This year, life has taken each and every one of us to unexpected places. Everyone involved with Habitat has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. From day to day operations to our largest campaigns, we’ve been feeling the effects of COVID-19 too. Yet, through and through, we’ve seen inspiring levels of resiliency from future homeowners, volunteers and supporters across the board.
Take Women Build for example. This campaign gets local women and Habitat supporters involved in fundraising, teambuilding, women’s empowerment, and most importantly, building affordable homes for female led households in need of a decent place to live. Each year, the Women Build initiative is one of the most popular, inspiring and successful building campaigns Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties hosts. However, like so many things throughout 2020, our Women Build Campaign looked slightly different.
“It was a little harder because you didn’t have as much help as you would normally.” – Christina
After COVID-19, our three Women Build future homeowners went from putting in their sweat equity hours alongside supporters and volunteers to completing those hours all on their own. “It was a little harder because you didn’t have as much help as you would normally,” say’s Christina, one of three single moms who partnered with Habitat through Women Build last year. “It’s more exciting – more enjoyable when you have more people there.”
In fact, without being able to bring her mom or anyone else along to help, Christina found herself completing the last of her hours all on her own. It took longer, it was more difficult, and she lacked the sense of community that usually comes with building a home through Habitat.
Then, as schools across the state were shut down over concern for the spread of COVID-19, Christina, like so many others, was furloughed from her job as a bus driver. With no reliable income, she worried that she would lose her future home all together. Plus, living in a small trailer with her brother’s family meant sheltering in place with a total of nine people. Although they were lucky enough to avoid getting sick, Christina and her children were sharing, not just a room, but a bed! Privacy, personal space, even just a moment alone was next to impossible.
Despite the challenges she faced, Christina’s determination was strong, and she was resilient. She may have been on her own, but she still managed to complete her sweat equity hours. Her children were out of school, but she still found time to complete her homeownership education classes. She was furloughed from work, but she still saved the money needed for closing. In the end, although the closing was delayed, Christina managed to achieve her dream of homeownership and provide her children with the space and privacy they deserve.
“As a single mom of three kids, it’s hard to find a place you can afford to rent.” Christina says. “Habitat changed my life by helping me buy a home that’s safe and affordable.”
Christina is not the only person who’s shown patience and strong will this past year. Thankfully, all three of our Women Build moms managed to close on their homes despite similar challenges. Our volunteers and supporters have stayed with us despite not being able to participate in the ways they’d originally anticipated. Fundraising events were cancelled, but funds were still raised. Volunteer opportunities were eliminated, but homes were still built. Familiar ways of supporting Habitat all but disappeared, but Habitat was still supported.
Many volunteers and supporters were just as disappointed as our homeowners when volunteer activity was suspended. “Habitat made such a difference in my hope for the future,” says Habitat volunteer and supporter, Mollie Wise. “There’s so much that we can do – even past our working years – to use our time and talent, our funds, our energy, our connections. It’s made me feel like I have something meaningful to contribute and that was a wonderful gift given to me by Habitat.”
As co-captain of her Women Build team, Dream ReStorers, and a member of the Women Build Committee, Mollie is heavily involved with Habitat and has been for several years. As a former educator who’s spent her life working with children, she understands just how life-changing homeownership can be for a family. When volunteer activity was suspended and Mollie learned that things would not be moving forward as planned, she said, “it only inspired more effort – because it was harder than ever, and we couldn’t be together face–to–face, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to come together in the end before Mother’s Day – we decided we were going to do everything else possible.”
Although the changes we’ve seen over the last year have been difficult, limiting, and disappointing, we’ve found new ways to rally together. The last year has taught us how truly selfless our supporters are and how much they really care. Amazingly, many of our supporters have doubled their efforts and poured even more into this mission, because, as Mollie says, “now a house means so much more. Especially in the last several months – it’s been our lifelines.”