Guest blogger Ashley Rose, Site Supervisor
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity
I have been out on site for about 5 years now, and I would like to share a story about a special group that came out to site with me recently.
People come to volunteer for many different reasons. For some, it is a day out of the office to come build with their co-workers. For some, it is something to do in retirement. For others, it is to learn new skills. Whatever the reason is, every person who comes out walks away knowing that they made a positive impact on a community and have made a difference in a family having a place to call home. For the Baller family, it is all of this and more.
Charleen Baller, President of DirecTEX Knitwear, lost her husband Jim Baller 8 years ago. Jim was an active volunteer with Habitat, and before passing unexpectedly, he voiced his desire to do a Habitat build with his whole family. He unfortunately never got the chance to see it in person. However, his amazing wife has begun a tradition that just keeps getting stronger and stronger. For the 8th year in a row, Charleen has rounded up Jim’s nearest and dearest to build a house in Jim’s honor, and to honor the desire in his heart for a family build. They come from near and far, and for an entire week. Family and friends come and build together, laugh together, and cry together as they grieve their loss and celebrate their loved one in such a powerful way.
Over the last 8 years, this group has grown. Charleen has included others who have experienced loss to join their team as well. The support of this team is unlike any other. They truly walk side by side through good times and bad. This was very apparent as they went around the circle in the morning sharing their fondest memories of their beloved husband, father, uncle, and friend.
I am one of those Site Supervisors that has a slightly cluttered site. Scraps are all around and I have a “I can find a use for that” mentality. Weeks before meeting the Baller family, I had saved some of my scraps with the intent of building an Adirondack chair. On my way to work my last day with this family…I thought, OF COURSE!!!! God always has a way of taking things one step deeper. Little to my knowledge, Jim had built a few of these chairs, and as a gift, one of his sisters had made one for him right before he passed. As a final project that week, on top of drywall and deck building, we all had a chance to watch Jim’s youngest son, alongside his supportive wife, build a beautiful Adirondack chair in his dad’s honor. Burned into the arm of this chair is Jim’s moto: “Love All Around." There was no better ending to this week than to have the love of his family all around the chair (with a picture of Jim’s proud smiling face on the chair) to close out the week. This chair will remain with the house as a gift to one family from another, and it may very well be the start of yet another tradition to honor such an incredible loving man, whose legacy will always be remembered.
This house is not just about one family moving into a new home. It never really is. It is an experience. It is community. It is support. It is love. It is about walking alongside every family in the way that they need it.