Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Day of Habitat for Humanity Reflection

Posted by Patty Lee, Mgr of Special Events:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  Ephesians 3:20 The Message

It is so hard to wait. Patience is not a virtue I have been blessed with. Sometimes it is so hard for me NOT to shake my fist towards Heaven screaming WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY? Lately it feels like life has been a constant bouncing around off of one emotional and stressful wave after another... an emotional tsunami that just won't stop. Gasping for a breath or a moment just long enough to experience a moment of peace in the process of healing from challenges and changes of life. It is so easy to become bogged down with all of the things that are important and happen in and around our lives that influence and affect us. Feeling the sense of being forced to accept changes that we do not want to accept and don't even have control over. Health and well being of family members and loved ones, people and friends that disappoint us, hurt feelings, expectations and goals not met, dreams unrealized, injustice, negative self-talk, unable to get "back on track", and on and on.

The Prieto-Azures Family
Facing another morning determined to head out to make it a positive and productive day... I had no idea what a blessing God had waiting for me. I just needed to be willing to show up, and He would do the rest.

Let me back track. On June 11, 2009 I had the privilege of participating on another Habitat for Humanity "Good News Caravan". I met two amazing families - Betty Monroy and Guillermo and Maria Isabel Prieto-Anzures. Both families are in my heart's collection of most precious Habitat families!

Betty's home was completed later that year and we all celebrated together with her as her family was literally "home for Christmas" in 2009. Guillermo and Maria were selected for our new home ownership program renovating foreclosed properties. House after house seemed to bring hope that they would soon realize their dream of a safe, decent, affordable home for their children - Jazmin and Diego. Months went by, and still nothing was going through yet Guillermo and Isabel worked hard completing their sweat equity long before their home was even identified. As I spoke with churches about the Habitat Mission - Maria and Guillermo would come and share their story with complete strangers. The family supports other Habitat for Humanity Partner Families by attending celebrations for other families and encouraging newly selected Partner Families. They have been patient and they have been gracious in their wait.

I learned that a house was finally identified and the process was started - they were on their way but there were still more delays. Another holiday season and Christmas had come and passed and they were not "home for the holidays". I have to say I was beginning to become discouraged for them - frustrated, really. I have seen the home they have been living in for years. I have been to the neighborhood that is riddled with crime, drugs and gangs. I have seen the small one bedroom, upstairs apartment they all live in. I have seen the living room that has been partially converted to a bedroom with no closet for Isabel to keep her clothes. Guillermo creatively converted a covered portion of the small patio off their "room" for Isabel to have a closet... outside with a wire grate for a closet door - to keep the birds out of her clothes. I was thrilled to learn that we were moving closer to this family getting into a home. I heard that there wasn't too much work that needed to happen to get the house ready for the family to move in. Volunteers came out to paint the house. Volunteers from a church she had spoken to who were touched and moved by her story, and her humble heart. Due to my schedule I was unable to join them and had not seen the house... until today. It's time to begin planning the House Dedication for this family so I needed to do a "site walk" to identify the layout of the event and begin planning a very special ceremony.

As I drove down the lovely, friendly, safe residential neighborhood in Downey "it" began to take over me. As I watched addresses pass and parked in front of a charming gated community that reminded me of a country lane in a place far from Los Angeles, "it" began to consume me. I was fighting back tears... again. But this time my tears were not of frustration or sorrow. "It" was now around me like a warm blanket and I felt that with every step I was taking towards Guillermo and Isabel's home that I was stepping deeper and deeper into gratitude. I was choked up and tears spilled onto my cheeks and my mind was consumed with only one thought: Ephesians 3:20. None of us that were present that day in June of 2009 could have EVER imagined or dreamed of such a beautiful home for this family. It has been worth the wait. This family that patiently and faithfully waited for their safe, decent, affordable home will soon move into a home that is worthy of photographs on glossy magazine pages showcasing beautiful homes. It was as if THIS family had been hand selected for THIS home. They have been hand selected – by the hand of God. Their patience and faithfulness has been rewarded. I left their home not only overcome with gratitude for God's perfect plan and His perfect timing. I left another Habitat home with my heart and mind transformed... again. My "big deal" meter reset... again. My heart and mind reminded AGAIN with another tangible example of God's faithfulness, of His promises and a reminder of His hope again like a fresh breeze. 

I called a Habitat colleague and shared with her what I was experiencing as I could not leave the street without sharing the experience and passing along my joy. I left a message on Isabel's voice mail rejoicing and blubbering away to her of my joy for her family. I came into the office with gratitude for our mission and the work we accomplish together, and the team of amazing talented individuals each with a passion for our mission. We get so focused on the details of what we are tasked to complete and we forget WHY we are doing what we do... it's about these precious families, it's about fighting poverty housing and it's about building hope, lives and communities. We have a huge task ahead of us but we have a wonderful trail of victories to be celebrated... celebrating far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

Related Posts:
2011 Lenten Building on Faith Begins in Los Angeles
Special Blog from Patty Lee, our Faith Relations Manager
Inside HFH Internship Program: My First 'Good News Caravan' 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Volunteers Understand that Sharing is Caring

We value our volunteers for so many reasons, without you, we could not complete our mission.  The highest compliment for us is when volunteers share their stories with others.  Advocacy is just as important as hands on support. 

