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.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Masonry Students Construct Foundations for Habitat Homes

Each year, masonry students from Jay M. Robinson and Central Cabarrus High Schools come together to lay the foundations for Habitat homes in Cabarrus County.

Since partnering with Habitat in 2009, students at these schools have been able to take what they learned in the classroom and experience it first-hand on a Habitat build site.  “The students experience teamwork, build pride, build friendships with another school, and on-the-job training,” says Darren Hartsell, Masonry Teacher at Jay M. Robinson High School. 

Not only does this program help high school students develop leadership skills and comradery, it has also taught them about giving back and paying it forward.  “They take pride in being a part of something that helps the community and individuals for life,” says Darren.  “Service learning projects are a Cabarrus County Schools initiative, extending the walls of our classroom and giving back to the community.”

Each foundation gives our volunteers and partner families the starting point they need to build each home.  When the home is complete, it provides a Cabarrus County family with the strength and stability they need to build a better life. 

Thanks to the students in Darren’s classes at Jay M. Robinson and Todd Hartsell’s classes at Central Cabarrus High School, we have been able to build numerous homes on the foundations they constructed.  “They love it,” says Darren. “[They] look forward to it every year.”

Thank you to Cabarrus County Schools for their partnership with Habitat Cabarrus.  We look forward to working with the masonry students from both schools again this year. 

Masonry Teacher Darren Hartsell created a video that shows the progress of laying the foundation for a Habitat home.  Click here to watch it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Habitat Welcomes New Board President

Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County would like to thank outgoing Board President Pam Cain for all of the service and leadership she has provided our organization during her time as President. She has done a great job with our organization and we admire the dedication she has shown. To say thank you, Executive Director Dave Zablotny (pictured right) presented her with a small token of appreciation.

Taking her place as Board President is Doug Stafford (pictured left). Doug has been a member of our Board for several years and we are very excited for him to begin leading the Habitat Cabarrus Board of Directors.

Along with a new Board President, we also have a few new faces joining our team. We've got four additions to the Board, including Dianne Snyder (pictured left), A.J. Clark (pictured middle), and Betsy Burchfield Handler (pictured right).  Not pictured is Ward Childress.

We're thrilled to have these four represent our organization and join us in making our community a better place. We're looking forward to accomplishing many great things with our new Board members in the future.

While it's always exciting to have new Board members join our organization, it's still tough to see outgoing members leave. Therese Roberts (pictured middle) is one such member, leaving our team once her six-year term on the Board is complete. Therese served two of these years as Board Chair. We greatly appreciate Therese's service and admire the dedication she's shown to our organization.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Habitat Cabarrus ReStore Has Some Great New Tools to Receive Your Donations!

Donations drive the success of our ReStore, so it is critical that we be able to pick up items quickly and handle them efficiently when we receive requests. In the past, when someone dropped off a donation for the ReStore on a pallet, it had to be unloaded manually or a forklift had to be rented in order to unload the product from their truck.

To expedite that process and accept more donations, we have been able to purchase that same forklift from R.S. Braswell Company that we had been renting! We have also purchased a van from Hilbish Ford as sometimes donations do not warrant taking our large truck. This allows us to do even more pickups, but also to be a little more green – taking a smaller vehicle when needed.

Keep in mind when you are purchasing a new appliance or furniture for your home that the ReStore offers FREE pickup service. Even if the place you purchased from offers pickup service as well, remember that you can get a tax deduction for the contribution when you choose the ReStore. Fill out our Online Donation Form on our website to start the process!

These purchases were made possible by a grant from The Cannon Foundation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pathways to Change

When I was a kid we had a dog who figured out that if we were not around to let him in for the night our neighbor would if he scratched on her door. I really loved this neighbor and spent a lot of time hanging out with her after school.  Between the dog and I there was an obvious path worn in the grass between our house and the neighbor’s. That’s what we do to our brains - we wear down pathways from our repeated behaviors either positive or negative.

I love sugar.  (Oh how I love sugar.)  Sadly, sugar is not very good for me or you.  It rots our teeth, suppresses our immune systems, and leads us down the path to diabetes and weight gain.  But sugar tastes and feels so good.  In fact, sugar lights up the pleasure receptors in our brains almost like illicit drugs.  So last year when I quit putting sugar in my coffee (in an attempt to improve my health) it was quite a difficult behavior to change.  

Change is rarely easy, especially the older we become.  And those little behavior pathways may feel more like the Grand Canyon when we try to escape them.  Support helps.  That’s why organizations like AA and Weight Watchers have meetings - to provide support for positive behavior change from professionals and peers.  

When a family enters the Habitat Cabarrus program they go through a three-stage process: Application, Selection, Partnership.  The partnership stage takes the most time - from 12 to 24 months.   The partnership stage provides the future homeowner education and support to change mental pathways and behavior from renter to owner.  The future homeowner also puts in 250 hours of sweat equity on other Habitat houses before construction begins on her own home.       

