Vicki Doudera here on this Saturday before Christmas, to tell you about one of the best gifts ever.
It’s not a soft cashmere sweater, although those can come in handy on these brisk winter days. And it’s not an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica, nor a new computer, nor a big book advance, even though many of us writing books would like any one of those under our trees!
This gift is one of the most basic human needs, and something we all, every day, take for granted. It’s four walls around us. A roof over our heads. Shelter from the storm.
In other words, a house.
Yesterday I was thrilled to take part in one of the most rewarding aspects of my life, the ability in my capacity as President of our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate to sell a deserving community member an energy efficient, affordable, cute-as-can-be little house.
That’s Krista, above, our new homeowner, flanked by Susan Taylor, chair of the Family Support Committee, and my husband Ed, who contributes his legal time and expertise whenever we need it. Krista’s new home sits in a wooded subdivision in Thomaston, Maine, across the street from House 22 which is of the same design. The service area for my affiliate, Midcoast Habitat for Humanity, is Knox County, It covers as far west as Washington, Maine, all the way east to the islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven, and Isle au Haut, and as far south as Cushing and Friendship. We’ve built 24 homes over the past two decades in many Midcoast Maine towns, plus another 19 in poor countries around the globe (this is through our tithing to Habitat for Humanity International) and our brand new weatherization program is about to insulate and improve our 6th home. We have a one-year old ReStore in a big red barn in Rockport, Maine, where we sell donated materials such as furniture, building supplies, and appliances. It’s been hugely successful and all of the proceeds go back into sustaining our programs.
I first became involved in Habitat seven years ago, when I chaperoned a trip to Tutwiler, Mississippi with a group from our high school that included my son Nate. I came back from that
week knowing that I had found meaningful volunteer work that I could spend the rest of my life doing. A year later, I journeyed down to Mobile, Alabama to build the “Maine” house at the Habitat there (they were getting Realtors from around the country to each build a house from their state) and came back to Camden determined to get involved in my own local Habitat.
And get involved I did – in a big way. I soon discovered that my local group was out of energy and ideas and was not attracting any new blood. I joined the board of directors and was asked to become President. Believe me, I thought long and hard about it! I had my hands full learning how to change a culture and effect change. Frankly there were times I wanted to throw down my hammer in despair, but the part of me that can be oh-so-persistent (or stubborn?) hung in there. I knew in my heart that this program was too important, that I couldn’t let it die, and gradually things started to change. In my three years as President we’ve hired an executive director, bought the barn (our office plus the ReStore) and brought in hundreds of new volunteers, programs, and funds. The whole thing has been an experience I could never have predicted, more rewarding than most things I’ve accomplished in my fifty-plus years.
So who got the gift yesterday? Krista, our new homeowner, and her eight year old son Jason? Or me? That’s the thing about service work – it’s hard to tell.
Merry Christmas to all. May you enjoy your holidays safe and sound in your homes, wherever you are.
Vicki Doudera will be on the Dr. Lisa Radio show tomorrow morning talking about volunteering for Habitat if you’d like to tune in.