Dedicated to Helping One Another Grow in Peace

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.

“Build Season” is the time you see dreams come true!

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.Hargroves with Hanoosh Family

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!

-Maureen Hargrove

Building a Dream

Building a Dream:

Mr. Anderson reflects on empowering high school students to learn invaluable skills while changing lives
Mark Anderson and his students stand in front of the wall panels they built for a Habitat house in 2016

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.


ReStore Volunteers Needed

Are you good with people and able to make change?  We need a reliable, trustworthy people to help run our cash register.

We’re looking for individuals to fill the following shifts:

Wednesdays, 10a – 2p
Wednesdays, 2p – 6p
Fridays, 3p – 6p
Saturdays, 10a – 4p

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

Congratulations to Rolf Egeland, 2015 winner of the Floyd and Helen Rickard Volunteerism Award

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!”

WIFR: Habitat For Humanity Helps Rockford Family

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.

Source: Habitat For Humanity Helps Rockford Family

WREX: Local Habitat for Humanity dedicating four homes to round out the month

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.

Source: Local Habitat for Humanity dedicating four homes to round out th – – Rockford’s News Leader