Families hurried out of the rain and into the meeting room at Lutheran Church of Christ the King on December 16. Tissue paper snowballs were hung from the ceiling and evergreen garlands framed the windows. Children chased each other through tables and snuck chips off the counter. Soft sounds of piano filled through the room. Neighbors laughed as the ham was carved and the coffee was poured.
This celebration was the first holiday party for residents of The Woods at Golden Given, a Habitat for Humanity development located in Midland.
It was organized through the Habitat Connects program, a pilot project started in community formation organized by Elliot Stockstad and Christina Rupp. The party was an opportunity to reflect on the program’s progress since it began in February.
“I’ve enjoyed the heck out of each and every one of you,” said Christina Rupp, Habitat Connects Coordinator. “Thank you all for the gifts that you are, I feel very blessed to know each and every one of you.”
“We just wanted to thank you all for being such great friends this year,” said Elliot Stockstad, Homeowner Services Director. “We’re glad to call you friends, to watch you grow together as a community. It’s been remarkable.”
Families at every stage of the homeownership program gathered to celebrate their new community. Once everyone arrived, the potluck began. A slideshow with images from construction at The Woods in 2014 played in the background as everyone ate.
“Me! Me!” a girl shouted, pointing at an image of herself on the screen. “That’s my house!”
Once everyone had been fed, the children were taken into the back room. They sat cross-cross applesauce around Mary Brickle, an AmeriCorps member serving at Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity in the Homeowner Services department, who read the The Animals’ Santa by Jan Bret.
After the story, kids worked with AmeriCorps members and a few parents to decorate cookies, paint wood-cut Christmas tree ornaments, trace their hands for reindeer ornaments, and create Christmas cards for their loved ones.
Adults shared stories about their dishes. Dianna brought “The Maine Spread,” a collection of appetizers her mother brings out for special occasions. Tanisha brought chocolate covered pretzels, a dessert she makes with her family every year. Liesel brought tamales, a dish she first enjoyed while living in Mexico at 6 years old, but that she learned how to make once she lived in rural Wisconsin.
After memories and explanations of dishes had been shared, Liesel started playing “Deck the Halls,” on her violin. She paused.
“Everybody knows Deck the Halls, right?”
She began again, joined by a chorus of her neighbors.