Guest Blog contributed by a St. Paul homeowner & A Brush with Kindness client
My husband and I have been employed, paid taxes, paid bills, paid rent, given to charities and supported ourselves since our middle teen-age years. We are now 60 and 56-years-old, respectively. B and I have been together since 1989. We have no children, but are close to our families in Minnesota and Ohio. Shortly after I turned 40, my health began to deteriorate. I am now disabled and in constant pain with degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, severe osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, costochondritis and other issues. B is my full-time caregiver and can no longer work outside of the home. Taking care of a disabled person is a demanding and exhausting job, but he does so with professionalism, efficiency and a great sense of humor. Though there are daily challenges, we never lose sight of the fact that our greatest accomplishment in life is our loving marriage.
In 1995, we bought our first house, an 1887 Queen Anne Victorian in an historic St. Paul neighborhood. As the years passed, B worked hard to keep the house in good working order: building a fence, spot-painting the house, replacing the roof, removing and replacing broken sewer pipes. The inside of the house was also a challenge and, in addition to doing all of the housework, B regularly repaired plaster walls/ceilings, painted rooms, replaced broken plumbing fixtures, replaced broken windows and bought new appliances.
However, as my disabilities increased, more of B’s time was spent caring for me and less of his time was spent working on the house. It began to show. Our once beautiful home was now looking shabby and becoming an eyesore in the neighborhood.
Habitat for Humanity &
A Brush With Kindness
In 2013, we turned to Habitat for Humanity's A Brush With Kindness for help. We carefully prepared all of our financial information, filled out the application, and hand-delivered the completed packet to its offices. Shortly thereafter, a construction supervisor met with us and offered to renovate our kitchen, which had fallen into disrepair, and paint our house, while B agreed to put in as much “sweat equity” as possible.
In early 2015, Brush With Kindness staff and B removed the outdated and peeling wallpaper, replaced the crumbling “popcorn” ceiling with a “smooth” ceiling, replaced rotted wood and wooden slats in the wall and ceiling, re-plastered the walls and ceiling, added molding along the ceiling, sanded the walls, and painted the kitchen. It was especially challenging for the workers because I have asthma so they had to seal the kitchen off with double layers of plastic to prevent the dust/chemicals from adversely affecting my health. Our renovated kitchen is now a thing of beauty. Its gorgeous color is evocative of a sunrise and brightens our mood whenever we walk into the room. We’re proud of our kitchen and now, more than ever, happily welcome friends and family into our home.
In mid-2015, A Brush With Kindness staff and volunteers returned to paint our house. This was no easy task. In fact, it may have been the biggest project they ever took on. All of the lead-based paint had to be scraped off the house (which is roughly 40-feet high) and safely removed from the site, rotted wood around windows and doorways had to be replaced, the rotted and warped back porch and stairs had to be rebuilt, scaffolding had to be erected, and huge ladders and myriad supplies had to be brought in.
One bright and sunny morning, I awoke to the sound of 25-30 cheerful women laughing outside of our second-story bedroom window. Though it was heating up outside, their joyful voices belied the fact that they were working hard in the hot Minnesota sun. Additional workers (male and female) worked at ground level and on tall ladders, scraping the house and doing carpentry work. B joined in, helping out wherever he was needed, and, later, painting the garage.
Once the exterior of our house was prepped and all of the rotted wood replaced, the house had to be primed and painted with two coats of paint. Workers put in long days all through the summer and fall of 2015. They returned in late spring 2016 to complete as much as they could before A Brush With Kindness hired a contractor to finish the project. He, too, worked hard in the heat and, using only tall ladders, reached the highest (and most dangerous) points of the house to finish. His work was excellent and the house was quickly finished.
Though painting our house was a tremendous challenge, the workers/volunteers did so in a joyful and professional manner, always making sure to treat us with kindness and respect. We are extremely grateful for all of their hard work and, whenever we can, will help others in need. Our house has truly been restored to its former splendor. Not only has Habitat for Humanity and A Brush With Kindness lifted our spirits and provided us with a safe and beautiful place to live, it has lifted the spirits of all of our neighbors, improved the appearance of the entire neighborhood, and inspired others to repair and paint their own homes (many using our same vibrant colors).
THANK YOU to Habitat for Humanity and A Brush With Kindness for coming into our lives and creating a warm and wonderful atmosphere of volunteerism and camaraderie while improving our home and our neighborhood. All of the workers/volunteers were angels, in our eyes, and we will never forget them or their kindness. They were a tremendous help to our family.
Please donate anything you can to Habitat for Humanity and A Brush With Kindness. Their hard work changes people’s homes and lives for the better ... and makes those of us in need stand a little taller and feel a little prouder.