Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dave's Difference

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatIn Japan when you ask a person what they do - they answer with a job title and then quickly add the hobby or leisure activity they pursue on personal time. The Japanese believe that the way they earn a paycheck has very little bearing on who they are as people and what they deem important. Yet, if you ask an American what they do the answer is very much about the job. For Americans the line between profession and self is porous. There’s an underlying expectation that individuals embody their job role all the time.

My sister (a teacher) says that her students are dumbfounded to see her out in the community. If she’s out pursuing some mundane task like purchasing milk and her students see her - they wonder WHAT she’s doing. In their minds her only role is to be their teacher. Perhaps her students think she lives in the school. They might believe she exists in some sort of suspended stasis Friday through Monday. When they return to school - Ta Da! She’s their teacher again.

In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie says to Scout: “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” Atticus Finch is a known entity. His nature and personality are known to be authentic. How many people do WE know who are the same in both public and private realms? Many of us are like Eleanor Rigby and keep a face by the door for public consumption.

As Executive Director, Dave Zablotny carries some rather heavy responsibilities. Dave makes sure homes get built, that families continue to learn about and enter the program, and that funding is secured to keep Habitat Cabarrus running. He oversees staff and ultimately accounts for all our activities to a board that adds and subtracts members each year which necessitates time to educate them about ins and outs of Habitat Cabarrus. It’s a short description but a long term commitment.

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatDave (who prefers Dave to Mr. Zablotny) spent nearly 25 years in the banking industry before becoming the Executive Director for Habitat in Buffalo, NY. On his very first volunteer project with HSBC bank, Dave worked next to a homeowner on a Habitat for Humanity construction site. Dave was hooked. He liked helping in concept and deed - but meeting that homeowner and recognizing that a hand up is completely different from a hand out totally changed Dave’s outlook. He became devoted to Habitat for Humanity and its mission to eliminate substandard housing.

Merriam-Webster defines a servant as "a person who is devoted or guided by something". If you ask the people who work for Habitat Cabarrus and ReStore about working with Dave Zablotny they all answer with the same phrase – Servant Leader.  S. Chris Edmonds, an author and organizational consultant, says servant leadership is a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work and in their community. Mr. Edmonds has clearly met someone like Dave Zablotny.

E.B. Lentz as the financial manager appreciates Dave’s focus on strengthening Habitat Cabarrus’ financial health, pointing out that we can serve more people with strong finances. Family Services Coordinator, Shirley Kennerly values Dave’s leadership style because he is open to ideas and allows people to take on additional roles or risks. Katie Page, as director of resource development notes that Dave motivates the entire team to share his passion for Habitat and for changing the community. Dale Irvin, ReStore’s General Manager, says that Dave is very straightforward and that in everything he does the purpose is to help people whether it’s homeowners, the organization, or staff.

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatDave Zablotny is like Atticus Finch; he’s the same person whether you meet him at Rotary, home, church, or Habitat Cabarrus. Dave only has one face. Right next to Dave’s chair at work is a quote from Bear Bryant that reads, “If anything goes bad, I did it; If anything goes semi good, then we did it; If anything goes real good, they did it.”

Because of good leadership WE all get to do it...

Thanks Dave.

--- Your team at Habitat Cabarrus

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Faith and the Faithful

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatOnce upon a time we lived in Tokyo and a few blocks from our apartment resided a piece of public sculpture we called, “The Machine.” Have you ever seen a Rube Goldberg creation or played the board game Mousetrap? That’s your starting point. The Machine was housed inside a clear plexi-glass case nearly one story high. Inside, multiple metal balls rolled through an elaborate maze that utilized conveyor belts, ramps, and even bells to remind passers- by that we are all pieces in a larger mechanism.

It was fascinating and you could easily spend 20 minutes watching the entire sequence from beginning to end. That single piece of art provides a good reminder of how many small events work together to form a larger whole such as a day, a meal, a job or a life.

One July morning I watched Elevation Church members work together with partner families to raise the walls of a Habitat home and I experienced dèjá vu. For an instant I was transported to The Machine - then returned to observe the inner workings of Habitat construction. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatMy brother once took my parents’ alarm clock apart – because he wanted to see what was inside. Once he had seen the clock’s innermost mechanisms he put it back together. He reassembled the pieces and the clock looked fine. (It never worked again.) It takes skill and effort to transform the inner workings of a clock from wheels and springs into a timepiece. And it takes skill and effort to transform piles of boards, buckets of nails, and stacks of siding into a home.

