Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Life-Changing Moments

Alida Zimmerman already recognizes the power in life-changing moments.  Alida is Habitat Cabarrus’ new volunteer coordinator.  (Welcome Alida!)  She joined Habitat Cabarrus in early December and her path to nonprofit work began with a chance interaction that would yield big results.

It was spring break and Alida had come home to nurse a few emotional wounds from a bad breakup.  Alida’s aunt knew an inspirational speaker and began to urge her to attend his next engagement.  Her father soon joined in and they eventually were able to convince her to attend an event.  The speaker, Chris Rosati, learned about Alida’s situation and went off script for five minutes and shared how his own experience with a broken heart led him to find a deeper, truer life and love later. 

Mr. Rosati leads Inspire Media Network which spreads kindness.  He began this non-profit after his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS.  Chris chose not to wander the unknown path of his disease with fear but to live with hope and to spread positivity.  Alida felt honored that he took the moment to address her in the midst of his own large issues.  She was so moved by his story and approach to life that she offered to help Chris with his nonprofit and he accepted her services. 

Alida took on a lot of responsibility in her two years with Inspire Media Network.  She created content, planned events, performed marketing tasks, and acted as the voice of the organization.  As Alida expanded her professional capabilities she nourished her soul.  After graduation from Elon University she accepted a job in Charlotte with an advertising agency. She enjoyed the work and appreciated the skills of her co-workers but at the end of the work day, her soul felt tired and flat instead of full.  She recognized that she needed to return to non-profit work to feel the soul-deep satisfaction that comes from creating positive impact on human lives.  That’s when she found Habitat Cabarrus. 

Alida had previously volunteered with the Habitat for Humanity in Durham so she understood how Habitat helps families with a hand up, not a hand out.  She began Googling nonprofit jobs in the Charlotte area and the Habitat Cabarrus position almost magically appeared.  Soon after discovering the position, Alida joined the Habitat Cabarrus team with an eagerness to learn and support our efforts to build community. 

Since joining the Habitat Cabarrus team last month, Alida has learned a lot about our programs and the community we serve. 

“It is so amazing to see how many people and pieces go into building a habitat home, I truly had no idea before I started. My favorite moment so far has been meeting the families and watching them interact. It is a true community that Habitat has built for them; one that is supportive, loving and inspiring and shows that getting a new home is nothing short of extraordinary.”

We are thrilled to have Alida on our team at Habitat Cabarrus and look forward to working with her as we begin our first build of 2017 – the Collegiate Challenge Build sponsored by Publix.  If you would like to volunteer with Habitat Cabarrus, you can contact Alida at azimmerman@habitatcabarrus.org.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Community Collaboration Keeps Families Safe at Home

There’s a story behind every home and every project that Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County undertakes. What starts as a routine initiative for our volunteers and service personnel often turns into a heartwarming feeling of community and comradery.

Christy walked into the Concord Fire Department one morning with one goal in mind: to find a way to make her home safer for her family. Her husband’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and her own battle with Epilepsy had already established them as survivors in the face of illness that made life a little more difficult. However, that didn’t inhibit their desire to continue building their family and living their life to its fullest.

Their home, however, was inhibiting their quality of life.

Every day, Christy and her husband lived in fear of what may happen were one of them to fall on the steps outside of their home that were in desperate need of repair. What would seem like a small issue to the average homeowner was presenting a challenge to the couple, and rightly so.

Multiple medical emergencies had been halted or challenging due to EMS personnel being unable or apprehensive in bringing equipment up those stairs. “I knew I needed help,” says Christy, who initially was unsure about asking for assistance. That’s when she reached out to the fire department who directed her to Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County.

Resource Development Director Katie Page and Concord Police Chief Ray Allen, both Rotarians in the Concord Rotary Club, took this project to their group and put together a of team of people to help this family. Habitat helped put together the plan and secured materials and Rotarians and the fire department took care of the labor.

“It was an excellent opportunity for Rotarians to fulfill their obligation to give back to the community in a way that makes an immediate impact on someone’s life,” said Rotarian and Concord Police Chief Ray Allen. From the fire department’s perspective, by helping take care of this problem, they may actually be preventing a need for their service in the future and keep homeowners safe.

Not only did Habitat do the requested repairs making sure the steps were secured and safe, but this team of volunteers also built a covering over a portion of an already existing wheelchair ramp for additional safety.

