Every Wednesday for the last nine years, Sharlene and John Hensrud “unplug.” Their work as realtors keeps them busy on the weekends, but on Wednesdays they don’t schedule any appointments with clients. Instead, they spend time together, they cook, and in the evening their children and grandchildren come to their home for dinner. They talk about their days, they laugh and cry and eat together. This is the power of home.
“I think of home as a sanctuary,” Sharlene said. “Comforting, welcoming, warm, where you can be yourself. Home should be nurturing to your soul. A house is just a house, but the people in it make it a home.”
Sharlene and John have created a weekly sanctuary for their family in their home. As realtors, they know how a family’s life can be changed for the better when they finally own a home of their own. That’s why they support Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. By donating and volunteering, they are helping families build homes – and sanctuaries – of their own.
Helping people has always been a part of Sharlene’s and John’s core values; Sharlene remembers that her family always made time to help others. A new family would move into the neighborhood, and her family would help them find furniture, fix up their home, and make them feel welcomed. In turn, when Sharlene and John lived in Fargo years ago, they spent time helping refugee families put down roots in their community. Now, they concentrate their support to Habitat: John through volunteering, and both of them by donating through their real estate business.
Sharlene and John wore many hats before deciding to work as partners in real estate. John studied geology, architecture, and settled on community planning for a while, eventually switching to church planning. Sharlene was a teacher, organist, framing shop owner; she ran a piano studio, and worked at the Duluth Tweed Museum of Art. She spent many years in the travel industry. And finally, they both found real estate—Sharlene first.
“I was born to be a realtor,” Sharlene said. “I have a creative side, and a highly analytical side. I consider myself an educator and guide. I’m not selling, I’m helping people find home.” After John “retired” from church planning, he got his real estate license and joined Sharlene. They have different personalities, but they complement each other well.
Sharlene wanted her business to reflect her values, so she decided that for every home she sold, she’d donate a percentage of the sale to Twin Cities Habitat. Their contributions have added up over the years—they’ve contributed well over $20,000 over the last 16 years, and the number keeps growing. They’ve found a unique way to multiply their impact.
The Hensruds’ generosity has galvanized their clients to get involved, too. In Sharlene’s email signature, she shares that she donates a portion from every home sale to Habitat. Hope Hensley, one of Sharlene’s clients, saw this and decided to get involved. Hope saw that Habitat was opening a second ReStore in Minneapolis, and signed up to volunteer. John now volunteers at the ReStore too, and the story came full circle when he met Hope during one of his shifts. In fact, Hope was there on John’s first day at the ReStore.
Before John volunteered at the ReStore, he regularly volunteered for his church’s summer builds, he was a member of the Dedications Committee for several years, and John and Sharlene both regularly volunteer at the annual Hard Hat & Black Tie gala. They’ve found ways to support Twin Cities Habitat that match their styles.
“I’ve felt strongly that Habitat does such good work here, but the actual volunteer work of homebuilding is not where my gifts lie. I get more paint on me than on the walls.” Sharlene said, laughing. John nodded in agreement, with a smile.
“But I consider it empowering to know that’s not where my strengths lie,” Sharlene added. That frees them up to give in ways that best fit their unique gifts and strengths.
“I feel like I’ve been given gifts that are mine to share,” Sharlene said when asked about why she and John direct most of their giving to Twin Cities Habitat. “I could spread it out, but I think it has a bigger impact concentrated on one thing.”
At one of Sharlene and John’s unplugged Wednesday dinners a few years ago, they were taking turns answering questions pulled from a hat, and one was, “What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?” Without skipping a beat, their daughter-in-law said, “Having Wednesday night dinner here with you!”
Thanks in part to Sharlene and John’s generosity, many other families around the Twin Cities might be having family dinners ten years from now too—sharing and laughing and enjoying the stability, security, and sense of sanctuary that they create together in their very own home. Sharlene and John volunteering at the 2016 Hard Hat & Black Tie gala.