This week partner families, Habitat staff, and faith and community members will convene to celebrate Sonya Davis’ dedication ceremony. Sonya will receive the keys to her new home and her new life - the Building on Faith House.

Multiple congregations answered the call and provided volunteers and/or funding to take the Building on Faith project from mere concept to reality. First Presbyterian Concord, Elevation Church, Harrisburg UMC, Harrisburg UMC Women, Journey UMC, Mt. Hermon Lutheran Church, Epworth UMC, St. James Catholic, First Baptist Kannapolis, All Saints Episcopal, Poplar Tent Presbyterian, Harvest Community Church, Calvary Lutheran, City Revival Church, He’s Alive Church, Rocky River Presbyterian, Thrivent Financial for Christains, and others gave faithfully and cheerfully to the concept that decent shelter is a matter of conscience and action for all of us. Here’s reality - today there is an actual house on Broad Ave.

http://www.habitatcabarrus.org/habitatThe Machine’s name is Magic Clock and it’s not uncommon for viewers to feel a little awe as they watch it move through its complex workings. Volunteers and donors worked together through complex workings to construct a home according to His purpose. It’s not an exaggeration to say it feels magical.

As we enter the season of light, let the joy and magic from the birth of Jesus surround us all. Feel, see, experience the miracle of faith that transforms a humble stable into a palace and transformed an idea into a safe abode for the Davis family.

“Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. Come ye, oh come ye to Bethleham."

Rejoice. Faith and the faithful have built a masterpiece.

Be a part of our next build at Habitat Cabarrus.  Donate to our end-of-year campaign today.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"I love my home!" - One Year Homeownership

Not too long ago my family took a five mile hike at Morrow Mountain State Park.  The leaves were bright and the air was crisp. It was a glorious experience – at first. By the end of the hike walking was painful, we were exhausted, and sitting down felt marvelous. Five miles was a VERY long distance.

On the other hand, my usual commute to Habitat Cabarrus is just under five miles. It takes me 15 minutes door-to-door and I barely notice the drive. Five miles can be the blink of an eye or a physical ordeal – it all depends upon your vantage point.

Another concept that shifts with your vantage point is time. Now a classical physicist would say that time is a scalar quantity like mass, length, and charge. In other words, time is fixed. But ask any child how long ‘til Christmas and they’ll say FOREVER even if it’s December 23rd. On the other hand, every grandparent I know talks about how time flies by. The child and the grandparent have different perspectives on the same concept – time. 

Do you know where you were in November 2014? Do you remember what you did? Erica Shepherd and Jazman Crisco know. They moved their families into their Habitat Homes in November last year.

An average year provides multiple celebration milestones: jobs, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Hundreds of meals are eaten in a single Earth revolution around the sun. Countless hours are spent grocery shopping, sleeping, exercising, working, worshiping, crying, laughing, and living.

That’s a pretty good snapshot of Erica and Jazman’s lives too. The only difference being their vantage point. Now they live in their own homes and the view is different. 

Erica Shepherd - Habitat Cabarrus Homeowner
For Erica Shepherd the economic view changed after living in government housing - homeownership absolutely stretches her budget. She believes her home is worth it though. Erica’s biggest shift is that she no longer lives with the constant anxiety of perpetually awaiting word from the government housing authority that it’s time to move. She revels in her hard-earned stability.

Erica says, “I love my home! It still feels like a dream. I’m in MY house and it’s a great feeling. I can still smell the new home smell and it makes me feel so good because I know I have something I can pass to my children.”

For Jazman Crisco’s family the biggest (and best) adjustment has been the amount of space their home offers. It’s more than they ever had previously. Jazman sees the family finances moving in the right direction now. She regularly applies lessons learned from the homeowner program’s financial education classes. Jasman marvels at how often she uses the recipes she learned in the night classes. Quick and inexpensive meal options really help her out - especially with four children to feed.

Jazman says, “Habitat is an amazing program. It gives you a real sense of hope. You don’t live in stress wondering - how am I going to pay this bill. It puts you on a track so you can manage your finances and bills and succeed. “ 

Jazman offers a few words of encouragement to the next group that joins the Habitat Homeownership program. She says, “Keep your head up. The work itself is not hard. It looks hard at the beginning especially when you think of organizing the time commitment to the sweat equity hours. But keep striving. It will get here before you know it. It’s worth it. It’s bigger than you think.”

How long is a year? It depends upon your vantage point. 

