Congratulations to our Executive Director, Keri Nelson! She was the recent recipient of Wrex 13’s Inspiring 815 Award! We are so proud of you and all you have accomplished. Thank you for inspiring our community.
Honoring Dr. King through the fight for fair housing
By: Caitlyn Baylor, RAHFH Business Manager
I grew up in Rockford, where, for five years, I attended Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School on Rockford’s southwest side. Every morning, first through fifth grade, right hands on our hearts, we began our day with the “peacemaker pledge.” The last line of our daily recitation: We follow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s lead, as one school family, dedicated to helping one another grown in peace.
At King School, the life and work of Dr. King was an enormous part of our curriculum. We sang songs about Dr. King in our school choir, The Jammin’ Peacemakers, led by Dorothy Paige Turner. We watched documentaries about Dr. King at school-wide assemblies. On January 15 each year, we gathered as a school family to dance in the gym in celebration of Dr. King’s life to Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.” We learned about the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow Laws, Selma, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the March on Washington…
But something I did not know until my life led me into this line of work was the impact Dr. King had on the fight for fair housing.
April of 2018 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King. It will also mark the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act. That is not a coincidence. Dr. King was fighting fiercely to eliminate discriminatory practices in housing shortly before his assassination, and it was his tragic death that pushed Congress to finally pass the fair housing legislation that he and other civil rights leaders had been fighting for.
That legislation has been on paper since 1968, yes, but as a community, we still have a long way to go to realize Dr. King’s vision of housing justice. Many cities like Rockford that were segregated from years of discriminatory legislation remain largely segregated today. Affordable housing remains out of reach for many, and the affordability crisis continues to have a disparate impact on communities of color.
In his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam,” Dr. King spoke of the need not only to play the Good Samaritan when someone is beaten down along life’s roadside, but also to transform that roadside so that it is no longer a place where people are beaten down. The work that Habitat for Humanity International does aims not only to intervene and provide critical housing to those who need it, but also to restructure the very edifice which makes housing unsafe, unaffordable, and inaccessible to millions in the first place.
Today, on what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 89th birthday, I hope you will join me in joyful dance to Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.” I hope you may celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by attending a sermon or completing community service.
And I hope you will also join organizations like Habitat in honoring Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his fight for housing that is fair, safe, decent and affordable for each and every member of our beloved community.
Today and every day, let us follow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s lead, as one family, dedicated to helping one another grow in peace.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King.
It is spring! Rockford Habitat for Humanity is bustling all year around but the onset of spring sparks a special enthusiasm for me. As a volunteer, I am most engaged from spring until fall. This is the beginning of the “build season”. There are fundraisers happening like Framing Hope where walls are built for one of our new homes in the Home Depot parking lot. It is exciting to meet the people that stop by to see what we are doing and learn about Habitat. There is a dinner for the army of construction volunteers to meet the families that will become the future homeowners. The groundbreaking ceremony asks God’s blessing for the families buying new homes to be built this summer, as well as several, recycle homes that families will purchase and move into soon.
I am on the Family Selection Committee. After application seminars, we determine which families qualify to partner with the Habitat for Humanity Program. It is always interesting to meet this group of amazing people from such different backgrounds. There are immigrant families from many countries who have endured so much hardship before coming to America. Some come from war-torn areas while others have fled religious prejudice. Many of our families are from Rockford, most being single parents. So many say they are the first in their family to have the chance at home ownership. I am always moved by the life stories they tell. Yet they all have one thing in common. They are driven to work hard to make a better life for themselves and their children. “Build Season” is the time you see dreams come true.
Last year my husband and I spent many hours of the summer partnering with a family to rehab a recycle house. It was hard work for us and it was definitely hard work for the future homeowner who had many hours of ‘sweat equity’ to put toward the completion of her home. She would work a 3rd shift job and then come straight to work on her house. Never a complaint, but rather excitement for the future she could provide her family. The reward came in August. The house was beautiful and the dream of home ownership came true for an amazing family. For us, the best part was that we got to work side by side with people we respected and admired. It was easy to fall in love with them. I know our friendship will last a lifetime.
We have been in touch a few times over the winter and look forward to keeping in contact this summer too. Now with the seasons changing, I see the plants in my yard are starting to come up. I bet the plants are starting to come up in our partner family’s yard too. I cannot wait to get outside and work together again!
It is Spring. So many ways to get involved, you too could be part of making a dream come true!
Building a Dream:
Mr. Anderson reflects on empowering high school students to learn invaluable skills while changing lives
By Mark Anderson, Construction Teacher at Guilford High School
Three years ago, Habitat started impacting lives in a brand-new way.
