At 8 AM on a quaint little street in Yalaha, there was already a block party happening. This wasn’t your traditional type of party, however; it was remarkably different. Alongside Habitat for Humanity staff, volunteers were prepared with paintbrushes, hammers, screwdrivers, and a determination to transform not one, but three homes in the neighborhood.
The grateful homeowners – Mary Bedford, Sylvia Session, and Latasha Williams – stood by anxiously as work got underway and met the strangers who donated their time to helping them out. As any gracious host would do, Mary ensured there was plenty of parking for the volunteers, while Sylvia and Latasha joined to meet and greet their guests with smiles.
The homes in need of repair or restoration had proximity in common, but the homeowners each had their individual stories to share. Mary Bedford had recently lost her husband, and was still dealing with not just the emotional burden but also by the financial burden of trying to pay off his funeral service. Her home was in need of attention; there were piles of debris that needed to be hauled off, but in the midst of losing her loved one, it seemed impossible. Even so, Mary wasn’t the type to sit back and watch. She rolled up her sleeves and, side by side with the volunteers, she got to work. Volunteers called her genuine and kind, and she thought the same of them.
Sylvia Session had recently experienced respiratory failure and become unresponsive in her living room causing her to now be dependent on an oxygen tank. Upon their arrival, paramedics had no choice but to ram down her door in order to save her. During the project assessment, Habitat knew that a new front door would be on the top of the list, along with a repair on her AC unit. The unit’s fan was continuously running but not cooling, resulting in a sweltering hot home and a 900-dollar electric bill for the month. While Sylvia had only expected for Habitat to pressure wash her home, she was elated with the new paint job and other repairs. The volunteers, she said, were full of compassion, and went over and above what she had ever imagined. “I don’t know how to say thank you,” she said, choking back tears. “I can say it a million times but it isn’t enough. Everything that’s been done, they are little things to you, but they are big things to me.”
Latasha Williams’ husband works long hours in construction to provide for their family and to take care of their 3-year-old son. They had started to work on fencing their yard in but were unable to finish due to time and financial restraints. They were reluctant to put any of their son’s toys in the yard as they felt the space wasn’t secure enough without the fence. Habitat and the volunteers made sure that they completed the fence so that the family was able to enjoy the outdoors without worry. Besides playing outside, Latasha’s son has other plans for the fenced in yard. He wants either a dinosaur or a dog, and if he gets the dinosaur, it has to be a T-Rex.
The homeowners all feel very fortunate for having this experience with Habitat for Humanity. They say it has made a drastic change in their lives to have the homes clean, painted, and repaired. Along with a sense of solidarity, the projects have spread inspiration throughout the neighborhood; other nearby residents have inquired about the application process for Habitat for Humanity and are also working on cleaning and updating their homes in order to better the community.
By Lauren Lester