Judith Schell -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Judith Schell


Judith Schell was well aware of Habitat’s work in new construction; she didn’t know Habitat also helped existing homeowners with needed repairs.

‘It was a godsend’

Faced with the prospect of painting her house and removing an unstable, dilapidated garage, Judith Schell knew she couldn’t do it herself. But one day this summer, Schell was given a brochure from a Habitat staff member who happened to be visiting her East Side St. Paul neighborhood.

“Of course I had heard of Habitat, but I thought they just built houses,” Schell said. She knew the organization did good work but didn’t know Habitat did rehabs and repairs and helped families with home maintenance, too. “It was a godsend.”

In late June, Habitat helped her obtain a garbage bin for the first phase of her project: deconstructing the unused garage. She arranged the rest herself, enlisting the help of her family—her two sons, six brothers, a nephew—and a few neighbors to do the heavy lifting.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m so lucky, and so thankful.’”

Now that the old building is gone, “It’s uplifting,” she said. “A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I feel good, just absolutely wonderful.”

The second phase of her project will take place through Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness program during the Carter Work Project. It will focus on painting, something that hasn’t been done in decades on her century-old home. She chose a fern-green color for the new coats, replacing a light blue. To her, the paint signifies a fresh start.

“This is an investment in my future,” she said. “I’m anxious to get the house looking better, and to plant some flowers out front.”

Without this support, Judith concedes that she might have had to sell her home, where she has lived for 34 years—not something she wanted to do. Schell says her neighbors are friendly, and everyone looks out for one another. Most of all, it’s comfortable.

“Most of us have been on the block for years. I even went to school right in the neighborhood,” she said. “As long as I can afford to be here, I’ll be here. This is where I live.”