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Homeowner says volunteers embody spirit of love and giving

This Christmas, Gail Thomas wants to have her whole family over to her house—because in her new Habitat house, they'll "have a place to put a Christmas tree."

In her current two-bedroom rental house, Gail doesn't even have room to keep her children's clothes. "There are only two small closets," she says. There are four people living in the house: Gail; her 14-year-old son Timothy; and her daughters Javonni, 3, and Jalisa, 2. The girls share a bedroom with Gail.

Benton Harbor homeowner Gail Thomas' daughters, 2-year-old Jalisa and 3-year-old Javonni, stand in their current home's kitchen. Due to overcrowding in the house, there is not even room for the children's clothes to be hung up.

They have been living like this for almost two years, since Gail moved back to Benton Harbor, Mich., her hometown, from Georgia after her marriage ended. "I never would have thought I could buy my own house so soon after relocating," Gail says. "I didn't know why I felt I needed to come back to Benton Harbor, but maybe this is why God wanted me here."

Gail's house will be one of 20 completed in Benton Harbor during this year's Jimmy Carter Work Project.

"It's wonderful that somebody would give up their time to help someone else," Gail says of the volunteers. "It's good to know that there are still people with hearts like that.

"I believe when you bless people, you get blessed in return. My mother taught me that. She never turned anyone away, no matter what they needed."

To Gail, Habitat volunteers embody that same spirit of love and giving. "You get to the point where you think people just don't care," she says, "but this has changed my life."

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