I was being forced to go to an after-school meeting downtown. Two major issues: I hate meetings and I really did not want to give up my night for one. A million thoughts went through my head of how to get out of it. Should I be sick??? Should I just somehow forget about it??? Maybe I had to watch my kids that night??? Or just tell them no??? It was the first year of Academies and I was the EMITT (Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial and Trades Technology) leader at Guilford, so I eventually concluded I would have to go and waste a few hours of my life. It must have been divine intervention because Keri Nelson (Executive Director of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity) was also giving up her night to be at this meeting. (Don’t tell her but I think she likes meetings J ). I still remember like it was yesterday— after it was over, I got in my car and called Guilford’s academy coach. “You won’t believe me but this was the best meeting ever and I volunteered us to build a house for Habitat.” Never mind the fact that we did not have a construction program at Guilford or a space to make walls; we were going to do this.
We started a program, got a room, filled it with tools, got enough students to sign up for two sections and built a huge table to make wall panels on. We learned how to read blue prints, layout walls and built all the walls for one entire house in our shop. After all the walls were made, we carried them one at a time all the way from one end of Guilford to the opposite end and put the house together in the field house. By the way, many of the walls weighed several hundred pounds. To my surprise, we had only one mistake: we sheathed the wrong side of one wall panel. One quick fix later the house was all together in the middle of a basketball court. It was a sight to be seen but it was only the beginning of our journey.
Keri and I decided the next year, we were going to build a house on site. A dream come true for me. Then Keri dropped the bomb on me: “Would you mind doing a two-story?” My response was, “No problem.” What did I just agree to? I have never built any house from bottom up and now I am agreeing to a two-story. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I was told by a few people it’s just like building a ranch on top of a ranch. I now know they were not telling me the truth.
As of today, we built the walls at Guilford, raised the first floor on site, installed the joists, raised the second floor, built a stair case, pulled wire, insulated the outside and inside, hung doors and windows and are close to being done with hanging drywall. It has been an amazing ride but my favorite part is listening to the students. The best quote of the year: “This has been my biggest accomplishment of my life.” One day a neighbor brought us cookies and hot chocolate and told the guys she was amazed at what they have made for the neighborhood. After she was gone, the group of guys said they felt like they were in a movie because never in their lives has a strange adult told them thank you for anything. Every day there is a pair of daycare ladies that walk by at 10:30 with kids and constantly tell us what a great job we are doing and how they are always excited to see our progress.
To wrap it up, Habitat, RPS205 and the family that is buying the house have done more for this small group of students than we could have ever imagined. We have given them a sense of pride that many of them have never felt and this opportunity is leading to jobs for many of the seniors. One is going into roofing this summer, another has a job working with a construction outfit in Wisconsin and I have been contacted from a local guy about wanting to hire two students this summer after they graduate. One surprise is how some of the kids like working with the older men. They love hearing their stories and they always talk about what Ted said today J. Justin, the homebuyer, has also been amazing. He tells the kids about his life and how they are making a dream come true— they are making it possible for him to provide a house his kids. We are not only affecting their high school years but, in fact, we are all changing many of these students’ lives forever.
My name is Tikisha Ellis. I am a 30-year old single parent, full time employee at RPS 205, and entrepreneur. As I go through the process of purchasing my first home this summer with Habitat for Humanity, here is what I have learned and my advice to all of the future homebuyers out there!
Becoming a homeowner takes a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline, from managing money and balancing check books to continuously working on repairing and maintaining your credit. You have to be spiritually, physically, and mentally ready to take on this journey— because becoming a homeowner is exactly that: a journey. Even though it is hard work, it is a great opportunity that is worth the time and effort. I am at the best place in my life that I have ever been at because I am accomplishing my goals and achieving my dreams one step at a time. I have always dreamed of owning my own home, and that dream is unfolding right before my eyes. It is a very emotional feeling, looking back to see how far you have come and realizing where God is about to take you. It’s a great feeling. It’s an edge-of-your-seat-can’t-wait feeling!
I am so thankful and blessed to be able to partner with Habitat for Humanity. These past few months have been challenging but achievable. Along the way, Habitat has become a part of my family by demonstrating the love of God not only through the construction of each home but also by supporting, counseling, and showing kindness to each partner family as we come across the obstacles and unforeseen challenges that come with building our homes step by step.
If you have considered building a home with Habitat for Humanity, this is an opportunity that you don’t want to miss, so get involved, ask questions, stay connected, and— rule number one— be willing to partner!
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I have been deeply involved as a volunteer with Habitat for six years now, but my history with Habitat really traces all the way back to my father, who not only supported the organization but also raised me to believe that we should always help those who help themselves. As a current Board Member and past President of Habitat, I am proud that Habitat is a hand-up that empowers families in need to accomplish homeownership for themselves.
