A Story of Hope

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By Shekesha Robinson, Habitat Home-Buyer

Early 2017, I received a call from Megan Briggs, Director of Family Services for Habitat for Humanity that I was selected to be a partner family.  I was at work when I received the phone call. It was totally unexpected. I was so excited that I cried tears of joy. The first person that I wanted to call was my sister, Kenya to share the good news.  Then I realized that I couldn’t call her, my tears of joy turned into tears of sadness. I began to wonder how I was going to complete 200 hours of sweat equity when I was going through one of the most devastating times in my life.  I wanted to call my sister, I couldn’t call her as she was in a rehab recovering from a severe brain injury.

Kenya and I share everything. She is my confidant, my cheerleader, and best friend. We worked at the same job, lived across the street from each other for many years, and raised our kids together. We even share a birthday three years apart. She was diagnosed with cancer one year before I was accepted as a partner family. She was still was my biggest cheerleader despite what she was going through with her health.  She told me that I would get accepted as a partner family although I had my doubts. She would have been so excited to see this dream come into reality.

Kenya started her chemotherapy treatments without any issues.  We were all anticipating her beating cancer. One day she had a severe allergic reaction to one of her medications and went into cardiac arrest. The doctors told us to take her off of life support as she had suffered severe brain damage from lack of oxygen to her brain. She was in a coma, they told us she would never wake up, and if she did wake up, she would never walk, talk, or live a normal life. My family and I knew she was a fighter and we believed she would fully recover. We ignored their advice and kept her on life support.

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If You Had the Opportunity to Help a Neighbor, Would You?

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director of Montgomery and Delaware Counties

If you had an opportunity to help a neighbor, would you?

This is the question Habitat Montco grappled with, beginning more than a year and a half ago regarding one of our nearby Habitat affiliates. We’d never been stronger. We had been building new homes, repairing more homes than ever before, launching financial empowerment classes and working to strengthen neighborhoods. After years of planning, our organization was providing the significant impact we’d been working so hard to achieve.  

We had been advising Habitat for Humanity of Delaware County about best practices when an idea began to form: what if we joined forces and became one even stronger entity to better fulfill Habitat’s mission together? It was not an idea to be taken lightly.

Our Board spent the last 15 months taking a thoughtful and metered approach to answering the question. They weighed many issues. What would the benefits be to each county? What efficiencies might we achieve? How might this expand our opportunities for visibility, for fundraising, for volunteers, for partnerships? Most important, how could this increase our impact for so many more families and communities in need?  And always, they asked if we had the capacity, the resources and the leadership to expand and continue and grow our important work in Montgomery County.

We asked stakeholders what they thought of this idea as well, listening to many views and questions about our operations, and whether we should consolidate. If so, how might we go about it?

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Special Thank You To Our AmeriCorps National Member

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

At Habitat Montco this year, we hosted our AmeriCorps National Service Construction Crew Leader, Paul Rihn! Throughout his service term, Paul has been a part of multiple home dedications, and was able to give the new homeowners their keys, which was a great experience for all to witness!  Paul has worked on many homes throughout the county, and has built relationships with these partner families like no other!  He has been a part of countless Critical Home Repair projects, worked on new construction builds at our Bridgeport site, and has worked on our biggest rehabbed home to date in Pottstown! We could not be more thankful for all of the hard work and effort that Paul has put into our organization over the past year!

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ReStore's Upcoming DIY Workshop- Join Us!

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By Elizabeth Hefner, Director of Development and Communications

A few weeks ago, I saw a video where someone knitted a blanket on their arm.  This seemed like a brilliant way to create a homemade gift that was not time intensive, looked fantastic, and was usable.  Unfortunately, I am not the most gifted DIYer. Still, I gathered the supplies, followed the video’s instructions. Before I knew it, sure enough I had tied my-self into literal knots.  After getting untangled, I decided to search the internet for another DIY that would not get me so "tied up" in the details.

Online, there were too many adorable ideas for something beautiful, simple, and practical. I knew that I could complete a project if I just had the right set of supplies and instructions but as a DIY novice, I can be pretty timid at tackling new projects. That's when it hit me…instructions are the absolute key to completing a successful project. I need step-by-step instructions to guide me, and I have found my perfect solution.

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Summer Reading

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director 

In the summertime, anytime I have a few spare moments, you can find me lounging in my plastic Adirondack chair in the shade of my back porch with a good book in hand. Usually it’s something with a hero and a villain and probably set in some historical location like Ireland or Scotland. This summer, however, I am reading something that has been a bit different.