There were many tears of thanks from the family after the project was completed. With a safer walkway for themselves and guests, Christy feels confident in going about her life as fully as possible--and her idea of reaching out for help has changed as well. “It feels good to know that there are people you can turn to in a time of need,” says Christy, adding, “It has made me look at asking for help in a whole new way.”

In 2015, Habitat Cabarrus helped 35 families with repair projects. If you or someone you know is in need of critical home repairs , visit our website to learn more about how to apply for services at www.habitatcabarrus.org under What We Build/Home Repairs.

Look for the Helpers

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." — Mister Rogers

I used to LOVE to watch the opening sequence to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Each episode showed Mr. Rogers walk into his home and get comfy by changing into his sweater and sneakers. Mr. Rogers invited viewers into a personal relationship with him and provided a safe space to discuss life and childhood.  A significant part of the show’s opening included Mr. Rogers singing a song that invited viewers to be his neighbor.

Who or what is a neighbor?  Well that depends somewhat on your definition doesn’t it?  The family who lives across the street from my home in Concord is most definitely my neighbors.  They have a key to my house. We’ve watched pets during vacations, met each other’s kids at the bus stop, leant and borrowed tools and ingredients, traded stories, shared joys, and carpooled to endless school events.

Luke 10: 25-37 is the passage most people refer to as the parable of the Good Samaritan but the question that led to the story was, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answered the question by telling of a man who was set upon by robbers and beaten badly.  Two respected members of society ignored the man’s needs but the third passer-by, a Samaritan, helped.  The Samaritan tended to the man’s immediate wounds, took him to an inn to rest and recuperate, and paid the innkeeper to continue care.

Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” and then told the questioner to, “Go and do likewise.”  The story makes it clear WE are to be active helpers to our fellow man.  Our role of helper is a fluid one because each person’s needs are unique AND because each Samaritan’s abilities are different too.

On a cold March morning dozens of volunteers affiliated with the Joey Logano Foundation labored
on Coni Bennett’s future home.  Joey Logano, a very successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver, worked alongside his enthusiastic team.  Joey hammered nails, raised walls, and teased to keep spirits high.  He and his group were being very good helpers that day.  But like the Samaritan - Joey Logano did more.

Joey asked Site Supervisor Bob (the Builder) LaMarche for more information about Habitat Cabarrus.  Bob mentioned casually that Habitat Cabarrus had outgrown its trailer and that it was becoming unsafe to keep using it.  A few weeks later the Joey Logano Foundation contacted Habitat Cabarrus and asked how to go about replacing that trailer.  

And then they replaced it.  Just like that.

I don’t know if the Joey Logano Foundation understands the positive impact their gift will have on Habitat Cabarrus and our ability to help build community - but it’s terrific.  The Habitat Cabarrus trailer is a mobile construction unit and shifts nails, screws, gloves, hammers, and other building implements to the job site each work day.  It’s a workhorse that performs in heat, cold, sun, and rain for years.

Did you know one box of 16 penny nails weighs 50 pounds?  A single box of 8 penny nails also weighs 50 lbs.  It’s quite common to have several boxes of both nail sizes in the trailer.  One hammer weighs about 20 oz.  If we have 50 hammers out on a typical Saturday that’s over 100 pounds in hammers alone.  We use 20 different types of screws constructing one home - sheet rock, deck, door screws just to name a few.  The boxes are of similar weight as nails.  It takes dozens of rolls of tape to build a single house including window tape, electrical tape, and masking tape.  The weight of all these small essentials adds up quickly.  Then there are the larger tools and materials transported to the construction site as needed…

Sometimes materials (like windows) break or need to be resized.  Previously one of our Weekday Warriors would utilize his personal vehicle to transport trade-out materials to and from the supply store because the old trailer was too small to hold both supplies and large materials.  Now the materials and tools fit in the trailer.  This will not only be safer but will increase efficiency to Habitat Cabarrus construction activities.

If you read this Joey Logano, a few of our Weekday Warriors would like to offer a few specific thank you’s for your foundation’s gift. 
  • Paul Meyer is grateful because the new trailer will permit greater organization and efficiency.
  • Brad Fisher is excited because your gift will make it easier to get started each day. 
  • Paul Jordan says the larger size will enable volunteers and Warriors to actually SEE the materials they need. 
  • Jim Rockel is thankful for the increased safety the trailer provides.