In one year a human baby changes from a completely helpless infant to a child that sits up unassisted, eats solid food, and babbles with intent to communicate. A pineapple reaches maturity in 365 days, which coincides with the gestation period of a Grant’s Zebra. And in one year Jazman Crisco and Erica Shepherd have reached solace with their status as home owners.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Make a Difference with Habitat

I recently had two people tell me the same story about a man waving at everyone he saw while driving around town.  His wife asked him WHAT he was doing.  He replied that he was trying to make everyone feel welcomed and noticed to help prevent suicides.  It’s a simplistic view but it provides a solid point.  You never quite know who you’ve impacted.  You never really know where the ripples you started will end up.

You’ve probably heard the story about starfish washed up all over the beach and the two men walking along the shore…  The first guy notices the second guy madly throwing starfish back into the ocean. Guy two could only toss two at a time - one in each hand.  The first man tells the second man that it’s no use.  There is NO WAY he can save the millions of starfish littering the sand.  And the second guy says that he can save THESE, and he continues flinging.

The second guy made a difference to the starfish he saved. 

So what does making a difference look like?  It looks like a lot of things.  It can look like waving at strangers.  It may look like giving a struggling parent $20 at the grocery store so she can buy her child’s birthday cake.  Or it can be seen in the patient hands of a scout leader guiding smaller hands through the twists of a clove hitch knot again and again and yet again.

The scout leader doesn’t know exactly when or how this knot tying exercise is going to make a difference in the scout’s life.  But there is trust that eventually the time and effort will one day bear fruit.  The fruit ripens when that child reaches out to the lonely new kid at school, or becomes a scout leader, or helps install siding on a Habitat home.

October 24, 2015 is Make a Difference Day. It started in 1990 and is sponsored by Gannett’s USA WEEKEND magazine in partnership with Points of Light, a very large group dedicated to volunteer service.  The purpose of Make a Difference Day is to help others in the community by doing volunteer work.  It doesn’t matter if the project is large or small.  The project can benefit any group and can encompass a wide range of activities from Fun Runs, to painting library walls, to coat collections.  There is still time to complete a project if you’re so inclined.

It makes one wonder if our magnificent donors and volunteers know just how big a difference they make.  I’m pretty sure they don’t realize just how far the ripples travel.

This summer, two different groups built picnic tables that the Cabarrus ReStore then sold to help fund Habitat projects.  Those picnic tables may be the source of Heather Collier’s bathtub.  The bathtub where her children will bathe after they spend an afternoon playing – in their own backyard. 

In August donors gave generously to Habitat Cabarrus at our annual breakfast.  Their financial gifts will provide heat for our offices this winter, the fuel that moves all the tools to and from job sites, the hammers, nails, wood, windows, shingles, siding, and appliances that make up each home, and labor from the skilled tradespersons who ensure that each Habitat Cabarrus home meets or beats construction code. 

Groups and individual volunteers give their time and talents each Saturday to build dreams.  They think they are installing siding, painting walls, laying tile, or doing landscape work.  But they bring their smiles and their joy into every step of the construction process.  Our incredible volunteers fill rooms with goodwill and affection LONG before the homeowner moves in.  In addition, volunteers have the opportunity to write positive messages IN the walls during construction.  Our amazing volunteers wrap Habitat homeowners in love.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” 

Donors, volunteers, ReStore shoppers please recognize the ripples of your actions.  Your gifts work for HIS purpose and make a difference every day right here in Cabarrus County.  Keep making ripples.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Breakfast and Blessings

For a few years my husband I were nearly nomads.  If you define, “moving,” as packing up your worldly possessions and shifting them from one domicile to another then we moved nine times in a five year span.  We shifted cities and we shifted continents.   I learned a lot from those moves. 

I learned my husband has the patience of a saint.  I learned you ALWAYS pack and move your jewelry and personal electronics yourself.  I learned to set up your bedroom first.  And I learned to have some food on hand for breakfast that first morning in your new home.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Did you know “They” have only been saying that since the 1920’s or so?  It is believed that all social classes began eating breakfast by the 1700’s but it wasn’t a widespread practice until the Industrial Revolution (mid 1800’s).  Factory workers began to eat an early meal to help sustain them through their workday.  Who knew?

Last week Habitat Cabarrus had a pretty special breakfast, our 2015 Annual Breakfast, to share how much we’ve accomplished during the year.  If you attended – Thank you.  If you forgot, or had a scheduling conflict… wow you missed a great time!  We had blocks, raffles, history, coffee, stories, and community all wrapped around the theme of Dedication.  Whew!

