The 50 angelic faces and voices of the Tennessee Christian Preparatory School Choir made it impossible not to imagine how horrible it would be for children like them not to have a safe and secure home.
They sang the songs of Christmas as the sponsors of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland gathered for a year-end program that served as a reminder of the good the organization does and the good that remains left to be done.
“We’ve done some amazing things in 23 years,” Habitat Executive Director Matt Carlson said Thursday.
Carlson listed what Habitat has done in the past year.
There were 11 new homes built and dedicated, 25 “A Brush with Kindness” projects, the Southgate Hills subdivision was developed, North ReStore was established, more than 18,000 hours of volunteer hours were logged and 15 homes were built overseas through Habitat’s tithing program.
Sue Burger, who serves as a family advocate for the organization, spoke of what her work with Habitat means to her.
“It is very near and dear to my heart because it is the one thing that gives me the chance to give hope to those who need a safe and decent and affordable home,” Burger said. “It’s the easiest nonpaying job I’ve ever had.”
Burger said she had seen “way too many living in deplorable conditions.”
“It’s nothing for me to leave that house with tears in my eyes, a pain in my heart and a knot in my stomach,” she said recalling her years as a youth without having a home.
The facts of what Habitat for Humanity does was brought to life when James and Tabitha Peels, along with their young son, Jayce, in his father’s arms, stepped to the podium and told of how Habitat had changed their lives.
“We are so blessed to be given this opportunity. This new home means so much to us,” Tabitha said. “It’s going to give us a warm, safe place to lay our son down to sleep at night, and let us be able to play outside in our neighborhood.”
She described fulfilling the requirements by volunteering and taking classes on being “responsible homeowners and great neighbors.”
“We want to thank everyone at Habitat for making our dream a reality,” Tabitha said before tearing up with emotion. “Without you guys, this wouldn’t be possible for us.”
Another beneficiary of Habitat’s good work is Pat Ladshaw who also spoke to the organization’s sponsors.
She went through much of the same program as the Peels family did.
“My grandson and I had the opportunity to raise the sidewalls,” Ladshaw said. “That was a wonderful feeling.”
She said every time she looks at the home she becomes “overwhelmed with emotion.”
“This is truly a blessing,” Ladshaw said. “I can now take the house that was built with blood, sweat and tears and, with God’s help, turn it into a home.”
Andy Anderson, a member of the Habitat board of directors and president of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club, spoke of a decade of serving as a sponsor for the organization.
“Sunrise Rotary and Habitat are like peanut butter and jelly,” Anderson said. “You can’t have one without the other.”
He told the story of how Habitat co-founder Bob Sain may have helped to form the Sunrise club.
“I have been told that Bob Sain was a member of Noonday Rotary, but it stopped them from working because they had to go change clothes,” Anderson said. “So they said, ‘We ought to start something of our own.’ That’s how in 1996 Sunrise Rotary became what it is.”
He said he works as a volunteer and sees what it is like for those who do not have a safe home in which to live.
“Sunrise Rotary wants to be a club that is involved in our community,” Anderson said. “That’s what we do with Habitat.”
He said Sunrise has donated between $85,000 and $100,000 over the last decade.
“Sometimes we think we’re doing it for the family. But really the greatest beneficiaries are us. When you see the child and the families, and the tears come to their face and a little baby that tries to speak says more in his little words — it’s worth it,” Anderson said.
Carlson said Habitat is looking to build 10 new homes in Bradley County during 2014.
Habitat is always appreciative of time, materials and funds that are volunteered for their mission of helping those without a decent place to live have a safe, clean and secure residence.
They can be contacted by calling 423-476-6974. Donations are also accepted online by going to www.HabitatofCleveland.org and clicking “GIVE.”