In addition to sitting on the board, I have been a volunteer “house-leader” with Habitat for six years. In this role, I am privileged to lead the construction on one home each summer, in partnership with one family, from beginning to end. There are two particularly special days I get to experience each summer: the first is Framing Day, when a family gets to see their future home go from a concrete slab to the actual skeleton of what their house will be; and the second is Dedication, when the family receives the keys to the house they worked so hard to help build. They are now in control of their own housing and their own destiny— this is a powerful thing to experience and witness.
I have raised a family and now get to watch my kids raise their families. I am a small business owner, which in and of itself becomes a kind of family. Family is close to my heart, and whenever I can reach out to help another family, it just makes sense to me.
UPDATE: Framing Hope was a great success and we now look forward to completing the home at 208 N London Ave. If you would like to come frame to home with us on Saturday, May 14, please give us a call at 815-636-4573!
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We are thrilled to announce our first annual Framing Hope event to be held on April 9, 2016! We invite any and all community members to join us on the 9th in the parking lot of Home Depot to help build the walls for one of the homes we will complete in the summer of 2016. The event is free to participate in; we only ask that you register ahead of time so that we can plan to have you there! Please follow the registration link below to sign up for a shift, and please invite your friends and family to do the same!
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Shifts go from 9:00-Noon or 1:00-4:00
The parking lot of the Rockford Home Depot
What do I need to bring?
Please plan to wear close-toed shoes and clothes you can work in!
Who can participate?
Anyone who registers! You must be 18 to help construct the walls, but we will have alternate activities available for youth.
Thank you to 2016’s Presenting Sponsor for Framing Hope, Associated Bank!
This event is also sponsored in part by the following generous sponsors:
Holmstrom & Kennedy | OSF HealthCare | Rockford Foundries | Schmelinng Construction | Scott’s RV, Truck and Auto Repair | Stillman Bank
Last summer the Field Team became a house sponsor for the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. The entire team was excited to participate in something that would make a positive effect on the community. This wasn’t just about sending another check; it was about our team getting out there and rolling up our sleeves, putting in the work, and getting it done. While many of the team members signed up to volunteer to learn new home building skills, or to teach someone a skill that they already knew, strange things started happening to our team. While our entire team knew that we were building a house for ‘someone,’ when the family showed up to help and we worked side by side, it suddenly became real. It was no longer just a house we were building; it was a home for a family that we knew. And while all the realness of the build set in, other things started happening to the team as well.
During the build, team members worked with others they rarely got to work with; we saw team members face new challenges and learn how to overcome them, and it helped the team as a whole to find a new perspective on priorities. The Habitat build was also a great way for those without home building skills, to become a project leader on part of the build to enhance their leadership skills. Even those without experience in leadership took on leadership roles in the home build and we saw those team members develop and enhance their leadership skills. During the build we saw team members who were usually shy at work, take charge and come out of their shells. We saw confidence grow by leaps and bounds in others; we saw an increase in team work, an improvement in communication skills, and a new bond being formed throughout the team. But most of all, because of the realness of the build, we saw an entire group of people put aside their own fears and help someone else build a dream.
The build became more than just sending a check; it was a way to make a real, tangible, positive difference for a family. It was about doing something extraordinary for someone who needed a hand up. It was about getting the team out of their comfort zones and doing something unique for someone else that would change their lives. It was about doing something selfless for someone else. It became the team’s mission to impact this family’s life and improve their future.
Looking back at what we did last year, we know that we did something amazing. How many people can actually say that they built someone else a home, from the ground up? It was a wonderful experience in many ways and one of the most rewarding experiences for the entire Field team. So if you’re thinking about sponsoring a Habitat Home Build, it’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of money. Organization is crucial, volunteers to help will be even more crucial. It will be overwhelming at times. You will become a contractor, a motivational speaker, a weather tracker, a teacher, a leader, a painter, a roofer, a drywalller, and most importantly you will become a hero in the eyes of a family that needs you.
Donating your new and used items to charity is a great way to support your local community! Here’s a list of several donation centers, and guidelines about what they accept.
ROCKFORD HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE
We accept items like: furniture, cabinets, tools, appliances, doors, windows, lumber, sinks, electrical and plumbing supplies. Here’s a complete list of accepted ReStore donations.
SALVATION ARMY – FAMILY STORES
Tel: 1-800-SA-TRUCK (1-800-728-7825)
Commonly donated items include: clothing, furniture, household goods, appliances and color televisions.
Proceeds are used to fund Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers, where those in the grip of addiction find help, hope, and a second chance at life.
They Accept: clothing and accessories, electronics, cell phones, household items, small appliances, toys, books, bikes.
They Cannot Accept: tires and car batteries, chemicals of any kind including paint, all TV’s, carpeting.
Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois is a community-based not-for-profit organization that creates opportunities for individuals with barriers to enhance their lives.
ROCKFORD RESCUE MISSION
Tel: (815) 965-3795
They accept: household items, furniture, toys, books, clothing, shoes, and working appliances, consumer electronics, including TVs, in working condition.