That rolling metal cube is a beautiful blessing to us, the Weekday Warriors and the volunteers who give their time and talents to help our partner families attain home ownership. That trailer is a visible reminder to our partner families that a community of neighbors (including a successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver) cares about their success.

Sometimes a neighbor helps you up off the ground and bandages your wounds. Other neighbors help by collecting the mail when you’re out-of-town.  Sometimes a neighbor’s help is the key to a trailer.

Thank you to ALL our helpers who give time, talents, and treasures to build families and community.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tables for Homes

Family dinner table built by Earnest Bostick
A special family has created a unique partnership with Habitat Cabarrus as a way to give a house warming gift to our new homeowners.  Earnest and Angie Bostick have committed to create a farm table for every new Habitat Cabarrus homeowner and their first gift was to the Hernandez family, whose home dedication was last week.

“We hope they enjoy the function of [the table], but most importantly the symbol of togetherness it can bring to their home,” says Angie.  “Their table is built with love and a wish for true happiness.”

Following in His Dad’s Footsteps

Earnest & Angie Bostick
Earnest and his family had just spent Christmas Eve at his grandmother’s house and were making their way back home.  Earnest was only 6 or 7 years old at the time, but he vividly remembers the cold night as he rode home with his dad, mom, brother and sister.  As they got closer to home, they saw a man that appeared to be passed out on the ground underneath a nearby tree.  Rather than drive by him, they stopped the car.  Earnest’s dad then exited the car and realized that the man was passed out drunk.  So he picked the man up, put him in the car, and took him home.  This was one of the many times that Earnest witnessed his dad’s acts of kindness.

"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." -Amelia Earhart

As an adult, Earnest strives to be more like his dad.  His love for wood working and desire to give back to the community helped him and his wife Angie come up with the idea of making tables for their community.

“A family dinner table is a great gathering place for eating, talking, homework and making it feel like a home,” says Angie.  They have also built many tables for their family, friends, neighbors and other charitable organizations.

A new table was recently donated to the Hernandez family
Earnest has many dimensions of different styles of tables so he starts with his cut list. After buying the materials, he measures out, cuts and labels each piece so they are ready to assemble. From start to finish including stain and/or paint, it takes about a full day (8-10) hours.  He's a true perfectionist in his work and really tries to bring great quality to each piece.

Our partner families work so hard to put in sweat equity hours alongside community volunteers to make their dream of purchasing and owning a home a reality. As they assume their 0% mortgage after their home dedication, it is so nice to know that members of the community care enough to give them such a special gift.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Following Faith

Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose. -- Aristotle

My dad and I used to take long walks in the woods near our house during the Autumn months. We would fill our pockets with some sort of snack, whistle for the dog, and just ramble.   I loved exploring the mundane and finding the extraordinary, plus the time with my dad was special.  We discovered cow pastures, pioneer wagon ruts, native American trail markers, abandoned houses, and even a rusted-out still.  Once we found ourselves next to a very wide creek and my dad jumped across. Then he held out his hand and told me to jump and to reach for his hand.  I balked.  I was an athletic kid but that distance was simply too far for me to jump.  My dad gave me a stern look and said, “Trust me. I will catch you.” I did not have total faith but jumped anyway.  He caught my hand and swung me the rest of the way across.  My feet stayed dry and I learned a lesson about trust.

Another person who trusted (and kept his feet dry) was Noah.  He heeded the voice that told him to build a huge boat in his yard.  Noah gathered materials, measured, sawed, and hammered for months.  You just know his neighbors told him he was crazy.  He probably FELT crazy at times.  But Noah continued to trust and Noah continued to build.  As a result, his family survived a catastrophic flood while floating safely in his ark.  Noah trusted and acted in faith.  In return he lived an extraordinary life with true purpose.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lance Dixon knows about trusting the voice in his heart too.

Lance is Habitat Cabarrus’ new Program Manager.  (Welcome Lance!)  Lance’s father and grandfather built and remodeled homes and as a 10-year old, Lance regularly picked up debris on construction sites.  You might say building is in his blood.

After he attended college as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Scholar Lance spent four years of active duty in the US Army. He returned to his construction roots with a job with Pulte Homes and a job promotion brought him to the Charlotte area.  Recently Lance served on the on the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity board and saw for himself the need for affordable housing in our local communities.  He felt compelled to deepen his service to the Habitat mission to eliminate substandard housing and joined the Habitat Roswell, GA affiliate as Director of Construction.

