Fulfilling the American Dream
Last Tuesday night, 30-some people gathered in the living room of a new home on A Street in Brunswick. Fresh paint in attractive colors adorned the walls, new carpeting and vinyl covered the floors, and a buzz of excitement ran through the house.
Jodi Bacorn, her son Dakota, and her little daughter Cheyenne were proudly showing off their home on the occasion of its dedication. Not just any home, though. This house is the latest Habitat for Humanity home in Frederick County.
Habitat is well known, principally due to the volunteer efforts of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Roselyn. We've all seen video of the Carters adorned in chambray work shirts and tool belts, hammering away on what will become someone else's home.
Habitat is not some high-profile volunteer media opportunity. Habitat is one of the most powerful and positive forces for hope and opportunity in the country. Habitat works through a local office, staffed by a small, focused corps of caring employees. These employees take their direction from a local board of directors, involving a number of people in a variety of trades and specialties. Dee Danmeyer, formerly with the Chamber of Commerce, is a graceful and dignified presence gently leading Habitat's local efforts.
Beyond the staff and board, local churches and organizations sponsor home-building projects. This extended group of volunteers is the lifeblood of Habitat, as these people have to join forces to actually construct homes.
Prospective homeowners go through an extensive evaluation process to make sure that they can afford to maintain the home once they move in. These evaluations are done using criteria similar to commercial lending underwriting, ensuring the success of the future homeowners.
While the business types do their thing, the volunteers who know something about building houses get down to work. Roofers, plumbers, electricians, painters, and other tradesmen work alongside neighbors and friends, all united by the desire to see the chosen family move into their home.
The most important volunteer workers are the family members who will eventually take possession of the keys. The owners are required to spend a specific amount of their own time building their house.
The logic is that someone who has to actually put up walls will be much more careful about what happens within those walls. This is not getting something for nothing, but about realizing a dream by investing time, energy, and sweat in its fulfillment.
This particular project was the best example of Habitat working to fulfill dreams and build stronger communities. Two local churches, the United Methodist congregation and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, collaborated through member volunteers and fundraising to help Jodi build her home.
In these days of religious conflict and tension, it is refreshing and restorative to see these very different groups bridge the theological divide in order to help this wonderful family own their own home.
The unique collaborations didn't end with church groups, either. The Mayor of Brunswick, Carroll Jones, the city council, and city staff worked with the people from Habitat to develop an infrastructure solution that was a little out of the ordinary.
Frederick area developer Marvin Ausherman demonstrated his usual compassion and sense of community through his guidance and advice. Board Chair Billy Shreve led the project with passion, technical know-how, and unwavering commitment to get Jodi and the kids in the house as soon as possible.
United Methodist Church members donated hundreds of hours, Latter Day Saint ward members working at their side, and contractors cut their costs and pushed their schedules to help get things done.
Throughout all of this, Larry Snody, project coordinator for the United Methodist Churches, spent every waking hour trying to make a 2- year effort something less than that. Larry amazed me with his dedication to a family that he had not known previously. That kind of selfless sacrifice exemplifies the best teachings of Larry's faith, and he has distinguished himself in this effort.
Finally, I was trying to take pictures for Jodi during the dedication ceremony. I held her digital camera up, trying to perfectly frame her in the viewfinder. In one hand, she clutched a ceremonial key and a Bible, both gifts from Habitat. In the other hand, she held a certificate from the county commissioners and a small piece of tissue she was using to wipe away her tears of joy and thanksgiving.
I still don't know how those pictures turned out, because I was blinking through my own tears trying to focus on the scene in that beautiful living room.
The best aspects of my community were on full display, celebrating the fulfillment of the American dream for a sweet spirit and her two lovely children. God was in Brunswick that night, and I suspect His loving hand will continue to guide the lives of the Bacorn's in their new home in Brunswick!