Meet LaKisha!

July 25, 2014
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LaKisha C. is a Catering Supervisor at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and a mother of a seven (7) year old daughter. Although her daughter is currently in elementary school, she already has her focus on attending college. LaKisha is excited to be in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis!

She is grateful for having a place for her and her daughter to live, but she has always wanted more and the partnership with Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis, LaKisha believes, she will accomplish just that. The thought of having a home in a neighborhood with other residents who appreciate and take pride in their neighborhood is what drives LaKisha to make the best of this opportunity.

LaKisha describes how she feels about this opportunity in three words “I’m very happy!”

Where Are They Now?

July 16, 2014
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The house is painted beautifully white, the lawn perfectly manicured. A gold and black “Class of 2018” Vianney sign glistens in the colorful flower bed. I saunter up the stairs of Tesha Stevenson’s home. Tesha, mother of four, purchased her Habitat home in 2007 in the Mark Twain neighborhood. Her bright smile and warm demeanor are infectious. She introduces herself and hugs me, welcoming me into her home like a long lost friend.

Tesha boasts about her children, and rightly so. Maurice, the oldest, finished his first year at Missouri Science and Technology at Rolla, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Aurelia is a sophomore at Incarnate Word Academy and will spend her summer attending camps at Saint Louis University (SLU) and Washington University, the latter of which she hopes to attend for college. Anderson recently graduated from Loyola Academy and will be attending Vianney in the fall. Lastly, Andrea is perhaps the busiest of the four. She attends Marian Middle School, and all girls’ Catholic school in South City. She attended a University of Missouri Saint Louis (UMSL)’s program for women engineers (she wants to attend Rolla like Maurice) and was recently the lead programmer for her team at a robotics competition.

Tesha, Maurice, Aurelia, Anderson and Andrea are a picture perfect family. Not only were they graceful enough to pose for me on their front steps, but their accomplishments are truly inspiring.

Post and Photo by Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA

Meet Homebuyer Stephanie!

July 7, 2014
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Stephanie C., the mother of two daughters (ages 18 and 13), describes her oldest daughter as quiet, humble, shy, but opinionated. She is currently attending North County Technical High School where she is preparing to further her education and pursue a career as a culinary chef. The youngest daughter is described as flamboyant and having an “old spirit”, one that has existed before. As a family, they enjoy going to the movies together and taking vacations together.

Stephanie describes herself as being a considerate, kind, and loving individual. Stephanie realizes the sacrifices and challenges that are required to reach home ownership, and she is sure she will be successful in this journey with the staff and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis accompanying her through the process.

It's That Time of Year - Back to School!

June 30, 2014
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Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

Support our kids’ education so that they can make a difference in this world! The Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis Homeowner Ambassador Committee is hosting a Back to School Drive. Together, we can support our children’s education by providing much needed school supplies.

The drive runs from June 21st through August 6th. School supplies for grades Pre-K through High School are welcome. We've provided a list of school supplies for every grade to make your shopping easier!

Items can be dropped off at one of four locations:

Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFHSL) Administration Office
3763 Forest Park Ave, Saint Louis, MO, 63108

HFHSL ReStore Des Peres
2117 Sams Drive, Des Peres, MO 63131

HFHSL ReStore Forest Park
3763 Forest Park Ave, Saint Louis, MO, 63108

Spanish Lake Build Site
12030 Criterion, Spanish Lake, MO 63138

Look for the blue bins!

Kayaking for a Purpose

June 26, 2014
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Mark Twain once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” These lines uttered by the famous author are ones emulated by four young men on a 2,300 mile journey along the Mississippi River. A journey that brought them to our own backyard at Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFHSL) this past week.

Evan Weisenberger, Conor Emser, Tony Yandek and Beau Hartman, who hail from Athens and Akron Ohio, created Paddle Home. Inspired by their previous volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and other affordable housing initiatives, Evan, Conor, Tony and Beau will kayak the entire Mississippi River and volunteer with ten Habitat for Humanity affiliates along the way to raise money and awareness on the affordable housing issue.

At the time of this interview, the guys have been out on the river for a little over a month. They paddle approximately twelve hours a day, frequent gas stations for food, and camp or sleep on picnic tables for much needed rest. They have had to dodge water traffic like barges and speedboats and even survive tornadoes. Conor laughs about the night now, but it was a close call. “We were sleeping under a park pavilion when all of a sudden we were woken up in the middle of the night by our phone alarms and the city siren. We scrambled to a public bathroom only to find it was locked! All four of us hunkered down right outside the door. It was crazy.”

