Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Habitat for Humanity Build #10 and 11: Sebring, Florida

In early September 2017, Hurricane Irma struck Florida. She not only caused extensive damage to the coastal communities, but also ransacked towns further inland. Highlands County, including the cities of Lake Placid, Sebring and Avon Park, was particularly hard hit.

As we arrived in late January, there were still many visible signs of the storm's destruction ... blue tarps on roofs, twisted gutters, missing siding, and collapsed  buildings. 

In some cases, homeowners were now just finally able to get the help needed to clear out the moldy and damaged household items and start trying to rebuild. In the midst of all the damage, there was also signs of a community coming together to help their neighbors.

During this Care-a-Vanner build, Doug and I had the privilege of working with the local Habitat for Humanity of Highlands County in Sebring to bring hope in the form of a new homes for families who were affected by Irma.

Habitat is bringing hope to families like the Powells, who have been living in a hotel room with their two young children since the storm destroyed their home last September. In the four weeks that we were there, this family was overjoyed to see ... 

... drywall go up,

... the painting crew get assembled,

... the ceilings get primed,

... and color appear on the walls,

... the tile for the bathrooms get cut (new "skill" for my resume!),

... the flooring get laid,

... the trim get painted,

... and the driveway take shape thanks to our
hard-working "concrete crew"!

Just a few weeks from now, this house ...

will become the Powell's
beloved home.

While we mostly helped with the construction of this new home, we also got in on a little de-construction as well. A storage building that had lost its roof in the storm needed to come down to make room for future Habitat homes.

The building, with the persuasion of many hammers, saws, and a pickup truck,

... was soon just a huge pile of boards,

... much to the delight of the demolition crew!

This Habitat affiliate, with the assistance of a federal grant, is also working closely with low-income homeowners who need critical home repairs done following Hurricane Irma. Many have been living in leaky and moldy structures for months.

Through the disaster response program Jeff and Laura, two "super-skilled" Care-a-Vanners, assist homeowners in repairing shingles, siding, soffit and other storm-related damage. When I was talking with them one evening, I found out that this program was in great need of a "secretary" to go through the applications and contact the homeowners to see if the repairs still needed to be done.

Finally! A construction job that I am good at ... organizing files and talking with homeowners ... I can do that! I was very grateful to have "real life" retired office managers Cheryl and Debbie work with me to get the job done more efficiently. And the greatest job benefit was hearing the gratitude in the voice of the homeowners when they realized that someone cares enough to help them finance and do the needed repairs.

This was our longest stay at one Habitat location in the two years that we have been participating with the Care-a-Vanner program. The days were long and hot ... and started much earlier than Doug would like.

But each day brought blessings in the form of ...

... Kizzy's smiling face greeting us at the office,

and bringing us lunch at the construction site,

... our construction supervisors Mike and Corey's
knowledge, skill, and patience, 

... volunteers still smiling after
hammering out thousands of old nails,

... future homeowners working alongside
and sharing a little humor with us,

... past Care-a-Vanner friends whose travel paths
crossed ours once again,

... beautiful smiles and a contagious enthusiasm
of new Care-a-Vanner buddies,

... and the best blessing of all ...
 23 month old Love, who stole my heart
and gave me a much needed "grandma-moment"!

We are grateful for the blessing of working with so many
skilled and caring Care-a-Vanners
who are helping bring back joy to families in Florida.

Until next time ... Be the Blessing to One Another ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

After a few days of wearing these dust masks,
"Professional drywaller" is not going on my resume!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The "Key" to a Great Weekend

We are members of the Monday through Friday construction crew once again as we work with Habitat for Humanity in Sebring, Florida during the month of February.

I spent the first week learning to measure, cut, and hang drywall with my favorite teacher. We were enjoying the long, warm days and the satisfying work, but were also looking forward to the joy of 
The Weekend
and the chance to meet up with our friend, Dave, who was vacationing near the Florida Keys.

Now, as our readers may know by now, a weekend with Dave is alway fun but not always so relaxing. The "key" to our great weekend is to see and experience all the beauty that the Florida Keys has to offer.

Our three hour drive turned into four as we slowly rolled past Miami to our hotel in Florida City. The sun may have been setting, but Dave still had big plans that included a ranger-lead moonlight walk at Everglades National Park, just 20 minutes from our hotel.

We were definitely not alone as we hiked along the Anhinga Trail boardwalk! It was great fun to learn about their habits and see a few of the 1.5 million alligators that "hang out" with us humans in Florida.

On Saturday morning we set out on one of the most beautiful road trips in the US ... the 100 mile drive down Highway 1 to Key West, Florida. This area took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma last September, but we are grateful to see signs of its recovery.

While there are still occasional piles of debris and patches of "stressed out" trees, businesses are open and eager to welcome back the tourists ... like this ice cream shop that lured us in. 

Our first stop was at mile marker 48.5. On Dave's bucket list and sounding interesting to us was a tour of the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key. 

Our 90 minute tour was filled with interesting facts and fascinating views of the sick and injured sea turtles that were rescued in the area.

Most are brought into the hospital with injuries from predators, fishing lines, boat propellers, and human pollution. The hospital's motto is "rescue, rehab, and release". These green sea turtles are practicing their swimming skills in the huge salt water pool as they heal and prepare for eventual release back into the ocean. They seemed to enjoy some of the special treats that we were able to feed them.

The Key West sunshine and scenery greeted us as we arrived there around noon. 

Hungry for lunch, Doug's "brewery GPS" honed in on The Waterfront Brewery. They served up a beautiful view as well as delicious fresh fish. And Doug claims that their "Crazy Lady" honey blond beer was as wonderful as his own crazy lady. 

After lunch we set out to explore Key West. Since it was a Saturday, and there were three cruise ships docked, we expected the city to be bustling. But it did not seem overly crowded, and it was actually very pleasant to walk down Duval Street to see the sites.

Ice cream ahead!
Saving that location on Dave's "ice cream GPS" for our return trip.

Photo op at the marker for the
Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory intrigued me, so we paid a visit to ...

"excite our senses" and "expand our mind" while surrounded by thousands of graceful flying creatures.

Afterwards, we made our way over to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park which provided a great location for ...

... walking on the beach (and a dip in the ocean for Dave),

... viewing the cruise ships as they continue on their journey,

... and capturing another unique sunset shot.

With darkness arriving, it was time to make our way back along the harbor ...

... following Dave's "ice cream GPS" in order to refuel for our 100 mile trip back to the hotel,

... and plan for our final day in the Keys.

Sunday brought us more sunshine and the promise of an 80 degree day for Dave! Perfect for kayaking and hiking at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.

While gliding through the mangrove-lined paradise,

... I realize life is pretty good (even if Doug insists that I help paddle!)

An afternoon lunch of take-out Chinese food that we brought into Islamorada Brewing

... along with more ice cream help fuel our trip back to our current home in Sebring.

As we said our goodbyes, we realized that the "Key" to a great weekend is found not only in the beauty of the scenery,

... but also in the fun of the friends that surround us. 

Until next time ... "Key" in on the gift of friendship ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

What do you think?

Is Doug planning the next RVenture with his crazy lady?!?!