I would like to share this letter from a volunteer named Karen.  Karen very kindly submitted our affiliate for consideration for a grant through her employer and I am sure you'll be just as moved by her heart felt words.

Habitat for Humanity is a charity like none other I've supported.  In addition to providing me with an opportunity to serve, they provided an opportunity for a family (mom and two children) who would otherwise never qualify for anything other than sub-standard housing to own a home.  The families selected to receive a home not only participate in the building of the home, they also learn the home ownership process, take part in community enrichment activities, and see first-hand the impact of a community rallying behind one of its own to achieve a goal - building a home from the ground up.  Last year I was lucky enough to participate on the building of a home for the Coreas family in Long Beach.  The dedication occurred in December and the friendship that developed between Betty Coreas and I continues.  On my first day on the job site I was teamed with Betty.  She and I worked side by side building her garage that day.  On subsequent volunteer days I also participated in painting her master bedroom and adding the finishing touches to her living room and stairwell.  What a gift to participate in something so rewarding and to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.  With California state budget cuts waging war across all walks of non-profit life, the bottom line impact is greatest, unfortunately, on those with the greatest need.  Please help Habitat continue working to put people in affordable, energy efficient, safe housing.

I'll begin helping work on another home next month.

With utmost sincerity,
Karen R.

Thank YOU, Karen. I'll see you next month!

Related Posts:

Jaime Villarino Attends Cornerstone Training to Become the Best Volunteer She Can Be!

Guest Blog by Cornerstone Graduate: Jaime Villarino

Not knowing what to expect my first day of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A. (HFH GLA) I entered the Lynwood jobsite. I approached the site with a goal of doing what I could to help those in need. I was vaguely familiar with what Habitat for Humanity did for the community and what they stood for. They build homes, homes for low-income individuals and families, right? What I learned that first build day is that Habitat for Humanity is a community built on strength of character and compassion. They go beyond the scope of simply providing a home, they build a dream. Habitat for Humanity is an organization dependent upon bringing together volunteers with a wide range of talents to create a cohesive team and achieve a common goal. To provide families a hand up, not a hand out.

I was continually amazed throughout the day looking at all of the generous volunteers around me working to build new homes  for hardworking individuals and families. At lunchtime we were fortunate enough to hear the soon to be homeowner speak. I was not expecting tears to well up in my eyes, but they did. These partner individuals and families are provided with the opportunity of a lifetime, to live the American dream and become pillars of their new communities. And they know it, they are so thankful to be afforded such an opportunity. For those with children, it is fulfilling to be able to watch them grow up in a warm, strong house that they can study in, feel safe in and then give back to the community.

My first Habitat experience was inspirational. I left eager to learn more. The following week I went to the website and saw that a "Cornerstone Training" was being offered. What a great opportunity to develop my construction skills and become the best volunteer I could be! I signed up on the spot and looked forward to the first day.

The Cornerstone teachers are amazing! I would describe them in a single word, patient. Never having used a 'framing' hammer before (aren't all hammers the same?), the teachers patiently watched as I diligently turned my 2x4 into a piece of swiss cheese. Before the night was over they had taught me how to properly swing the hammer and sink a nail. When I showed up on Saturday to frame and raise the house walls I was ready to go!

Each class discussed a new, exciting topic and the Saturday builds reinforced the knowledge with hands-on experience. I am grateful to Habitat and thank them for their compassionate spirit. I look forward to meeting new volunteers and encouraging them to attend Cornerstone!

Related Posts:
Hal Hart Celebrates 10 Years of Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A.
Cornerstone Graduates Put New Skills to Use
Cornerstone Training Builds Confidence

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Treasured Memories of Community Supporters, Sadly Lost in a Long Beach Plane Crash

Habitat for Humanity joins with the Long Beach community in mourning the loss of five people who lost their lives when the small plane they were flying in made an emergency crash landing at the Long Beach airport yesterday. Several of those aboard were fellow builders and real estate developers by trade and many of us on staff had the pleasure of doing community service alongside them over the years. 

Our hearts and prayers are with the families affected by this tragedy, and we pray for the speedy recovery of Mike Jensen. We have a treasured memory of Mark Bixby and Mike Jensen coordinating a Habitat for Humanity build with us in 2008. Mark’s blog about the event can be read here

On this day heaven has gained 5 new angels and we as a community will continue to benefit from their generosity and vision for years to come. 

Councilman Gary DeLong posted a beautiful blog today that will help you know more about their legacy.
Read More Posts:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

HFH GLA Construction Staff Gives Back

Posted by Jo-An Turman, Senior Director of Communications & Marketing

Helping others have a decent, safe place to live is our mission at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (HFH GLA). On Tuesday, January 25th a handful of our construction staff took the opportunity to volunteer for another worthy cause in Westchester, CA.