Lance’s family was still in the Charlotte area waiting for the school year to end before relocating.  The separation was difficult for the entire family.  At one point, Lance’s wife Ashley asked Lance if maybe his path with Habitat was supposed to be here.  The next morning, she spotted the Program Manager job posting with Habitat Cabarrus (on its last open day).  Trust and action worked in tandem that day for certain. 

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. — Matthew 9:9

Lance joined Habitat Cabarrus in October, 2016.  ‘We are pleased and blessed to have Lance join our Habitat Cabarrus team,” said Dave Zablotny, Executive Director for Habitat Cabarrus.  “We appreciate his breadth of experience and believe he will be a good fit with our Habitat Cabarrus family.  We are confident Lance was God’s answer to our prayers.”

Habitat Cabarrus’ Resource Development Director, Katie Page added, “Lance is an excellent addition to our Habitat Cabarrus family.  We needed a special skill-set and a mind-set to continue and broaden our mission here in Cabarrus County. Habitat Cabarrus serves our community through new homes, critical repairs, and neighborhood revitalization and Lance has the experience to keep us on track.”

Welcome to Habitat Cabarrus Lance!  We are pleased to meet you and so glad you followed the voice calling you to action.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

For Want of a Nail

My Dad says it’s lawn season now that Autumn is knocking at the door…  Last month he aerated, reseeded, and put down wheat straw so that his yard will be green and gorgeous in the Spring. Once he completes the yard work Dad tackles repairs.  Sometimes the porches need work – railings may need replacement or paint touch-ups to prevent wood rot.  Other times the roof needs a few shingles, or windows must be replaced, or walls painted, or… The list goes on.  Twice a year – Spring and Fall – Dad looks over the house making sure that small problems are found and repaired.    Otherwise small problems become big problems.

An old proverb says: For want of a nail the shoe was lost.  The proverb lists the cascade effect of the missing nail.  No nail for the horseshoe eventually leads to a battle and kingdom being lost…  all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Jeweldine and David met like many do – at work.  Jeweldine worked at a local mill and David had a seasonal position during summer break from college.  It was love at first sight.  Jeweldine knew immediately, “He’s the one for me.”  Over time David and Jeweldine married, raised a child, and later raised two grandchildren.  They reared other children through the years because the Steele’s are givers and doers.  Until David got sick.  Until they couldn’t do everything any more.

As the son of a former Concord police sergeant, David Steele is the type of man who knows the importance of the horseshoe nail.  David prefers to stay on top of problems too.  When he worked at Cannon Mills, followed by the hospital in Concord, and finally Barber Scotia College he was the guy who made sure the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed so issues stayed small.  Then his first heart attack in 2003 changed things.

David had another heart attack a few years later, followed by multiple strokes.  He battled cancer and still contends daily with congestive heart failure.  David relies on two machines to circulate his blood and can barely walk.  His wife of 32 years – Jeweldine – left her work as a hairdresser to look after David.  She says with a smile in her voice, that looking after him is a full-time job.

Without regular home maintenance small problems become big problems.

Twelve years of increased neglect due to David’s health issues led to an unknown big problem.  In 2015 Jeweldine realized they needed help and reached out to Cabarrus County for assistance winterizing their home.  Workers discovered a badly-leaking roof.  The winterizing crew asked Habitat Cabarrus if they could help the Steele family fix the leak.

Habitat Cabarrus went to the Steele’s home and assessed the roof.  Simply fixing the leak was not going to help the problem.  The problem had gotten too big.  The horseshoe nail stage had passed.  The Steele home needed an entire new roof - and roof replacement is neither quick nor inexpensive.  For want of a nail the battle for the roof was nearly lost.

And losing this battle would have far-reaching repercussions for the Steele’s.  If the roof wasn’t repaired, the city could condemn the home.  If their home was condemned, where would the Steele’s live?  They owned their home but were not wealthy, else the roof would have already been taken care of.  Public housing was the likely destination.  Yet how would David and his illnesses and ailments handle the shift?  And frankly, who would physically move the Steele’s from their home of 30 years to a subsidized apartment?  If there was any possible way, the Steele’s needed to stay in their home.

Habitat Cabarrus puts faith into action by helping to build, renovate or preserve homes because affordable housing is a foundation for breaking the cycle of poverty.  As the hymn and lyrics by William Cowper say, “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”  Fortunately, (or mysteriously) Habitat Cabarrus had received a special grant earmarked for critical repairs and the Steele’s roof met the criteria.

