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! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Mary Rembert

April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week, which is a great opportunity to recognize the contributions of our generous volunteers, many of whom have been offering both their time and effort for many years.

Shining the Spotlight

One such individual, Mary Rembert, has been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County and ReStore Cabarrus since 2005 (when our ReStore originally opened). Mary retired that same year, but her love of working with people drew her to a volunteer opportunity with Habitat where she helped with our Christmas gift wrapping. Soon after, she heard that a ReStore would be opening in the area and was excited to begin volunteering at this location. After a couple of store relocations and over a decade of service, Mary has a longer tenure than almost anyone else at our ReStore and is still just as excited to be volunteering.

“My favorite part about volunteering with ReStore is the people I work with,” she said, citing her love of people as a primary reason she enjoys serving with Habitat.

Brightening the Day of Our Shoppers

Mary works primarily at the checkout register, where she is “consistently friendly, efficient, and has fantastic customer service skills,” said Dale Irvin, General Manager at the ReStore. She volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday, brightening the day of every shopper with her warm, friendly personality. “I can’t imagine the Cabarrus ReStore without Mary Rembert,” Irvin went on to say.

Mary also enjoys hearing customers tell her how nice they think it is shopping at the ReStore. She works hard to keep the store neat and orderly, so when people tell her that they appreciate how tidy the shop is, it makes her feel good. Mary understands what a long way creating a clean workspace can go in creating a great customer experience.

Continuing to Make a Difference

In addition to her volunteer work at ReStore, Mary has kept busy during retirement in other charitable ways. She is a volunteer for both Hospice and her church, doing her best to make an impact in the community.

To learn how you can make a difference with Habitat Cabarrus or ReStore, visit

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Volunteer Culture Club

Did you know April 10 -16 is National Volunteer Week 2016?

National Volunteer Week recognizes the many people across the U.S. and Canada who share their time and resources to many different causes for the greater good of society as a whole.

My mother used to say that good manners are the glue that bind a society. Granted, she was usually telling me this when she wanted me to learn where various utensils should be placed on the table… but she was right. There are ties that bind us as friends, family, community, and culture. Now I instruct my own kids (with varying degrees of success) about how manners are really about making people comfortable. Individuals fortunate enough to have seen some of the world agree… While culture may determine whether you eat your dinner with a fork, chopsticks, or fingers – the ability to look at the person on the other side of the table and try to make him comfortable is universal.

Society or culture evolves just like animals and humans through time and need. Joseph Henrich for example says human evolution has been greatly dependent on sharing information. Henrich offers the example of cooking. The practice of cooking spread by social learning across our ancestral human populations. “Cooked food’ became a selective force that ultimately shrunk our digestive tracks, teeth, and stomachs. Who knew? If society relies on information to evolve then volunteers keep the info train moving.

I went back down the rabbit hole of research and discovered that volunteering provides another society-binding activity. There’s a great body of work to pull from about why exactly people volunteer but it seems to boil down to two reasons. One is symbolic and says volunteering is a display of values and beliefs through actions. The other is functional and says volunteering provides a match between a person’s psychological needs and particular personality traits.

There’s a third aspect about volunteering that is just beginning to be studied and that is the benefit to the volunteer. People who volunteer regularly are healthier, more alert, and happier than their less philanthropic brethren. In other words - doing good does a person good too.

This past weekend we met a friend of ours at the farmers market. His wife was out-of-town on business and he had the three and one-year-olds to himself. That’s a whole lot of kid with no backup on a weekend day that lacks the structure of the workweek. Just between us – this was not a good time for me to go off on a produce boondoggle. We were very much in the process of moving and I just didn’t think we had anything to offer our friend. But off we went. (Personality trait volunteer maybe?)

We didn’t do a lot, but for a little while he had another adult to talk to and to provide assistance. His kids were entertained by my children while the smells and colors of fresh produce, artisan breads, and newly-picked strawberries kept his kids from whining and arguing. Afterward we all felt energized and happy and it wasn’t completely from the berries. Even in our little microcosm - volunteering was a positive experience.

Habitat for Humanity runs on volunteers. We help families achieve miracles because caring individuals are willing to give their time and talents on construction sites to help strangers achieve the dream of home ownership. Our magnificent volunteers display their values through actions and because they believe in causes bigger than themselves and they recognize an inner need to help others.

National Volunteer Week provides the opportunity to bring awareness to the amazing contributions of volunteers and to encourage more people to donate their time to a local, national, or global cause. It started in Canada during WWII to celebrate women for their part in supporting the war and in the US in 1974. We urge you to take advantage of this week to nominate someone you admire for a volunteering award, share about your favorite cause on social media, and find an opportunity to volunteer yourself with Habitat Cabarrus or another cause that you feel strongly about.