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.


7 Items You Can Donate to the Rockford Habitat ReStore

7 items to donate to habitat restore

Home renovation, improvement, and reorganization (cleaning) results in a lot of perfectly good items sent away in a dumpster to end up on an ever growing heap of landfill. But many of these are perfectly good items you can donate to the Rockford Habitat ReStore.

Here are 7 items you can donate to the Rockford ReStore:

1. Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets

7 items you can donate to habitat restore

Kitchens and bathrooms are high on the list of renovation projects. This leads to cabinet removal and too often destruction. But these cabinets are hungry to be repurposed in someone else’s home.

They make for great storage in garages, basements, and elsewhere.

Donate your kitchen and bathroom cabinets to the Habitat ReStore and keep them away from the dump!

2. Toilets
While you’re busily demoing your bathroom, keep that toilet intact! Toilets are a great item to donate to the ReStore!

3. Furniture

7 items you can donate to the restore - table

Did you inherit a bulky hutch, ancient bureau, or clunky chiffonier? Are you ready to part with your desk, dresser, sideboard, or table? Donate your chests, couches, bookcases and other furniture to the ReStore.

4. Tools
You may need three shovels, two drills, and a circular saw you’ve never used. Or you can donate your excess hand, garden or power tools to the ReStore. So long as they still work, we want ’em!

5. Large Appliances
Washers and dryers, refrigerators and stoves; these are but a few of the appliances the ReStore accepts.

6. Flooring
The ReStore accepts wood, ceramic tile, and vinyl flooring.

7. Lumber & Trim
Excess lumber need not be thrown away! As long as the pieces are nail/screw free and at least 4 feet in length, take it to the ReStore!

These are but 7 items you can donate to the Rockford Habitat ReStore. View the entire list of accepted items or give us a call at 815-713-3184!

And remember, your donated items often qualify for a tax deduction!

Where Can I Donate My Toilet? Take It To the ReStore!

Where Can I Donate My Toilet?

Have you ever been sitting, perhaps on your throne, and wondered, “Where can I donate my toilet?” No?

Where Can I Donate My Toilet?

Well perhaps after starting a renovation project in your bathroom this odd yet logical question has come up.

“What should you do with that toilet that no longer fits your style?”

There really are only two options: send it to the landfill or donate it.

Where can I donate my toilet?

Your Rockford Habitat ReStore accepts toilets in good condition, even in colors that the 70s has long forgotten. Not only that but you can add your old bathtub, cabinets, and countertops to your list of “items to be donated”.

Why not even throw in the kitchen—well, bathroom— sink.

Toilets and other plumbing items can be purchased at heavily discounted prices from the ReStore. These can be repurposed in garages, basements, and outbuildings. Toilets even make for some interesting garden planters.

Give us a call at (815) 713-3184 to schedule a pickup or drop it off during regular store hours.

And if a friend asks you “Where can I donate my toilet?” (maybe not a common question) you’ll know to tell them to take it to the ReStore!

Carter Work Project – We’re Going to Memphis!

Carter Work Project - Going to Memphis

The 33rd Carter Work Project will take place in Memphis, Tennessee, from August 21-26. And we could really use your help!

Carter Work Project - Going to Memphis

Rockford Area Habitat For Humanity’s Business Manager Caitlyn Baylor and Executive Director Keri Nelson will be joining thousands of other volunteers in Memphis. The Carter Work Project attracts volunteers from all across the globe and this year country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will be joining in to help.

About the Carter Work Project

For over 30 years the former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn have been helping Habitat build and improve homes.

“President and Mrs. Carter have worked alongside 92,000 volunteers to build, renovate and repair 3,943 Habitat for Humanity homes in 14 countries, while raising awareness of the critical need for affordable housing.”

Some past projects have helped families in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Oakland and San Jose, California; Denver, Colorado; New York City; Union Beach, New Jersey, and Léogâne, Haiti.

We Need Your Help to Get There!

Caitlyn and Keri are asking for donations to help fund this once in a lifetime trip. Every donation helps!

This year’s Carter Work Project is focusing on families in the Bearwater Park area just north of Memphis’ Uptown neighborhood. The project will be a mixture of new construction, beautification projects, and aging in place projects.

An Edge-of-your-seat-can’t-wait Feeling

Kisha and Faith

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!

Honoring What’s Close to the Heart

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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.


Pete Rundquist

Framing Hope 2016

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!

Register here to join us for Framing Hope 2016


Framing Hope


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:



Rockford Bank and Trust

Holmstrom & Kennedy | OSF HealthCare | Rockford Foundries | Schmelinng Construction | Scott’s RV, Truck and Auto Repair | Stillman Bank