Impact Story: Bea and Annette

Annette, left, and Bea, right

They say that sisters make the best friends in the world, and there could not be a clearer demonstration of this saying than the sisterhood of Bea and Annette Walker. 

In 2001, Annette was a young woman living with her two kids in scattered-site housing through Rockford Housing Authority. She had long dreamed of owning a home of her own, but until someone at her workplace told her about Habitat for Humanity, it just didn’t seem feasible.  When Annette got approved to buy her house on Gilbert Avenue, she still remembers that it was “unreal” in the best way.

As Annette worked to complete her partnership hours, she remembers that Bea—who is the baby of the family and seven years younger than Annette— was an enormous help to her, supporting her constantly and assisting her with the hours.  Bea remembers that she was happy to do it for her big sister, who was like a “second mama to her.” In 2002, Annette closed on her loan and became a proud homeowner.

Five years later, it was Annette’s chance to return the favor— her little sister was approved through Habitat for Humanity to buy a home of her own. Bea says that Annette was a huge influence on her decision to become a homeowner, and just as Bea had been there for Annette years earlier, Annette came out time and again to help Bea complete her partnership requirements. Bea says Annette was a real mentor to her, making the huge undertaking feel doable, and in 2007 she, too, became a thrilled homeowner.  

The sisters, who grew up in Rockford, have always been close, but this shared experience of supporting each other through something so significant and life-changing cemented their closeness.  And their mutual support didn’t end once their houses were complete— the sisters say they still call on each other constantly, and they continue to help each other not only as fellow homeowners but also as neighbors. Their homes are right around the corner from each other.

Annette and Bea with their close friend Tiltyla, who is also a Habitat homeowner. These photos are from the photo booth at Party in the Park.

Annette is the “handyman” of the pair, so Bea leans on her to fix little things around the house. Annette said she calls Bea to check on packages or keep an eye on the house. When Bea’s kids were little, their bus stop was right outside of Annette’s house, so their aunt could watch them safely head off to school. And in general, they say they look out for each other— as sisters, as neighbors— all of the time.

Both sisters say that without the opportunity to become homeowners, they would both likely still be living in substandard housing. Instead, they have decades of joy, love, and memories accumulated within the walls that they own. Bea’s favorite memory at Annette’s house is of their late mom happily dancing in the living room surrounded by her closest friends at a big family gathering.  Similarly, Annette says she has countless treasured memories in Bea’s house, who is a “glowing” host of all holidays and birthdays.

The famous James Oppenheim poem says that just as we need bread to nourish our bodies, we need roses to nourish our hearts. The joy shared by the sisters as they reminisce serves as a reminder that good housing gives us more than the essentials we always talk about— more than improved health, improved education outcomes, improved finances. It also gives us laughter and relaxation and space to create memories with the cherished people in our lives. If the homes purchased around the corner from each other by Annette and Bea have given them proverbial bread, the homes have also so clearly given them bountiful roses.