Gloria Dresser, a long-time resident of Westchester is battling cancer and has Cerebral Palsy. Due to her physical limitaions, Ms. Dresser's home was in need of major repairs especially her aging roof which had a two foot hole in it. When the Rotary Club of Westchester heard about the Dresser home they decided to assist as they have done in the past for so many other individuals and families. The club raised over $100,000 in funds and in-kind donations in order to make the necessary repairs!

While the repairs were being made to the home, the Rotary Club sent Ms. Dresser and her daughter on a week-long vacation so that they would have a big surprise upon their return home. A call for volunteers went out in local newspapers and that was were the HFH GLA staff felt compelled to act and join Ms. Dresser's neighbors, local business owners, contractors, friends and local volunteers with the home make-over.

The HFH GLA construction team built a new patio deck onto the back of the home. The team included: Billy Gifford, Norman Hilario, Kathy Sasaki, Noah Swann and Lisa Tanaka. When Ms. Dresser returned home and saw that her home had been completely made-over, she was in absolute shock. Ms. Dresser said, "It is really beautiful and overwhelming. Thank you so much to everyone that helped to make this possible."

Related Posts: 
2011 Lenten Building on Faith Begins in Los Angeles
Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Summerscales
Building Hopes, Dreams & Friendship with Habitat for Humanity 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Lenten Building on Faith Begins in Los Angeles

Posted by Chris Untiet,  AmeriCorps Faith and Community Relations Coordinator:

Churches of all sizes and denominations gathered on our latest renovation site in South Gate on Ash Wednesday for the kickoff of our 1st Lent Build: 40 Days of Building on Faith.  Our great President and CEO Erin Rank and Rev. Kathey Wilborn, the Long Beach District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church, each gave heartfelt speeches about living out faith through service to others and Habitat during Lent.  

Habitat partner family Eric and Shamika Draghan summed up the spirit of what the Lent build is all about, “You aren't just building a home, you are building a dream."  

We closed by asking the Los Angeles faith community for prayers, volunteers, and financial support throughout Lent.  Following the program, Faith United Methodist Church of Torrance got busy demolishing what will, by Good Friday, become another beautiful Habitat home. What a great start to a Lenten season of building!  

Feel free to contact me at anytime to find out how your church can get involved.    
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Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Power Women Talk About Why They Believe in Habitat

Two of our very own Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles volunteers and Power Women, E! News correspondent Kristina Guerreo and NCIS actress Pauley Perette, recently shared their stories in Habitat for Humanity’s International Newsletter, Why I believe in Habitat.  Both have been dedicated, longtime volunteers who have also joined us for our annual “Power Women, Power Tools” event. “Power Women, Power Tools” brings prominent women together every year for a build and to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing in our local communities. We are very fortunate to have Kristina and Pauley as part of the Habitat for Humanity family. Their passion and dedication for our mission is truly inspiring!

Click here to read their amazing stories and watch videos below!

Related Posts:
One Power Woman Describes How Sore Muscles Filed her Heart
Volunteers give it Their All at Paid Dues Habitat Building
Have You Registered for our 2nd Annual " The House that General Hospital Fans Built" event?!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

U.S. House Passes Bill to Eliminate Service in America

HFH GLA AmeriCorps members 2010-2011
On February 19th, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, as well as its programs.

The House's vote is just one step in the legislative process. The next step is to provide the Senate and the President opportunities to shape and influence the final spending package. This is good news that means we can still save service in America! There are three ways to help:

1.) Call your representative and tell them that you oppose H.R.1 and explain what services will be lost in your community.
2.) Call your senators and ask them to pass a Continuing Resolution that restores funding for the corporation for National and Community Service.
3.) Sign a petition here.

Click here to find instructions and talking points for calling the House and Senate.

Programs that could potentially be eliminated include AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Teach for America. All of these programs are important because of the educational, economic and housing support they bring to individuals and families in need. Not only do these programs bring necessary services to some of America's hardest hit communities, they also help Americans struggling to find work. Participants receive stipends and the chance to learn new skills in return for their service. Eliminating these programs will definitely have an effect on unemployment rates. Unemployment numbers, especially for young people and older Americans, remain very high.

There will also be a profound impact on Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (HFH GLA) and the people we serve. AmeriCorps members voluntarily serve in critical roles within our affiliate, as well as other affiliates nationwide and possibly globally as well. Their service allows us to serve more families and individuals, which in turn helps to strengthen the economic foundation of our country.

To cease funding of this program, could seriously hinder our efforts to continue to provide housing to families and individuals who typically are unable to compete in an already saturated and damaged real estate market.

Please join us to save service in America!

Related Posts:
Congratulations to JM Eagle, New Member of the Clinton Global Initiative 
Aloha AmeriCorps Members 
Interview with Brennan Carter, High School Volunteer