Amber and her children moved into their house in 2006. Her home was wonderful, but over time certain repairs came to be too much for her to handle herself (or afford as a single parent). She saw a flyer at the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis for Twin Cities Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness program and applied online.
After a short time she received a call from Project Manager Cindy Lehner-Smith, who did a walkthrough of the property – along with Amber’s teenagers, who wanted to be involved in the process. Once the work scope was finalized and forgivable mortgage paperwork signed, a date was set to start the work a few months later.
Shortly afterward, Amber’s oldest daughter had a medical emergency and passed away. Amber said Cindy was frequently “checking in and giving encouragement. I thought that was so special.” The project was rescheduled for a later date. When the crew did arrive to work on the home, they had been briefed on Amber’s situation and “were very respectful and conscientious. They were accommodating in every way, and gave me an idea of times when the work would be louder or quieter.” She said that during the grieving process, it was “nice to have people working there on projects that would bring joy."
After it began, the work on the interior of Amber’s home took about three weeks, and she was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work.
In the bathroom, the ceiling had molded, and initially Amber had tried to repair it herself since her children have mold allergies and she thought it would be a quick and easy repair. She tore out the visibly damaged parts of the ceiling, but found that there was mold up above the ceiling, along the entire length of the shower. Since it wasn’t just surface mold, Amber realized she would need more help to fix the problem. The A Brush With Kindness crew built on Amber’s work and completed the project quickly, treating the mold with a fungicide and repairing the ceiling.
In addition to the ceiling, the shower also had some issues. It had been repaired incorrectly, and water had begun leaking behind the wall and into the downstairs room below it. While the crew was there repairing some windows, they cut out the necessary parts of the wall and patched the downstairs ceiling.
A couple of the people Amber remembers working on the house the most were Project Supervisor Alison Reist and AmeriCorps member Dom Pauling. Alison provided her perspective on the project: “It was great working with and getting to know Amber. I worked with her during a difficult period in her life and amidst us all navigating the pandemic. Those intimate connections make ABWK special. I especially appreciated Amber’s grace and welcome into her life. Amber’s home wasn’t the oldest or in great disrepair. However, her project is one where a few targeted repairs including dealing with water damage, replacing rotten deck boards, and updating the paint makes a big impact for the family.”
Two of the downstairs bedrooms had water-damaged carpeting that had developed mold in spots, which aggravated her kids’ asthma. A Brush With Kindness removed the carpet, and installed new tile that was both easily maintained and durable.
One of the things Amber appreciated the most about A Brush With Kindness was that she was provided not only repairs, but tips on things to look out for and how to prevent damage from happening in the first place. When her gutters were loose and dripping onto the foundation, she learned that the water could cause serious damage, and she said that educational piece is something you don’t typically get with normal repair companies.
A key feature that drew Amber to her home in the first place was the back porch, which “felt like a treehouse.” Over time, the screen on the porch door became damaged, and a family of squirrels made a nest inside and would frequently make noise and make it difficult to enjoy the space. The screen was repaired and the exterior of the house and porch painted, and now the porch feels safe and comfortable.
“With COVID-19 and the loss of a loved one, you realize just how much you want to be around each other. We spent a lot of time out there this summer, and it’s just a real blessing during COVID to have that space, that quality time enjoying nature on the porch.”
Amber described her home as being a treasure to her family. The repairs and paint made her kids feel proud of their house again, even showing it off to friends from school!
A Brush With Kindness not only transformed her family’s home into a safe and pleasant space. Cindy and the crew also provided Amber with a great deal of kindness during a very difficult time in her life, and the tools to better maintain her home in the future. For that, Amber will always be grateful.
“As I’m healing, I enjoy my space so much. The kids and I are so happy here. They gave us a home again. I just want to thank each one of them, and all the volunteers that came out to help. I just want to let them know how much I appreciate them.”