Maybe even crueler than a tornado that Evan, Conor, Tony and Beau have had to endure is the monotony of paddling. When I asked if the trip is physically demanding (most were inexperienced kayakers or had never kayaked at all), they said it was not physically but mentally straining.

But what keeps them going, and what ultimately inspired them to take such a journey, are the people. Not just the warm and generous strangers they encounter along the way but the joyful, determined, Habitat homeowners they partner with to build decent, affordable homes. It is safe to say they will not be disappointed they threw off the bowlines and sailed away from safe harbor for this journey, and neither are we.

To follow Evan, Conor, Tony and Beau on their journey, visit their blog.

By Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA

HFHSL AmeriCorps Immerse in Construction

June 19, 2014
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On May 19 through 24, our two AmeriCorps VISTA members, Ebony Sherod and Jackie Randazzo, traveled to St. Croix, Wisconsin to participate in the AmeriCorps Build-a-thon. The AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon brings together Habitat AmeriCorps members, AmeriCorps alums, community volunteers, families, and partners for week-long blitz builds. Build-a-Thon events are held in partnership with local communities and Habitat affiliates and help to meet the host community’s needs for affordable housing while celebrating AmeriCorps members’ service and impact. Jackie and Ebony partnered with Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate located approximately 90 minutes north of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota and serves four rural counties. They each describe the experience in their own words.

Jackie

“This is going to be my room!” shouts three-year-old Derek. He grabs my hand and pulls me to the back of his future home. For now, it is just framed interior walls and a sheathed roof. But by the end of the summer, Derek’s room will have hardwood floors and painted walls. “This is where my bed will go!” He smiles widely.

Derek is the son of Rachel, the future homeowner of the house I had the privilege of building for five days in Centuria, Wisconsin. She is married to Jim, and has two more sons, Devin (7) and Donavin (5). All will move in once the yard is landscaped and the last cabinet is installed.

Before Derek had grabbed my hand that Friday evening, I had worked alongside his mom through bitterly cold, raining mornings and hot, sunny afternoons to frame exterior and interior walls and sheath the roof of their new home. It was exhausting, yet exhilarating. I amazed myself when I utilized several new power tools and scaled the top of the house, even though I am scared of heights.

I was not only amazed by my newfound abilities, but by Rachel’s spirit. She used her limited vacation days and took a week off work to not relax, but rather sweat alongside my fellow AmeriCorps members and me. And not once did she complain. She was the first to the build site and last to leave.

I was reminded why I love volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It is homebuyers like Rachel, who are determined to provide a future for their children. Someone who wants to succeed, but may just need a little help getting there. And for children like Derek, who have never had a room to call their own.

Ebony

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International, had it right when he said, ““I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need.”

It’s not easy going out of your comfort zone and doing something you don’t know much about. It was hard preparing for a week-long event of building houses in another state, not knowing what to expect, but I knew it was my responsibility to go. Once we met the families that were being helped, I knew not only was it my responsibility to help but that I was truly meant to be in St. Croix, Wisconsin for the 2014 Build-a-thon.

This one week was filled with hammers and nails, rain and shine, laughter and tears but most importantly, it was filled with people all across the country coming together for one single purpose: to make sure that everyone had a decent place to live. I had the honor of being able to work alongside homebuyer Katie. Katie will be soon be able to have her dream and own her own home for her and her three children.

The Build-a-thon will be something I will never forget. It was so rewarding to see all the hard work and dedication that goes into building a home and being able to get to know the person in which you are helping. To understand their story and how you are helping change their lives is what truly matters. That week in St. Croix, I felt blessed not only to have this special opportunity, but to be able to meet and work with so many great and giving people.

HFHSL staff member takes construction skills to Africa!

June 11, 2014
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Construction Site at the Beginning

Construction begins!

Not many people can say they ended up in the African tabloids. But Mark Histand, a Construction Crew Site Assistant at Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFHSL), can.

We are sitting in a gelato place off South Grand in St. Louis as he recounts one of his many stories from Malawi, Africa. He is laughing as he explains, “My friend and I were at a local concert of a popular reggae band. There were maybe 5,000 people there? All of a sudden, he and I are whisked up on stage, where we have a dance-off with the band. Little did I know, an African tabloid was there and captured the whole thing! Once it appeared in the paper, I would get recognized, even more so, in the streets. People were giving me thumbs up. It was surreal.”

