Habitat houses open doors to new opportunities
When opportunity knocks, the door at which it stands matters.
Joyce Foster was a single mom of six, working two part-time jobs. She had a door, but it came with limits. Her rental house was a 40-minute drive from the town where she worked and her kids went to school. When the car broke down, Joyce had to charge the all-important repairs. When supplies from the local food bank weren’t enough to help feed her family, Joyce was forced to charge other things, too.
But with the help of Habitat East Jefferson County, Joyce was able to change her family’s future.
An affordable Habitat mortgage meant one job — full-time at her children’s elementary school — was enough. “I could be home when the kids got home from school and I could be home in the summer,” she says. “That was very important to me.”
A Habitat home, where they felt happy and safe, made a huge difference for the mindset of the entire family. Joyce was able to know the relief of paying off her debt and was now free to attend sporting events and a host of other activities that her active, well-rounded children could now enjoy. “Kids know stuff,” Joyce says. “If you’re not happy or you’re stressing out, they can see that.”
Daughter Jessica was in third grade when the family moved into their Habitat house in Port Townsend and is currently working on her doctorate in art education at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. She remembers how the Habitat home opened up a whole world.
“In every single aspect —school, sports, activities, playing with friends, going to the grocery store, feeling safe — being in town was huge,” she says.
“Just the ability to get to school quicker, to play at a friend’s house, which wasn’t an option before the Habitat house. Playing after school at a friend’s house was just never an option at all because of the drive, the gas and my mom being too tired to pick us up,” Jessica remembers. “A big reason I want to be an art teacher is because there were so many art programs that I had access to because of living in town. I could stay in after-school programs and walk home or ride my bike home without being a burden on my mom. So it opened up a lot more opportunities for me.”
The house also put the Fosters in the middle of a supportive community, which Jessica counts as a vital part of the siblings’ success. “It was an entire community building us up,” she says. “There’s an entire community behind each and every one of our successes. And it’s a lifetime of it — not just the Habitat house, but everything — a whole lifetime of being told that I can do whatever I want to do.”
Her siblings are further examples of the power of that support. Ryan is a successful welder; Melissa is a stay-at-home mom of three; Sarah is a nurse working on her bachelor’s degree; Kerri is in college; and Micah, a senior in high school, plans to go to college as well.
“I would definitely say we are flourishing,” Jessica says.
Their future is more than it once was.
“We’re very happy. We are very close,” says Joyce. “I’ve got three grandkids that I love to pieces, and they love to come to grandma’s house.” Her door is always open.
According to a survey of more than 400 Habitat Metro Denver families, children raised in a Habitat home are twice as likely to go to college, compared to the local average for similar demographic and economic groups.
Ohio 6-year-olds Addie Naus and Chezney Taube set up a lemonade stand to raise money for Habitat Wood County. Since their parents volunteered with Habitat, they wanted to help, too. The girls earned $30, enough to purchase three doorknob sets for the next home built.
Doors to Homes and Hope
In the fall, more than 140 artists turned doors into art for a display that doubled as an awareness campaign and fundraiser for Gwinnett Habitat, the Gwinnett Restore and ArtWorks! Gwinnett. The decorated doors toured public spaces to increase awareness of the issues surrounding inadequate housing and were auctioned to support the arts and Habitat’s work locally.
RELATED MULTIMEDIAVIDEO: Jessica Foster’s eloquent thank-you video for a Habitat East Jefferson County event