Ten minutes into our drive to the airport, the car was buzzing with topics ranging from the public school system to youth mental health diagnosis. Humor and empathy mingled together as we shared stories from our parenting journeys and our hopes for our kids.
In two hours we would take off for Atlanta to attend the Habitat for Humanity International We Build 2015 conference. Over the past few months I looked forward to this moment with great anticipation: the workshops offered and relationships built at the HFHI conference—held every two years in Atlanta—provide a wonderful injection of energy that can last long after the flight home.
What I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago—and the reason why I was particularly excited as we drove up I-5 this morning—was that this year, for the first time ever, we would be able to bring two Habitat homeowners.
Dianna moved into her Habitat home with her husband and two young children in January of 2014. In the prior months she graduated from the Marriage and Family Therapy program at PLU, making her the first person in her family to complete a graduate degree and purchase a home. Since that time Dianna became a cornerstone presence within the early Connects movement at The Woods. She helped launch the Hospitality Team and continues to champion the effort to help new Habitat families feel welcome. More recently, she accepted a position as a family support worker with the South Sound Boys and Girls Clubs.
Terrance has not even moved into his house yet (May 2015), but he and his wife, Amanda, have poured themselves into community building through Connects. Terrance and another Habitat homeowner (Dan) lead the Resident Design Team, which meets with Habitat staff each month to help design (and facilitate!) the monthly Connects meetings. Terrance’s family is already involved in community volunteering, such as working with Stand for Children.
The leadership that Dianna and Terrance demonstrated within the first year of Connects made them obvious choices when The Russell Family Foundation offered to help us bring one or two Connects participants to the national conference. For us this represented an opportunity to model the type of shared leadership and responsibility that we have discussed over the past year.
I hope this becomes a trend for future Habitat conferences where staff and volunteers can hear and learn from the leadership of Habitat homeowners. I am grateful for the partnership of TRFF (Susan, Fabiola) to make this happen.
In some ways, a conference is a lot like where I’m sitting on Alaska Airlines Flight #746: a 30,000 foot view. It’s top level, sharing the vision, celebrating, garnering inspiration for the hard work ahead. Having Dianna and Terrance join us on the journey makes the process even more meaningful and while accomplishing part of the Habitat vision before we even pick up our name badges: A true sense of partnership, grounded in relationship, learning together.
By Elliot Stockstad, Director of Homeowner Services at Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity