August 7, 2014
Volunteers were asked to describe the work of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis. These are the words they used; the bigger the word the more often volunteers used that word. What other words would you use when talking about HFHSL?
July 31, 2014
Join Kimberly McKinney, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFHSL), as she guest bartends at Wild Flower Restaurant & Catering on September 10, 2014 from 6-9pm. Wild Flower, located at 4590 Laclede in the Central West End, will donate a portion of the bar proceeds (including bar and food ordered at the bar) to HFHSL. Plus Kimberly will serve up your favorite cocktails!
Wild Flower serves also serves up a delicious dinner menu and uses local ingredients whenever they are available.
July 28, 2014
Join us for some of the most scrumptious waffles you have ever tasted! On September 18, MELT is donating 15% of its sales from 5-11pm to Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis. If you haven't tasted their savory or sweet waffles, you are missing out! Ingredients are baked into the waffles or layered on top and they are DELICIOUS. Check out their Facebook page for photos of their dishes and directions to their location.
July 25, 2014
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!”
July 16, 2014
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, went to St. Louis University High School and graduated in May 2013. During school, he worked a part-time job, did homework for two hours every night, and studied Russian. He was on the track team and taught a break dance class. Now, he just finished his first year at Missouri Science and Technology at Rolla, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Tesha remembers that when they first bought their home, Maurice wanted to mow the lawn every day to make sure it was the best looking house in the street!
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. She hopes to become a forensic scientist one day. Her favorite subject is literature and she is looking forward to taking Algebra 2 when classes resume for her junior year.
Anderson was in the Robotics Club and played lacrosse and basketball in middle school. He also won second place in the spelling bee! Anderson recently graduated from Loyola Academy and will be attending Vianney in the fall; they already love the school. He hopes to attend Harvard or Princeton some day.
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. Her favorite subject is math and wants to become an attorney when she grows up.
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.
Written by Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA
Post and Photo by Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA
July 7, 2014
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.
June 30, 2014
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
HFHSL ReStore Des Peres
HFHSL ReStore Forest Park
Spanish Lake Build Site
Look for the blue bins!
June 26, 2014
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
June 19, 2014
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.
“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.
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.
June 11, 2014
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.
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!
Almost finished! The office building is in the foreground and the factory is in the background.
Post by Jackie Randazzo, AmeriCorps VISTA at HFHSL