Vicki Doudera here.
I’ve had several ideas for today’s post, but having just left a board meeting for my local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, I feel I need to share with you the thoughts and ideas spinning in my head, all of which – tonight at least – are about home.
Home is so much more than mere shelter. In my work as a Realtor and in my role as Board President for Midcoast Habitat for Humanity, I’m continually struck with this fact. It’s a theme I explore in my mystery series, featuring a crime-solving real estate agent, again and again. Poor Darby Farr often finds herself face to face with people whose longing for home is so intense it has warped, leaving them willing to kill for a property.
Back to the board meeting. There are ten Habitat affiliates in Maine, in addition to a new state support organization to which we all belong, Habitat for Humanity of Maine. We’re all under the umbrella of Habitat International, headquartered in Americus, Georgia.
Midcoast Habitat serves Knox County, and I work with a talented and diverse group of board members, all of whom believe strongly in our mission. Our meetings are chock full of brainstorming, decision making, and – believe it or not – laughter. We have an energetic Executive Director, an old barn which houses our office and ReStore (selling new and used furniture, building materials, and appliances) and a supportive community from which to sign up volunteers, solicit funds, and obtain donations for our builds and countless fundraisers. I’ve been honored to lead such a great organization for more than three years.
Tonight’s meeting was a special one, because tonight we made one of a Habitat board’s most gratifying decisions. In a unanimous vote (and after careful deliberation and much groundwork), we selected a family to purchase our 25th home, already underway (if you count the poured foundation!) in Thomaston, an old seafaring town just south of Rockland.
There’s a myth that Habitat homes are free. We encounter this misconception all the time, both from the general public and from families who wish to partner with us. Habitat homes are not free. They are NOT a “hand-out,” but a “hand-up.” Partner families – no matter if they are in Maine, Mississippi or Mexico — must show their ability to pay a no-interest mortgage, be willing to contribute hundreds of “sweat equity” hours, and have demonstrated need, which we check in a home visit.
Partner families (and the term family is used in its loosest sense) must be a dime a dozen, right? Wrong. Despite the still struggling economy, it’s difficult to find qualified people in an age when so many are carrying so much debt. The single mom of two kids who will hear the magic words from our Family Selection Chair – “You have been approved to buy House 25” – will know she has won the lottery. Or close to it.
In a story that surpasses any fiction you and I might write, this young woman, despite all kinds of setbacks, has held fast to the dream of a home for her children, and has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal. She even told us that if we thought she needed to make more money, she would give up the one day that she spends with her two-year-old, so that she could work.
Can you imagine having to make that kind of a choice? Time with your child, which is precious and irreplaceable, versus more hours at your job so you could build the dream of a home. Thankfully she will not have to make that sacrifice. Her hard work, low debt, and small nest egg make her a candidate we are willing to back.
Why do you think the concept of home is so powerful? Has it ever moved you to participate in something like Habitat for Humanity? Send any questions my way — I’m always willing to talk about volunteering, qualifying for a home, or donating.
Wonderful and congratulations to that lucky and hard-working Mom…Dee
Thanks, Dee. She sounds like she is going to be one of our success stories!
I’m reminded of Robert Frost’s quote “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I think the power of home lies in the implied security. It’s that place where one feels refuge and comfort, even if the people there aren’t always the nicest folks. Not having one, or constantly having to rely on someone else’s for a sense of safety and security just ain’t the same. I applaud what you’re doing most heartily as I talk to people at the library frequently whose ‘home’ is part of that slippery slope called day to day survival.
Good points, John — it’s like food insecurity. People living in substandard rentals that are offered for sale or perching with relatives never know when they will not have a roof overhead. A lot of our families are also dealing with health issues brought on by mold or rodent-infested spaces that impact the safety of their kids (and them.)
Thanks for your comments!
And that other classic quote … “Home is where the heart is.” But home for most of us in the 21st century also requires walls and floors and a ceiling to cradle that heart and the body enfolding it and protecting it to give it a space of it’s very own in which to breathe freely and to grow. And to love. Habitat for Humanity helps to do that. Thank you for being part of Maine Crime Writers – and of Habitat. Proud of al lyou do!
Lea, what a sweet thing to say. I just love it and I feel so fortunate to have discovered that it is the cause that really speaks to me. I was on a Habitat build in Mississippi with a group from the high school (including my middle son) and that’s when I realized I had to get involved in my own affiliate. It’s a long story…
Vicki–what a wonderful story. A hearty and heartfelt thanks to you, your board, your volunteers and donors. It’s rare in life that one gets to do something so tangible–to create something where nothing was before. You create the house and the opportunity. Your partner family creates the home. Beautiful.
I love, that, Barb! We have a wall-raising event on Sunday and I am going to quote you!
Nice post, Vicki, and even nicer work. I’m so impressed with your partner Mom. What a role model she must be for her kids and all who know her. What a great Mother’s Day gift for her and her kids.
Not sure how you do so much and write too, Vicki. Ah, but it’s always “ask the busy person to get the job done!” Very well done.