world and other people and a constant sense of humor, she said.

"I think [his legacy] is so far-reaching," she said. "He touches people's souls and you don't forget him."

In an interview with the Star Tribune after the trip, Scandrett said "it was the greatest experience of my life."

Besides his son, he is survived by brother Donald Scandrett of Rapid City, S.D., son Timothy , a granddaughter and three great-granddaughters.