One of the blessings of being an illustrator/designer, for me, is being able to use my artistic talent to support the causes I believe in.
One of those causes, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bridgeport (now Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County), filled up a great deal of my time from 1998 to 2003.
I started off in this organization by serving as the representative from my church for a coalition of 11 area Methodist churches. Our coalition's mission was to fund (both financially and with volunteers) a house in Bridgeport, CT. With God's help, we accomplished just that, and went on to fund and build another home just two years later.
Two T-shirt designs were fund raising efforts. I enjoyed the challenge of incorporating the HfHGB logo and the Methodist symbol into the logo for our group, as well as using apples as a motif for the second house we built which is on ORCHARD Street!
After serving in this coalition capacity, I was asked and agreed to serve on the Board of Directors for HfHGB for three years. During this time, I was also on the fund raising committees for the annual Valentine's black-tie event, The Hearts & Hammers Ball.
In 2003, I chaired this event.
Quite a switcheroo chairing a committee of 12 other people since I am used to being a 1-woman proposition in my freelance life, but Design is Design, whether it's illustrating or steering an event or commandeering a group of people. I benefited from learning some invaluable organizational, motivational, and communication skills because of this experience.
And, hey, we netted $21k more that year than the prior year, so all right!
More $ = more families with decent housing.
Seeing all parts of this organization was an education, to say the least. But I have to say that the part that I loved most was the thing that got me involved in the first place: working with the families & the volunteers; enjoying the camaraderie while on the job site; the building; the hard work; the pay-off of a finished home for a deserving family; the stories that could make you just bawl with compassion and gratitude.
Here are some memories of the two builds I had the pleasure to work on, as well as another piece of pro bono illustration.
Above: Here is the first house we worked on, on the corner of Pembroke & Jane. There was something very satisfying about seeing my teeny Faith-Builders logo blown up to sign size there on the job site.
If you're curious about the state of the Tyvec on the house, we learned a very important lesson on this first build, and that is: Don't leave the Tyvec uncovered for too long, or you're inviting vandalism.
Oh, yeah, that's me under the red arrow.
I'm not really that little. I'm just really far away. Perspective jokes never get old, do they? (No.)
Above: This is my former pastor on the day we cleaned the lot in preparation for the foundation being poured. I say 'former' because he has since retired, and I no longer live in CT, so there you go. I worked as his 'assistant' with the Confimation Class at church, which may or may not be another story for another time.
Above: This was during the "Blitz Build" week, one solid week of building (in early September '98), with the goal of going from foundation to a covered edifice by week's end. (In other words: roof on, plywood on all exterior walls.)
That's me in the aqua shirt.
1: The dark blue stains DO NOT indicate freshness. Au contraire, Pierre.
2: Yes, that's a fanny pack. I know, pitiful, isn't it? But the shorts don't hold all the stuff ya need.
3: This guy wore the best outfits ever. Polka-dot shirts. Suspenders that looked like measuring tapes. If he had been younger (and Single), I would have married him just for his wardrobe choices alone. I'm shallow, what can I say?
4: I don't remember this woman's name, but dang she's got some great gams, doesn't she?
Above: A little bit later in the building process (it's Autumn in this picture). Tyvec is on, some windows are in, and the siding has been started. I was always on the siding team it seemed, as I was there pretty much every Saturday, and continuity of workers was key. Plus, I wasn't afraid of heights or of scaffolding. (Although, after one day of working on shingling the roof, I can pretty much say: Never again. The roof is not for me.)
Anyway, that's me carrying the handy-dandy siding spacer, and I am following my pals Lew and Steve. I miss these guys. Solid men who love Jesus, who put that love into action, and to top it off: who are smart & REALLY FUNNY!!! I dig on funny.
One day Steve and I were working on siding. We were the crew that was nailing it to the house, and were being 'fed' the boards from the cutting crew down below.
Me: Yeuch, this board is dirty!
Steve, squawking like a parrot: Dirty Board! Dirty Board! I'm a Dirty Board!
Above: Now it's December '98 in this picture (brrr!), and that's me and my friend Craig, continuing with the siding near the peak of the house.
The arrow is pointing to the pieces of tar paper I have in my pocket. Tar paper has to be put under the siding boards wherever there is a seam, in case water gets in at those points.
I didn't even know Craig before this particular workday, but by the end of that day: yup, friends.
See what happens when you're trying not to plummet to your death from scaffolding three stories up? You form friendships, that's what happens.
And, if I recall correctly, there was quite a bit of laughter concerning the air hose (from the nail gun) that day... neveryoumind.
Above: Here's a fund-raiser promo piece I did in 1999 for HfHGB, click on it to see it larger.
The golfer... isn't swinging a GOLF CLUB... he's swinging a... HAMMER! (Pause for laughter, knee-slapping, and eye-wiping.)
Above: Here's the second house our coalition worked on, the one on Orchard Street. The excitement of building the first house had worn off, so we suffered from a lack of volunteers on this second build. BUT, there was a core group of 6 or 7 of us who pretty much built this entire thing, from smoothing out the gravel in the foundation pit (After a torrential rain! Hard work!), to doing the fine carpentry work inside. I will always call those people my friends, because we did a MAMMOTH thing together, and HAD FUN doing it. Shout out to all my peeps. Heehee.
Above left and right: September 2000 -- Dedication of 'our' house (dedications take place before the house is complete, so people traipsing through don't wreck the carpet, etc.), and a Blessing for the house next door, which has had its foundation poured.
To get two Habitat houses right next door to each other is a good thing. It's creating community and a network for the families who now own these homes, and has an even greater (in both senses of the word) impact on the neighborhood.
Left: Roman is wearing one of the apple T-shirts (click on photo to see larger).
Right: A couple more apple T-shirts in this photo. See if you can find me in the crowd. Where's Waldo, the next generation.
Here is a photo of the dedication ceremony for the home, with none other than Millard Fuller in attendance (red arrow on left)!
Fuller is the founder and was the President of Habitat for Humanity International during this time.
(Some people mistakenly think that Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is the founder of Habitat, but he is "merely" its most famous volunteer.)
Here's a close-up of Mr. Fuller at the dedication. Notice the pattern of his tie...
It was quite a thrill for me (red arrow on right two photos up) to go with my friend Margo to pick up Mr.Fuller at his hotel and bring him to the event, and to get a chance to talk to this great man personally. Voice like honey and a real Southern gentleman.
I can think of only two people I've met in my life that I can describe as "Lincolnesque".
Millard Fuller is one...
...and my friend George is the other!
(OK, OK, I added the stovepipe hat, but the beard is all his.)
I earned the nickname "Buddy" from George because of the bond we formed from working on houses together. He'd call me that at church, or when we'd phone to see if the other one needed a ride to the site.
"Hi, Buddy!", he'd call out. I really liked that.
I am very appreciative to all the "buddies" I made through this organization during this time in my life, because in between these two builds, I went through a health crisis. Having the prayers of more than 11 congregations gave me strength, and I am grateful for that support in a way that's difficult to explain. You'll just have to trust me on this.
Putting this post together has made me very happy to look at all these faces again, and to recall the laughter, and the conversations, and the shared passion for the ministry of housing.