They cannot accept: computers, monitors or printers.
Donation pick-ups available for furniture items. To schedule a pick up, please call Jeff at (815) 969-8127.
The Rockford Rescue Mission thrift Store provides operating income for Mission programs. It also provides training opportunities for Mission residents.
Tel: 815-963-6236, EXT. 245
They Accept: building materials, tools, large appliances, electronics, furniture, kitchen and bath fixtures, cabinets, doors, hardware, windows, insulation, lumber & plywood, roofing, floor tiles, lighting, patio furniture, air conditioners, etc.
They Do Not Accept: exercise equipment, automotive parts, propane tanks, medical supplies, footwear, clothing, baby cribs, strollers, sports equipment, seasonal decorations, used mattresses.
CCS, Inc. supports its employment, education and skills training programs through grants, contributions, and through the sale of quality donated goods.
Tel: (815) 964-4105
Critical needs: paper products, personal care items, socks & underwear, cleaning products, beds, furniture & household items, clothing and shoes.
Carpenter’s Place provides the tools necessary for rebuilding the lives of the homeless.
Tel: 630-443-6910 ext. 190
Most needed items: cereal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, canned fruit, vegetables, chicken & tuna, dry beans, peanut butter.
Northern Illinois Food Bank relies on the support of corporations, foundations and community organizations, in addition to individuals, to support our goals of solving hunger in our community.
VETERAN’S DROP IN CENTER
Accepts donations of: cooked meals, and paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, plastic silverware, Kleenex).
The Veteran’s Drop In Center is a place for Rockford area veterans and their families to gather with their peers – without some of the formalities that come with other veterans’ organizations.
CARS FOR HOMES
Accepted Items: cars, trucks, boats, RVs with proper title.
Habitat for Humanity’s Cars for Homes program helps people in your community build a house and the hope of a better life.
“So Why Do You Do It?”
As a fairly new member of the retired fraternity of Rockford, I was told by many friends, both working and retired, that I might find it hard to “stay busy” in retirement. My first reaction to such warning comments was “you’ve got to be kidding.” I had just finished a rewarding 42 year management career in retail, and my last concern was worrying about how I might fill up each day in retirement.
After a few months of well deserved leisure time, which included the reading of several books, dabbling in some family history research, and in general not being tied so closely to an overwhelming daily calendar of tasks, I did find myself thinking about what I wanted to do with this new gift of time. I determined I really didn’t simply need items to fill a weekly “to-do” list, but I needed to get involved in activities that allowed me to apply my work and life experiences.
That’s when I met a guy. While doing some volunteer work for my church, I met a really nice guy who happened to be on the Board of Directors of the local Rockford area Habitat for Humanity affiliate. As he told me about his activities and experiences with Habitat for Humanity, I heard about a volunteer opportunity that sounded like a good fit for me. After some further investigation, I was asked to become a member of their Board of Directors.
As I enter my third year with the affiliate, I share my experiences with others who I hope will consider becoming involved in the great work of our Habitat for Humanity affiliate. When I talk about our affiliate, I often get asked “So why do you volunteer at Habitat?” After thinking about that question, here are some answers:
1. It’s Important – I fully support the approach that Habitat for Humanity takes to help those in need. We help provide the opportunity for a deserving family to purchase their first home and provide their family with their first ever safe home of their own – it’s life changing.
2. It’s the Right Approach – As we all learn new ways to provide care, support and opportunities for families in need, we are becoming more aware how hand-out and giveaway programs are not only ineffective, they are “toxic.” I am proud to align my support, time and efforts to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate because their approach has always been to offer a hand up, but never a hand out. Our partner families are required to become personally invested in the process of becoming a home owner through their own sweat equity, and by educating themselves to prepare themselves for the new responsibilities of home ownership.
3. It’s Needed – We all know some families who have so many challenges in their lives, that they are often never given an opportunity to get out of a unsafe or unhealthy housing situation. I have seen how these families can turn their futures around after becoming an owner of a Habitat home.
4. It’s Personal – When you volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, you get to meet, work with, and get to know some wonderful families. You get to know their children, their parents, and you get to see their great potential and how owning a safe and healthy house changes the lives of several generations of their family.
5. It’s the People – Volunteer work puts you side by side with some of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met. The volunteers with the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity affiliate have big hearts, great talents, and a real commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of families in our great city. I’ve learned a lot from this interesting cast of volunteers, and they have inspired me to do more to support positive, lasting improvements in our great community.
That’s why I volunteer at our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, consider investing some of your time at our ReStore retail outlet on Riverside, as a Weekday Wonder who helps build our houses every summer, or by supporting this deserving not-for-profit with your wallet. I urge you to jump in and get involved – you won’t be disappointed!
John Hargrove – 2015/2016 Vice President, Board of Directors