It took weeks for the roof replacement work to be completed.  Roof replacement required professional roofers.  Randy Goodnight with Goodnight Construction generously agreed to help.  They had other work commitments they needed to meet before they could help Habitat Cabarrus and the Steele family.  In the interim, the ceiling in the main living room sprang a leak so large that the Steele’s had to place a bucket under the leak to catch the water.

Once Goodnight Construction had an opening in their schedule, work began on the Steele’s home.  Jeweldine said the improvement was immediate and quite noticeable upon completion of the roof replacement.  The heat and cool air that had escaped the old roof for years now stayed inside.  Jeweldine gushed, “The house feels wonderful now! The roofers were so nice.  I thank God for them and Habitat Cabarrus every day of my life.”

Romans 8:28 is a good reminder that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.  Habitat Cabarrus is honored to serve His purpose and our community through our critical repairs program.

If you would like to learn more about our home repair program please click here or download the Home Repair Application for Assistance and bring it into our offices.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Action Figure

My brother used to have a G.I. Joe as a kid. I had a Barbie. She changed clothes a whole lot but I’m not sure what Barbie DID. Joe, on the other hand, was a man of action. TV commercials about Joe always showed him pursuing really exciting activities like driving the jeep over rocks or parachuting in to save the day. You just knew Joe was rough and tumble and wouldn’t hesitate to jump in to help the other toys.

Dene Dawson reminds me of G.I Joe (and not just because he favors khaki and cargo pants). Dene enters the room like a whirlwind - usually doing three things at once. He juggles the tasks and commitments of his life with the dexterity of a circus performer and keeps a positive attitude throughout. Dene is a man of action, and like Joe, won’t hesitate to jump in and help.

A few years ago while visiting Sweden we experienced multiple food servers who seemed angry to be in a position of service. This contrasted greatly with our time in Japan where service is truly an art. Perhaps the two cultures have very different ideas of what service is... It appears that in Sweden service has an underlying concept of one person having lower status than the other - so service provides an outward and visible sign of inequality. Since Sweden is VERY concerned with fairness this perceived inequality might cause emotional dissonance within the server.

In Japan the concept of service is more akin to “help”. A diner in Mos Burger will receive the same attentive care from staff as a diner in a Michelin-starred establishment. In Japan, the individual builds an underlying sense of accomplishment with each instance of helping another person. So Japanese take pride in serving to their utmost ability.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
– James 1:22

When Dene joined Habitat Cabarrus in 2010 his title was Program Manager. The role encompassed volunteer and family services, land development, and oversight of the construction operations. Habitat Cabarrus was in a state of flux and Dene took on whatever additional responsibilities were needed. (Dene wore MANY – figurative - hats those first few years.)

Over time Habitat Cabarrus grew in size and scope and Dene’s responsibilities morphed as well. Six years later, Dene is the Program Manager, which places him in charge of construction management, land development, urgent repairs, and maintaining Habitat’s transitional housing facility. In addition, Dene builds relationships - relationships in the municipalities Habitat works within, relationships with the subcontractors and vendors who perform work for Habitat Cabarrus, and relationships with the families served.

When asked what he likes about working for Habitat Cabarrus Dene said he never expected it to be so creative. “How we serve families, how we evaluate and take opportunities that come our way has allowed us to take unusual donations of land or buildings and to be creative with them. I’m proud of our transitional housing program and our Tiny House in particular. These programs have allowed us to broaden the way we serve our community.”

“He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.”
- Psalm 104:19

Habitat Cabarrus Executive Director Dave Zablotny stated, “Habitat Cabarrus has been truly blessed to have Dene’s expertise - so it is with both joy and sadness that we congratulate him on his new career move. Dene’s creativity, energy, and experience will be solid assets to his new organization. We will miss Dene as a colleague and as a friend. He will always be part of our Habitat Cabarrus family. We wish him great success in his new role.”

Dene has accepted a position with a national builder that provides him with new professional challenges and will join their organization in September 2016.

Dene shared, “God led me to Habitat for Humanity. I’ve been honored to help achieve affordable housing solutions in Cabarrus County. I am thankful for all Habitat has done for me and now it is time for the next chapter.”

We will miss you Dene. Drive your SUV over new rocks and help build something strong.


Your Habitat Cabarrus Family.