I love Habitat for Humanity. I have always felt drawn to its philosophy, its structure and its experiences. After volunteering on several Habitat sites, mostly in the Twin Cities but also one memorable project in Taos, New Mexico, I decided to join the Carpenters Club and become a sustaining donor. My modest gifts have been automatically withdrawn from my bank account quite painlessly every year since (I think) 2002.
Please note that I am 81 years old now, and my first Habitat work experience occurred when I was in my early 60s!
Arriving on site, I was always welcomed, was never made to feel too old, was consistently given productive work to do, and was warmly thanked for doing it. Hey, in Taos I was on a team tasked with peeling the bark off long ponderosa pine logs to prepare them for an adobe home. That was indeed useful.
However, I often wished that my whole family could participate in a Habitat build together. Why? It has been so heartwarming to work with a team, to work alongside the persons who are putting in their hours of "sweat equity" and then to be present at the dedication of a new home when the keys are given to the thrilled new owners. I have three fine, strong sons, all experienced in building and remodeling as an avocation, with homes and cabins and a shared farm to practice the usual repairs and upkeep. I even pictured their wives and teenage children joining the work crew. So a couple years ago, at our family Christmas gathering, I wondered how many would be interested in working on a Habitat house all at the same time... just for a day. Everyone was enthusiastic, I'm happy to say. I promised to inquire about opportunities, and to give a suitable donation to Habitat to help support part of that work day.
Meanwhile it was clearly time to sell my beloved longtime home in St. Paul. My husband and I moved in as newlyweds in 1964. It has been the Olson home for over 50 years -- all three baby boys were brought home to that house! When my husband died in 1995, I thought I'd just stay for a couple years and then find something smaller, but two years became five which became twenty. Goodness, where had those years gone? How would I ever manage to clear out four floors' worth of furniture and collections and everybody's stuff, or more importantly, the multiple boxes full of memories? Who would help me get the house ready for sale?
The answer appeared: Those three wonderful sons, their spouses and children willingly stepped in to give hours and days of their time to make it happen. It took months of effort but hooray! the house was cleared out and sold in June. As everyone cheerfully slogged away in grimy, dusty garage corners or painted bedroom walls or carried van-loads of contributions to Goodwill or scrubbed floors, I began thinking to myself, "We are pretty much doing a Habitat sort of project right here"... except folks could choose their hours and we weren't helping anyone else. The guys were simply saving Mom's sanity through many work days. Habitat might have to wait...
But what of my promise? Well, I still have hopes that we might all work together as a family on a Habitat project some time soon. Scheduling is a bit of an obstacle. Yet once my house was sold, my conscience led me to write a check (although nobody at Habitat had heard about my plan). When I walked into Twin Cities Habitat headquarters on University Avenue to hand over a check so that some other family might begin to build their home soon, I didn't even take time to write an explanatory letter... or put the check into an envelope. I was motivated and wanted it done NOW! I'm fairly sure I surprised a few people. It was a very good feeling. I just may do it again sometime.
St. Paul, Minnesota
THANK YOU! You are inspiring. We'd feel it's appropriate to add "VERY GENEROUS" in front of the word check in your letter. In the comments below we'd love to hear what inspires others to be so generous in their support of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity as well.
On behalf of all the families we partner with - Thanks!
President & CEO
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity