Category Archives: Volunteerism

Habitat for Hope

Hands of Hope at Habitat

Hands of Hope at Habitat, Allegheny Valley ReStore

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
Maya Angelou

Last  year, I was in need of a new kitchen table. My daughter had moved out and along with her went my table. She had loved it and I told her she could have it.

So what to do about a new one? Jim suggested IKEA and we went and looked. But frankly, pressed board and short life span was just not what I had in mind.

A few weeks passed without a table and Jim asked again. “What would you like?” he said. I answered that I wanted something used and loved, of real wood, with a patina that expressed age and good living. I said, “I’m going to google used furniture stores and see what I get.”

Legs that just don't quit!

My pine table- legs that just don’t quit!

What I found was a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Jim and I climbed into his truck soon after and pulled into the parking lot. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a pine kitchen table with gorgeous bulbous legs, sitting outside the front entrance.

Jim said “Jo, there’s your table.” (I got tears in my eyes!)

We bought it, on the spot, for a mere $75. We loaded it on the back of the truck and it’s been in my kitchen ever since. I look at it every day and still can’t believe my luck. It’s just beautiful. And, purchasing this table supported the efforts of a great cause, Habitat for Humanity’s local work to help people of low income afford a real home.

Since then, I have fallen in love with Habitat ReStores. This past spring, I met Jess, the store manager at the Habitat ReStore Allegheny Valley. The store had moved into a new location and was planning a grand opening. I offered to help (there was no keeping me away!) and she said SURE!

Last Saturday there were a few clouds in the sky but the enthusiasm of Jess and the other volunteers pushed them away. Everyone gathered by 10 am to set up popcorn, cotton candy, and game tables for the kids. The chamber of commerce was on hand to welcome everyone and the PA. State Rep., Eli Evanovich came and cut the yellow ribbon.

Very cool! Picture by Christina Otto

Picture by Christina Otto

State Rep Eli, Photo by Christina Otto

(I got a piece of this ribbon!) State Rep Eli, Photo by Christina Otto

There were gift card prizes drawn on the half hour, Snickers the Horse showed up to wave to cars and it was an atmosphere of such fun and happiness. The Hot Dog Guys food truck sold their delicious hotdogs! All for a good cause!

This photo gives me a big smile!

Snickers and the Hot Dog Guys, Jim and Paul!

If you have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in your area, I hope you stop in and check it out. You will be surprised at all the great goodies there and the low prices. Also, if you have furniture, housewares or construction materials you no longer want, call and ask your ReStore if you can donate them. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Here’s the mission statement on the homepage of the Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley. Good stuff:

Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley (HFHAV) is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with people in need to build and renovate simple, decent, affordable housing. The houses then are sold with no profit made and with no interest charged on the low cost mortgages.

Volunteers provide most of the labor, and individual and corporate donors and foundations both private and public provide money and materials to build Habitat houses. Partner families themselves invest 350 hours of labor – “sweat equity” – into building their homes and the homes of others. Their mortgage payments go into an escrow fund for taxes and insurance and into a revolving “Fund for Humanity” that is used to build more houses.

Congratulations go out to all those volunteers that day, Jess for her hard work and the local businesses who gave gift cards (Sheetz and Advance Auto) and donated cookies (Eat’n Park) and contributed to a fabulous day of caring and sharing!

PS. I bought a beautiful used desk for my grandson’s room. All wood, only $15!

Love this desk!

Love this desk!

A great day at Habitat for Humanity!

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The Road to Happiness

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

When my children were young, I really had no choice. My life revolved around my family and there was little time for much else. Between working part time, the house work, meals and playtime, I was focused on being the best mom I possibly could.

As my two children grew and became more independent, it occurred to me that I was not needed as much. They started to have their own lives, friends and activities and many times I ended up being just a taxi service and meal maker. Of course I reminded them to wear clean clothes, shower and brush their teeth, but they were good kids and I didn’t need to remind them all that much.

So what to do with myself? A mild depression in my late thirties and early forties caused me to seek the advice and wisdom of a good therapist. After much soul searching and aimless wandering, it became obvious to me that the best way to live life to its fullest was to find a cause I love- and volunteer for it.

So over the years I have learned from and worked with families affected by addiction. When I mention my recovery friends occasionally I am not sure you can feel it, but there is whole hearted love and respect there from me. There is no monetary reward for doing this work, no green carrot dangling at the end of the stick. No contract with a financial reward as possible gain, just plain and simple good deeds done for people who need help.

What do I get in return for this? Nothing financial but a priceless spiritual opportunity.

It fills me up inside with a feeling I cannot describe when I work with families in need. I give them unconditional love and they in return grow and flourish. It takes so little time really, and the rewards are amazingly great.

If you are looking to get a little more meaning and happiness out of life, consider picking a cause and then volunteering your time even in small and simple ways. It doesn’t take much to help make a difference. And you will absolutely love how it makes you feel.

Thanks to my daughter Michelene for her stunning sunflower photo!

Is there a cause you support? Tell us about it!

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