I’ve been reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. You may have remembered hearing something about Evicted back in the spring when Mr. Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, or when he was the guest speaker at our neighboring Philadelphia Habitat’s annual fundraiser. I had originally heard about the book after he won these awards and was able to listen to an interview with Mr. Desmond about his experiences in Milwaukee. During the interview, he stated what those of us on the front line have known for years: “This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today, and acknowledging the breadth and depth of the problem changes the way we look at poverty.”

For me, the book is not an easy read because the author paints a vivid picture of what it is like to be poor and live in a marginalized neighborhood in several areas throughout Milwaukee. As I fly through the pages, I can see the connections and similarities to the communities here in the northeast. Things like blight, a high number of renters in the community, underfunded school systems, heavy handed and myopic agencies that “follow procedure” at the cost of losing their humanity, and a lack of well-paying jobs could describe so many communities throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.

The second chapter talks about a tenant who is wheelchair bound and disabled living with two teenage sons. He’s about to lose his housing because he is $290 dollars behind on the rent. The reason he’s behind is that he received an extra disability check and, not knowing it was a mistake, he bought his children shoes, food and some clothes. The County required him to repay the money and now he is unable to pay the rent.  But, it is more complicated that just that…his landlord provides housing to a large section of his neighborhood and struggles to collect rent, sharing that her tenants are often in trouble with the law or each other. In this story, Desmond paints a picture where no one is truly good or evil. The tenant became wheelchair-bound because he was high on crack and passed out in an abandoned house, losing both feet to hypothermia. Having learned from that experience, he now acts as a bit of a mentor to the neighborhood boys, playing cards and dispensing advice. The landlord is one of two African American landlords in that area of the city and has a toughness born out of exposure to so many people prompted by desperation. It would be easy to call the landlord heartless or greedy, but the author helps the reader understand that the issues around her decisions are much more complex than we would think.

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2017 Build-A-Thon

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

AmeriCorps is a program that is very important to Habitat affiliates all across the country.  Throughout the United States, there are hundreds of AmeriCorps members giving a year of their lives to service with all different affiliates, and in different capacities.  I was lucky enough to meet about 115 members at the AmeriCorps annual Build-A-Thon event a few weeks back!  Each year AmeriCorps and Habitat team up with affiliates to do a week long Blitz Build in one of their communities.

This year, there are 3 full weeks of service happening, two in Des Moines, Iowa, and one in Colorado!  I attended the first week of the Des Moines build as a member of the event staff, and it was such an incredible experience!  Members during this week came from affiliates all over the map, including, Hawaii, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and more, and it was great to see them interacting with one another and connecting with their peers!

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What Does "Resident-Driven" Really Mean?

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By Megan Briggs, Director of Family Services

Lately, in the Family Services department, we’ve been increasing our efforts in community organizing in both our Pottstown and Norristown neighborhoods. This work is as difficult, as it is rewarding; especially during a time when voter turnout rates are 15% for elections, and when our nation’s citizens are so politically divided, engagement can feel pointless. However, here at Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, we persist, and we persist with our values consistent in ensuring that our community organizing efforts are resident-driven, but what does that really mean?

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The "Impact of Stable Housing"

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By Markolline Forkpa, Development and Marketing Associate

When I was in the second grade, my parents made a decision that drastically changed the lives of my older brother, baby brother, and myself. They purchased a home.

Before that life changing moment, we lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. Though crime was not a major issue, there were many other factors that made our living environment less than ideal. For one, my brothers and I shared a small bedroom where we slept on twin size bunk beds. While this arrangement was not so bad when we were little, it really took its toll as we grew older. Being the only girl, I always longed for the space to claim my individuality. Likewise, having no real space where my brothers could play created the perfect condition for trouble. Together with concerns that my parents had about our schooling and the growing costs of rent, these issues really fueled their determination to purchase a larger space that they could finally call home.

As Liberian immigrants who migrated to the United States at the height of a civil war in their home country, my parents were serious about providing my siblings and I with the opportunities we would need to be successful.  When it came time to find the right community, my mom was painstakingly deliberate in how she made her decision. She took into account the school districts, the locations of nearest grocery stores, local libraries, and a multitude of other community resources that she believed would allow us to live the best lives we could. After several months of intense searching, she finally decided on a home in Bensalem. I was eight years old when we made the big move.

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