As we celebrate the value of human life and God's creating it with Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 17), we asked Chuck Sambs, Deacon of Social Concerns, to share about a project FirstCov partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help improve a couple's life. This is a powerful story of God's love through people and the impact on others, so check out Chuck's pictures and story below.
A Brush with Kindness is an extension of the Habitat for Humanity ministry in which volunteers partner with homeowners to restore the exterior of homes owned by elderly, disabled, or low income families who are unable, either financially or physically, to maintain their homes. Habitat will provide the organization, equipment, and arrange for volunteers while the homeowners are required to pay for the materials, often on a time payment plan worked out by Habitat and manageable for the homeowners.
The local Habitat affiliate, St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity, adopted the program and completed their first project in Hudson during the summer of 2014. The first major project in River Falls was approved for the fall of 2015. The homeowners are Bob and Diane Olson and their home is located on 6th Street South, just a block from the University. Bob and Diane are third generation owners of the home, built in the 1920’s, but due to a series of major health issues depleted their resources and are physically unable to do the many repairs and painting needed. They would tell you that they were literally embarrassed that their house had become an eyesore on the block but that they did not have the means to change it.
The Olson's submitted an application to St. Croix Habitat in which they had to submit financial and other information to establish their eligibility for the program. They met all of the eligibility requirements and once approved, the Habitat staff began to identify a partner organization. This is where First Covenant came into the picture. Due to Chuck and Judy Sambs’ long term involvement Habitat, Chuck proposed to the Social Concerns Commission that First Covenant become a partner organization. This relationship was then approved by the Church Council. We were then invited by Habitat to take the lead and provide volunteers for the Olson project.
The project was planned in two phases; phase one would be the preparation (scraping, mainly) and painting of the entire exterior and the replacement of both entry stairways leading into the house. Phase two was to be the repair of the roof as needed and the replacement of shingles. Phase one was primarily the responsibility of the First Covenant Volunteer group. The work began in mid-August and required three weeks to complete. Approximately 10 volunteers from First Covenant showed up for the arduous task of scraping lead based paint from the entire house including the high soffits and dormers featured in this Craftsman style home.
Once the scraping was complete, the entire exterior received two coats of paint. While this work was going on, two regular Habitat volunteers disassembled and replaced the two entry stairways and replaced broken sidewalk in front of the house. The homeowners produced pictures of the house when it was first built and requested that we restore it to its original colors as much as possible. This led to the gables, which were covered with shake shingles, being painted red while the rest of the house was white. Neighbors and passing students marveled at the complete makeover they had witnessed over the three week period, and needless to say, the Olson's were thrilled and so appreciative of the work.
Phase two, the roof, was scheduled to be completed during the month of October. Two organizations from the University were recruited to be the partners for this phase. Judy and Chuck agreed to supervise but not to be physically up on the roof any more than necessary. To their disappointment, the college students never showed up and the bulk of the work, which took about three weeks, fell upon Judy and Chuck and the two previously mentioned Habitat volunteers.
By the first week in November, all of the work was finished and the house looked like new. The Olson's children from out of state were planning to come home for Thanksgiving and at the same time help celebrate Bob and Diane’s 50th wedding anniversary. This would be the first time the children would see the renovated house.
We’ve been asked, “how did you see God work in this project?” At a number of points in the process, we would start to get discouraged and wonder if we would ever be able to get it done. At just the right time, unexpected volunteers would show up and give us the boost we needed. It was like God knew we needed help provided it on a timely basis. We have decided not to mention names here so as not to slight anyone, but certain members of our church gave unselfishly and generously of their time and effort to make this a reality. Bob Olson once told us he never thought this would happen because they had been promised help from other organizations before, but they were continually amazed by the sacrifice they saw others making on their behalf.
We hope to continue this partnership and look for other ways of showing the love of Christ in our community. We have begun a list of potential volunteers and would encourage anyone wishing to be part of a future project to contact Chuck or Judy Sambs at 715-410-8978 and get their name on the list. There are no specific skills required, just a willingness to get your hands dirty. Sometimes just a day or a half day makes all the difference.
Thank you for considering this very important work in our community.