Monday, March 28, 2011

Saving The World One House At A Time

Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.
~Oprah Winfrey~

I am working on my fourth year of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and while I give a small amount of design input, most of my time is spent on the construction side of things. I love this organization. I love it because it helps people who want to help themselves. It isn't a free home, it's a interest free mortgage. These homeowners have to qualify with good credit, budget classes, a steady job history, and hours spent working on their new home. The overall cost of the home is greatly reduced because of the time and donations given by local people and businesses. I happen to think it's pretty fantastic.

Teaching Construction Class

May 2010 was an exciting month for me. I was looking forward to filming two short stories for HGTV, I was participating in my first ever Habitat Women Build, and I would be celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband. Wow, looking back, God was giving us some pretty awesome blessings before some of the most difficult months of my life....for now I'm just going to pretend 2010 had only the months of Jan - June.
May 8th was our Women Build floor system day. We would be working with women volunteers during the morning shift installing I-joists, and that afternoon we had the fun of laying the subfloor with the Tennessee Lady Vols. As much as I love Habitat, I fell even more in love with Women Build.

 Installing the first I-joist May 8, 2010

This house was for Elfa.
She is an amazing single mother of three. Her youngest, Jake, is handicapped. Elfa, like most of the homeowners in the program, was a single mom that had worked hard for many years trying to do the best she could for her family. When I think of Habitat I think of Elfa. I also think of one of the first homeowners I met in the program. She was so tiny and fragile...and single. I drove her home after class one evening to the projects. I was terrified for her. Could she protect herself where she was living until her home was ready? Each time I would see her she was excited to tell me the exact number of days until her house was ready. She wanted to be home, she wanted to feel safe.

Elfa working on her new home

When Dad was in the hospital, following his terrible accident, he remained in a level one trauma unit. I could only spend time with him in his "room" during certain shifts throughout the day and night. The rest of the time I was stuck waiting in a private lobby that was meant for families of those who had suffered terrible brain injuries. After several days, I was shocked and honestly pretty irritated when in walked an entire group that I was sure had come out of a less-than-desirable neighborhood. They were loud and obnoxious, carrying their bags of Kentucky Fried Chicken, cursing and slapping each other on the backside. Seriously?? I mean the people in this lobby are scared and grieving for their loved ones, they can't even think about food, they are sleeping for a couple of hours in between visitations and bouts of tears. What are you people doing in here acting like this!?

I went back to visit Dad for the precious 25 minutes I was allowed during that shift. I talked to him a lot.
~In case you're wondering, I did tell him about the little table saw accident and he kicked his legs. I'm pretty sure that was his way of yelling at me.~

 During one of those short visits I was startled by alarms going off. Each room was separated only by curtains and you had more of a view than you ever wanted into other rooms. A young man two curtains over had "crashed". I watched as more nurses than I've ever seen in one place came rushing in. Then there were doctors and more doctors and parts of the bed were literally flying through the air as they tore apart everything in their way to try desperately and revive this man. I get chill bumps every time I think about it. He was young and he lived in the projects. He had been shot seven times in the back during a drive-by as he was walking into his apartment. Those people that had irritated me so much were his support system. They grieved for him as I grieved for Dad. When I think of Habitat I think of that young man.

Women Build 2010

What most everyone knew on the morning of May 8th was that I was going to renew my wedding vows the next afternoon. My husband and I eloped when we got married and we were determined to have a small ceremony with a dress and tux and pictures, and we were excited to do it on our 10 yr anniversary. What no one knew on the morning of May 8th was that when about the fourth I-joist was being brought down the line, one of the volunteers dropped it. It landed on my left ring finger. Ouch! I wasn't about to say anything. I knew we had the whole day in front of us. I knew they were counting on me to lead crews. I knew Elfa needed this house.
As the work day came to an end, I finished up and got in the car with my Mom. I took my glove off for the first time that day and I looked at Mom and said "I think I've broken my finger". Instead of galloping off with Prince Charming to renew our vows, I was on my way to the hospital to have my finger x-rayed.
You know, I don't think it's a big deal to break a finger; but, I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me that this was the timing of it all.
Really? The left ring finger? Today? Come on!
The meltdown did come when the doctor and nurses said they were going to have to cut my wedding band off. Yep, that is, apparently, my breaking point. I cried.

May 9, 2010

One of the only photos that shows THE finger. I
had the ring cut in two places. With vaseline and
a lot of maneuvering I got the ring back on long
enough for the ceremony.

Absolutely one of my favorite wedding photos

I was honored to keep going for Elfa. I was inspired by her discovery of herself during that build.
She began to realize just how strong she really is.

Elfa's completed house June 2010

This year during our 2011 multi-house blitz, I will be building a home for LaTravia. She currently lives in Western Heights, some of the worst projects in this area. I am beyond excited to help this single mom get her family into good, safe, affordable housing. It is a priviledge to help her become a home owner.

Why do I build? I build because God has given me the talent and ability to do it. I build because I can be creative. I build because it makes a difference in the lives of people. If this is the strength that I have, my way of saving the world, then I will do it one house at a time.


  1. I love reading these stories. They are all so heart-felt and warming. You are a wonderful person and you do amazing work for these people.

    And your wedding photos are priceless. :)

  2. Thank you for reminding me about why I keep coming back to this...and to following you, our fearless leader.

  3. What a blessing! I love reading these!

  4. Another great job, Lori. I am so proud of you and what you have become.