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!
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.
We are so excited to announce our second annual Framing Hope event to be held on April 8, 2017! We invite any and all community members to join us on the 8th in the parking lot of Home Depot to help build some of the walls for the homes we will complete in the summer of 2017. 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!
This opportunity is a great way to support our construction process without having to swing a hammer! All profits from the ReStore are used to purchase construction supplies, and we could not do that without the help of our volunteers. Please consider becoming part of the ReStore team!
Call 815-713-3184 if interested, and ask for Steve
The Rockford Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals recently named Ted Brolund Outstanding Community Service Volunteer for 2015. Ted’s been building with Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity for over 18 years – and we’re proud he was given this honor.
Every spring, RAHFH recognizes one of their own for excellence in volunteerism. The Floyd and Helen Rickard Volunteerism Award is given to a volunteer who has dedicated themselves to Habitat’s mission year-after-year, just as the Rickard’s family did since nearly the first home was built in our community in the early 1990s.
This year’s Floyd and Helen Rickard Volunteerism Award went to longtime construction site volunteer Rolf Egeland, who has been building as part of the First Free team for 15 years. Rolf was also selected as the featured volunteer in our newsletter this year, the story from which is below:
“It has been 15 years already since my construction days with Habitat for Humanity began in Rockford. I grew up in the Chicago area, and I always had an interest in building— it was Glenn Johnson who first inspired me to act on that interest for Habitat in particular. On the build sites, I do many of the necessary jobs, but my specialty is mudding and taping drywall. It’s not a job that most people like, but I enjoy it. I volunteer with Habitat because the Bible encourages us to help people who are in need. I feel that the goals and principles of Habitat for Humanity are Biblical and rewarding. I believe that we have a spiritual mandate to serve with the energy and ability and strength that God gives us. There’s a scripture that reads to whom much is given, much is required— and we have been given so much. That’s why volunteering is important to me, and I am thankful to the Lord that at 90 I am still doing it!”
Another Rockford family can now say they’re homeowners all thanks to a local organization.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) — Another Rockford family can now say they’re homeowners all thanks to a local organization.
The Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity has built another home. This time for the Garrett Family who will be moving into their new house in the eleven hundred block of Geneva Avenue, in a few days. The ceremony featured a home blessing, the opportunity for the Garrett’s to thank volunteers and sponsors, home tours, and the turning over of the keys. The organization has now helped roughly 130 families over a 27 year span.
“I love my ceiling fans. That’s my favorite part, the ceiling fans and just seeing it being built from the ground up is so amazing. That’s a once in a lifetime thing to see that,” says Shanica Garrett.
Habitat families are qualified and selected based on their need for simple, decent, and affordable housing, along with their ability to pay back zero-interest home loan, and their willingness to partner with the organization.
Habitat for Humanity is keeping busy these last couple weekends of August, giving four local families homes in four days.
On Sunday, Janessa Shaw and her family moved in on 28th Street in Rockford. Community members helped bless the house. Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s executive director says she remembers Janessa applying for the program exactly one year ago.
“We went on a home visit to her home and recognized that she was a generational Habitat family, her grandmother purchased a habitat home in the early 1990s and so it was obvious that this was a legacy we wanted for Janessa and for Habitat as well,” says Executive Director Keri Nelson.
Families qualify for Habitat for Humanity based on financial need. They pay back a zero-interest home loan and complete “sweat equity,” which is volunteer work on the home they move into.
The local Habitat for Humanity group dedicated another home Sunday afternoon and it’ll bless two next weekend.