Why so much time? Let me explain.

Most of our families are long-term renters and generations of renters are not unusual.  

When you rent your dwelling it’s like working for a big company.  When the copier breaks - you tell someone and they call the copier repair people.  The repair person comes out and fixes the copier. You are inconvenienced while the copier is not working but that’s about the extent of your emotional or financial involvement to the equipment.   

As a homeowner YOU bear responsibility for maintaining the equipment.  YOU are the one who grabs the plunger to unclog the toilet when the toddler tries to flush socks.  YOU call the plumber when the plunger can’t shift the tube socks blocking your pipes better than an NFL linebacker holding the line on 4th down. And YOU pay the plumber when they come do their magic.  That’s just the toilet.  What about the gutters, the HVAC, pest control, and routine maintenance items?
As a former renter you have no experience in these areas.  None.  If you are the child of renters you’ve never watched your dad put WD40 on the hinges of the front door to stop the squeaking. You’ve never seen your mom clean out your sister’s hair from the bathroom sink.  You’ve never painted your bedroom walls, never changed out a light fixture, never caulked the shower.  You’ve never replaced shingles after a big thunderstorm and never paid a roofer to fix a leak.

In addition to learning basic home maintenance and repairs our Partner Families also gain essential financial skills like budgeting, and cash flow planning through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  Partner Families learn about insurance, retirement planning, and how to decrease debt.  These financial lessons are just as vital to their long-term success as the sweat equity hours spent on the work site installing siding, laying floors, and painting walls.
Home ownership is one of the first rungs on the ladder of financial security -but it is only one.  Habitat Cabarrus works with our partner families to teach skills and behaviors that help build secure futures. Step by step we create the mental pathway together.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Full Circle

The other day my husband and I watched a beautiful scene unfold.  A boy about eight helped his two-year-old sister play on her scooter.  She was determined to ride it no matter what.  He was incredibly kind and patient with her.  Despite the crying and tantrums from her repeated unsuccessful attempts - he remained calm and loving.  As we viewed the interaction we knew that he was modeling the behavior he’d received from their parents.  We also knew that the sister would be just as patient, kind, and loving with her own children one day in the future.

We mimic the behavior we’ve seen and perpetuate the behavior we’ve experienced.

Members of Swayze's Sweethearts:
Ronnye Boone, Deborah Carter,
and Megan Whitlow
I once heard a story about cooking that bolsters the point.  A mother demonstrated how to cook a roast to her daughter.  When she cut a third of the roast off and turned it sideways in the pan before placing it in the oven the daughter asked her why she cut it.  The mother paused for a moment and then picked up the phone. The mom called HER mother and explained the situation.  The grandmother laughed so loudly the granddaughter could hear.  It seems the grandmother’s roasting pan was too small to hold the roast in one piece but it would fit if a section was turned sideways.  The mother had been cooking her roast the same way - even though she had a larger pan.

How many times a day do you take unconscious action based on how your parents, “Cut the roast”?  Do you drive American or foreign?  Do you attend church?  Volunteer?  Yell or sulk when angry?  Do you wear seat belts? Jewelry?  Plaid?  We spend a great deal of our lives, “Cutting the roast”.

When I wash dishes I utilize an order to the process.  First washed are glasses, then silverware, then plates, and finally pots and pans.  There’s a logic to the system - the water is cleanest at the beginning so you wash items from least dirty to dirtiest.  It’s so ingrained I don’t even think about the process until I watch my husband wash dishes in his own way.  Then… I have to consciously remind myself that the outcome is the important thing.

Swayze's Sweethearts Women Build Team on Build Day
Megan is a member of the Swayze’s Sweethearts Women Build Team.  The Sweethearts helped to raise the first wall in Julie Clinkscale’s home in April.  That event was a Roast Cutting moment for Megan because Megan grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home.

Megan’s parents married young and their three children came along shortly.  Megan’s family lived in an older home in Monroe, NC and only one of the rooms had insulation.  During the heat of the North Carolina summer and cold of winter all five family members lived in that one room.  Because the home was so old it exacerbated Megan’s sister’s asthma so she experienced a lot of breathing issues and all three children were often sick during the cold months.

Megan was seven when her family moved into their new Habitat home. She remembers hammering a few nails into the wall during construction. Megan recalls her excitement to have her own bedroom.  Megan remembers the new, clean, smell and how she and her siblings were fascinated by the furnace closet.  She recalls feeling the warmth and love from strangers who simply wanted to help.

Team Leader Kristel Swayze and Megan
As an adult Megan understands that Habitat offers families the opportunity to change their lives.  She appreciates knowing that there are good people in the community who care and who will rally around strangers to help them become homeowners.  Today Megan knows the importance of giving back and is happy to be in a position to do some giving.

One April evening as Megan helped teams of women work as one to raise Julie Clinkscale’s wall she looked over and saw five sets of children’s eyes watching.  Five sets of eyes observed unknown adults setting foundations for their futures, constructing stability, creating possibilities.  Megan’s eyes filled with joy and love because she KNEW what those little girls felt in that moment.   Megan knows first hand what their new home will mean.  And she felt overjoyed to play a role in their future success.

