The Olson family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Olson family


Vicki and Alissa Olson’s house bears the same peeling paint from the day Vicki Olson moved in over 29 years ago.

Giving spirits, helping hands

If the world is split into givers and takers, then Vicki Olson is most certainly a giver.

She and her daughter, Alissa, have been longtime volunteers in their community and local schools. Alissa is deaf, which has inspired them to work with the Minnesota Association for the Hearing Impaired, spearheading a program for deaf teens.

Despite their giving spirit, the Olsons need a few helping hands. Their house bears the same paint from the day Vicki Olson moved in more than 29 years ago, now peeling and chipping. They would like to repaint it themselves, but Vicki’s health cannot handle it. A diabetic for 40 years, she has survived both a heart attack and a stroke, and the neuropathy in her ankles prevents her from enjoying activities that include prolonged standing. If that weren’t enough, her eyes sporadically hemorrhage, nearly destroying her depth perception.

For years, Olson has been trying to enlist outside help to get her house painted, and she recently decided to apply for Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness program after seeing an ad in her church bulletin. During the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, she will get the help she needs.

The volunteer crew that week will be rewarded with coffee and sandwiches from Polly’s Coffee Cove next door. The cozy little café has been very active in revitalizing the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in East St. Paul—a mission passionately shared by Twin Cities Habitat.

“For a long time, I wanted out,” Olson admitted. “But since this coffee shop has started all this community stuff … it’s encouraging. People want to stay now.”