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!
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  1. What an awesome post. Fun, funny and informative. We were glad to have had the opportunity to work with you and to be a part of this story. Jeff and Laura

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. It was a pleasure to work with and learn from you! The Habitat for Humanity and CAV community is definitely blessed to have you two construction gurus on the Disaster Response team! Look forward to when our travel and Habitat paths cross again!