I am passionate about Habitat for Humanity because I know it works. I’ve watched the process change lives over the many years I’ve been involved with this organization but most importantly, it was instrumental in changing my own life.
In 2001 I found myself alone with my four young boys in a small apartment I could barely afford. The boys had no place to play and I was expected to keep them quiet and calm at all times. Although I was grateful to no longer be living out of my car, the frequent inspections and complaints about my children’s noise made life very difficult. I lived in fear each day that our circumstances would leave me without options but I just couldn’t envision any way to improve our situation.
A family member suggested I apply for a home through the newly formed “Columbia County Habitat for Humanity” in my hometown. I was so excited to be chosen as their very first partner family! Some people believe that these homes are free, but instead they are low (or no) interest loans for homes built with many volunteer hours and sometimes donated materials that keeps costs affordable. It is a “hand up” instead of a “hand out”. Nevertheless, I was frequently overwhelmed by the number of total strangers who worked alongside me and my family to help build my beautiful 3-bedroom home.
My boys and I contributed the required “sweat equity hours” by helping out at the site after I got off work. At first we cut brush off the property and shoveled gravel to set up for the initial ground breaking ceremony. The boys learned how to set up drywall and helped paint. It just amazes me that so many people came from so many walks of life to help. I loved to see this. The people weren’t looking for recognition or praise, they just wanted to do something small to make someone’s life a little better.
All these years later, I still love my home! I never imagined when my boys were little that it would happen. Because of the low mortgage, I knew that even if I lost my job at Safeway, I could still be able to pay the mortgage with any other job I could find. That sense of security was so comforting. The day we finally were no longer on any state assistance was so scary and exciting – it was the best day ever!
Nowhere is the “it takes a village” theme more evident than with our local Habitat for Humanity. Manufacturers frequently donate materials, local businesses donate volunteer labor, and families, neighbors and groups give freely of their time – all working towards the mission of decent, affordable housing for deserving families. When everyone chips in, the whole community benefits.