How and why Mark was in Malawi is perhaps the best story of all. Mark, 28, who hails from Corvallis, Oregon, began his partnership with HFHSL as a Mennonite volunteer. He volunteered for two years and was immediately hired afterward as a HFHSL Site Assistant. He worked in this capacity for a year and a half when he received a unique call around Christmas time.

It was from his brother, asking if he wanted to travel to Malawi to work with Project Peanut Butter (PPB). Mark had learned of PPB through his Mennonite community, as the founder, Dr. Mark Manary, a pediatrician and professor of Washington University, is a member of his church. “When do they need me?” Mark had asked his brother. “As soon as possible,” he replied. After some hesitation, Mark said yes, and flew halfway around the globe just a few days later.

Construction Crew

The crew - Mark is standing, second from left

Project Peanut Butter is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the treatment of severe malnutrition by using locally produced, ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF). Over the years, Dr. Manary and a colleague created a formula that provides specific, high quality nutrition in an energy-dense, peanut butter paste. The benefit of RUTF is that it can take place at home instead of a clinic and recovery rates have skyrocketed from 25-40 percent to 95 percent. It has become so successful that the United Nations, World Health Organization and World Food Programme recognized RUTF with home-based therapy as the standard of care for severely malnourished children worldwide.

Mark’s job with Project Peanut Butter was to build a new factory in Lunzu, Malawi for RUTF production. While he had experience in construction due to his work with HFHSL, he had never managed a project on his own, let alone one of this scale. It took 15 months, but Mark, along with his friend Alex, successfully designed the building, procured the materials and supervised the construction of the factory, a separate office building and surrounding fence. He speaks fondly of the local construction staff he worked with, especially of Symon Magombo, someone who he “respects more than anyone else.”

Mark’s favorite day on site was ironically the last, at the dedication of the factory. All the office and construction staff were present as well as volunteers and Dr. Manary. It was a culmination of buildings built and relationships formed. It was difficult for Mark to leave the work and people behind, but HFHSL is grateful to have him back. Look for Mark on the build site or perhaps your local tabloid!

Site almost finished!

Almost finished! The office building is in the foreground and the factory is in the background.


Post by Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA at HFHSL

The Cup in Chesterfield

May 27, 2014
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Calling all friends of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis! For every purchase you make at The Cup - Chesterfield on Monday, June 9th, The Cup will donate 10% of the sales back to our cause! So stop by their Chesterfield location to get a sweet treat or drink, and please feel free to tell your friends. See you there!

The Cup in Chesterfield: 1590 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, MO
Hours: 11:30am - 6:30pm

Here is a list of the cupcakes they will have on June 9!

CLASSIC
CONFETTI
CUPPA COFFEE CAKE
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE
GOLD RUSH
PEANUT BUTTER CUP
RED VELVET
TUXEDO
FEATURED FLAVOR
LEMON DROP
MOCHA CAPPUCCINO
SEASONAL SPECIAL
CARROT TOP
LIMITED EDITION
RALLY CUP
RED, WHITE & BLUEBERRY
WIPEOUT!
SWEET TREATS
CHOCOLATE CAKEWICH
DOUBLE DECKER
VANILLA CAKEWICH

Thurman Loop Fest

May 16, 2014
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Join Us for Family Fun at Thurman Loop Fest!

On May 30th & 31st, the Shaw neighborhood's biggest, free block party is back to benefit Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFHSL). There will be live music and family activities including storytelling and face painting. Food, drinks, and arts and crafts will be available for purchase. Proceeds from drink sales will benefit HFHSL!

Activities begin at 5pm on Friday and 11am on Saturday and continue into the evening. The event is located at the corner of Shenandoah and Thurman Avenue in the 63110 zip code. See you there!

Tulip Bulb Giveaway

May 2, 2014
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Celebrate this Mother's Day by picking up some free tulip bulbs for your garden! The Staenberg Group, a full service commercial real estate development company, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis ReStore in Des Peres, will host its annual tulip bulb giveaway on May 11. There will be tens of thousands of free bulbs! Each participant will be given one bag of bulbs for free while supplies last. Please do not bring your own containers.

When: Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 8am

Where: Habitat for Humanity ReStore Des Peres, 2117 Sams Drive, Des Peres, MO 63131

The ReStore will be open early for guests to explore great discounts on new and used home improvement goods.

Happy Spring!

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