Building on love

By Deanna Varble, communications associate manager at Flower City Habitat for Humanity

Janice and Jerry Rachfal have been a part of Flower City Habitat in Rochester, N.Y., since the 1990s. Janice volunteered in the office, and both she and Jerry came to help build houses here and there as part of their church group. They are Habitat supporters through time, talent and passion. Demands of a growing happy family and life (as they sometimes do) took over, but Habitat was always dear to their hearts.

Future Habitat homeowner Denise McMillen and the Rachfals.

As their friends neared golden anniversary dates, they talked of cruises, trips and parties to celebrate 50 years of strength through the partnership of marriage. “We heard our friends’ plans for their 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, but we wanted to do something that felt a little more us,” Jerry explains. “Family is very important to us, and to think that we could help make a home happen for another family — well, that just seemed like the right way to celebrate.”

So, in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary in June 2012, the Rachfals made a donation to Flower City Habitat for a house. In December 2012, that house was started on Brown Street to be a home for Denise McMillen and her two sons.

“I brought my boys to the house, and they just kept saying ‘Mom! Is this our house? Like, ours?!’” explains Denise. “They are just so excited, and so am I, to move in.” 

At the end of last year, the Rachfals got a chance to meet Denise and see the home, which will be finished this spring. They walked from room to room, Denise beaming and Janice talking quietly and intimately with this woman she’d just met. There’s something about the bond of motherhood that can bring women together; those whose lives have been very different seem not so different at all. They stood looking out into the backyard and talked about how perfect it will be for Denise’s boys to play in this summer.

“We’ve just been so blessed,” Janice said as she smiled and held back a tear, “and we just wanted to give back.”