It takes a lot of people to build a house.  And a Habitat home, because we rely on volunteers, probably requires more people than “normal”.  We rely on community and dedication to build each home.  And frankly it shouldn’t work. 

Have you ever been on a Habitat for Humanity work site?  People from very diverse backgrounds (banking, racing,  energy, retail, food service, military, male, female, young, old) come together to work for a day.  On a stranger’s house.  With little or even no construction experience.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster. 

And yet.
And yet.

If you have ever been inside a completed Habitat Cabarrus home you know they are solid.  Habitat homes are clean, pretty and sound.  Call it a miracle if you like (I do).  But time and again the result is greater than the parts.

In October Heather Collier’s home will be completed.  Heather will pack, shift, and unpack her family’s belongings.  Then one sweet morning the Collier’s will wake up in a space that amateurs, strangers, volunteers, built with love and dedication and they will eat their first breakfast in their kitchen in their home.

Habitat Cabarrus’ September breakfast helps make the Collier’s October breakfast possible.  YOU help make it possible too.  Your purchases from ReStore, your time on construction sites, and your generous financial support will help us to serve 42 families this year through new builds, transitional housing, and repairs. 

Jesus took a boy’s simple lunch and fed thousands.  He took what was freely given and transformed it into something bigger than disciples’ dreams.  We trust He will bless both your offerings and our simple breakfast and transform them into something greater than our dreams too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Responding to the "Language of Poverty"

Last weekend we went to Asheville, NC for a few days.  It was so nice to get out of the heat, to see something different, to get out of the usual rut.  When we left our restaurant after supper we passed a homeless man and his dog.  When I saw him, them, I felt guilty.  I was ashamed of how full my belly was.  I was conscious of the money we had spent on that meal.  And I looked at that skinny, dirty, man and his equally skinny dog and was moved.  I gave him a small amount of money and rejoined my family.  It didn’t seem like much – but I simply could not walk by them and avert my eyes. 

It’s so much easier to avert our eyes.  To not see the dirty.  To not see the poor.  To not see the need.  I’m not sure why we don’t like to see it - but seeing need makes most of us uncomfortable. 

Perhaps it’s like a foreign language…

Have you ever sat near a group of people from another country and heard them speaking their native tongue among themselves?  You might catch a word here or there but mostly their words flow over you like a river of sound.  At some point they will laugh and you’re left wondering if they told a joke or if you have toilet paper on your shoe.  (Or if they told a joke about you having toilet paper on your shoe…)

For many of us lucky individuals  -- we interact with poverty like it’s a foreign language.  And frankly we don’t want to learn it.  Then there are a few magnificent souls (like Mother Teresa ) who see need,  “Hear” the dialect, and can translate the need into action.

The Dominican Republic is a tourist destination with diverse ecosystems that provide an abundance of recreational opportunities.  People can raft, hike and bike in the mountains while beach lovers can snorkel, dive, kayak, kite board, and sail.  Sounds idyllic, right?  Well…

More than a third of the country’s total population lives in poverty, and almost 20 percent live in extreme poverty.  In rural areas poor people constitute half of the population.  The Dominican Republic is Habitat Cabarrus’ sister affiliate and tithe partner.

Did you know if you Google tithing you’ll get 540,000 results in 0.53 seconds?  Let me save you some reading – tithing has been around for thousands of years and is part of all Judeo-Christian religions. Tithing is also part of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.  In fact, pretty much every major religion recognizes the importance of freely offering support via financial means.

Habitat affiliates are encouraged to donate a tenth of undesignated funds to support housing solutions in another country.  Habitat Cabarrus shares its funds with our sister affiliate to repair or rehabilitate homes in the Dominican Republic to safe and usable conditions.  It only costs $4,500 to fund a housing solution in the Dominican Republic.

It’s incredible to note that Habitat Cabarrus has tithed nearly $250k in its 25 years simply by sharing a portion of what is raised in our community with the Dominican community.   Our goal is to fund a housing solution there for each home we build here.  Since 1990 Habitat Cabarrus has served an estimated 79 families in the Dominican Republic through our gifts and through yours.

Matthew 25:40 says, "The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

Thank you for supporting Habitat Cabarrus through your financial generosity for 25 years and beyond.  We’ve been able to do a lot of good by working together.  Thank you for not walking by and ignoring the need right here in our own community.  You’ve heard the “language of poverty” in two countries and responded by helping to shelter those in need right here and in far-away communities too.

Click here if you are interesting in making an online donation to our program.