Megan has come full circle.  Today she is a dedicated wife and a mother who has worked in the medical field.  Stability is very important to Megan and she’s willing to sacrifice to provide it to her children.  She’s also willing to work for Julie Clinkscale and her grandchildren.  Megan once stood on a Habitat worksite and watched unknown helpers hammer and sweat.  Now Megan feels blessed to help provide the hand up she is so grateful to have received so many years ago.

We mimic the behavior we’ve seen and perpetuate the behavior we’ve experienced.  Each Habitat workday creates more than a floor or a roof.  It builds love and constructs community that continues and increases with each repetition.  One day those five little girls may continue the legacy and help another family get one day closer to home ownership.

Monday, April 18, 2016

My Women Build Story

Rosie the Riveter!What image comes to mind when I think of empowering myself?  Rosie the Riveter!

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic WWII image used to recruit women into the work force.  Since the end of the war, this image has become a symbol of feminine capability.  Today, this image profoundly resonates within me as a symbol of my capabilities.

When I began building my home, I also began building myself!  With every nail I drove and every wall I raised, I built an inner strength housed within the resilience my experience with Habitat was constructing. When selected to represent the 20th anniversary Habitat Cabarrus Women Build project, I was flooded with emotion. What an honor I thought to myself, attaching the image of a women’s strength to what I saw as my biggest feat.  Obtaining home-ownership and securing a stable life for myself and family would soon be realized through my concerted efforts and those of women leaders throughout my community.

But my Women Build story didn’t begin with the start of Habitat’s 20th anniversary women build project and it has yet to come to an end!

In high school, I joined a service club for girls called the Juniorettes. It was through this group that I was first introduced to Habitat for Humanity and the Women Build idea. My Juniorette team volunteered to paint the interior of a home that was a Women Build home.

Working on a build as Volunteer Coordinator
with Development Director Katie Page.
Then fast forward to 2009, I was about to graduate from Wingate University and knew I wanted a career that allowed me to serve others. So the school’s career counselor secured me a one-semester internship with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  During my internship I saw firsthand Habitat’s “a hand up, not a hand out” philosophy.  Although brief, during my time with that affiliate I began to learn how Habitat worked and how they changed lives by building people up!

After graduation, I worked long, unpredictable hours for a very low wage trying tirelessly to simply provide for my young daughter.  Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find another job and continued earning drastically less than my degree deceptively lead me to believe I would earn.  I was living in a place that was not safe but couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.   In 2010, a young man I went to high school with was shot because of a bad drug deal outside my apartment as I was unloading my daughter after a long night at work. The very next day I was reintroduced to Habitat, but this time as an applicant.

Since the completion of my home, my life has continued to intertwine with Habitat and Women Build.  In 2013, I was brought on board to serve as the construction assistant to our famous "Bob the builder." Then in 2014, I was offered a position at the affiliate as the volunteer coordinator. The crazy part here is that my assigned supervisor turned out to be one of those strong women leaders who lent a hand on the building of my Women Build home (I am forever grateful Katie Page!). Once again I was overcome with excitement at the opportunity to build myself with the assistance of the strong women I looked up to and to serve alongside these women who had encouraged me during my partnership with Habitat (Shirley Kennerly this includes you too!).

My Women Build story doesn’t end there though... Just recently, February 1st of 2016 to be exact, my brother passed away from a heroin overdose. I first learned of his addiction about two years ago, around the time I joined Healthy Cabarrus’s Substance Use Coalition. The coalition’s mission is to mobilize community partners to build a healthier community by reducing substance abuse and its effects, particularly among youth. It was through the efforts of this coalition that I learned about Naloxone and its ability to reverse an opioid-induced overdose. Unfortunately, my brother was alone when he overdosed and wasn’t found until long after he had last used. Despite this fact, the administration of Naloxone is what kept him alive long enough to make it to the hospital and for our family to say goodbye. In honor of my brother, my friends and colleagues at the Cabarrus Health Alliance decided to put together a women build team to support our 2016 campaign. And guess what day they requested to come out and build? My birthday! Truly I believe this is God at work.

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

At our St. Patrick's Day Party fundraiser with Shirley Kennerly,
Family Services Coordinator.
I believe I have been called to my purpose, to not only serve the Lord but to serve another family. I get to give back the love and support that was so graciously poured upon me. As each Women Build team continues to grow and the funds to support this build continue to come in I am called to give praise; Praise to God for his unwavering love, Habitat Cabarrus for its continued efforts within my life and my community, and to Julie Clinkscale, the beautifully strong grandmother and caregiver of 5 remarkable young ladies who is working diligently to build her home with the title of this year’s Women Build. I am so excited to see this year’s project kick-off.  Who knows…maybe Rosie the Riveter will come out to support us once again!