The little girl in the pink boots haunts me. Every time I see her picture, I have the same reaction. My imagination kicks into high gear, and I start asking myself questions.
“What's her name? Who bought her the pink boots? Does she have brothers and sisters?”
“Of course she does,” I answer myself. “She’s got a younger sibling, still a baby or a toddler. That’s a Graco ‘Pack N Play’ playpen in the corner.”
“Where does she go to school? Where does she do her homework? Does she make good grades?”
“Does she have big hopes and dreams for the future?”
“How many more kids like her live in unsafe, drafty Durham houses and apartments?”
Durham Habitat met the little girl in the pink boots because we repaired her home. Her home is safer now, warmer than when we met her and took the picture of her rotted threshold. But I can’t forget her. I know there are so many more Durham youth living in similar conditions. It haunts me.
People are often surprised to hear that Durham Habitat repairs homes. They know we build and sell Habitat homes - around 20 homes each year. Durham Habitat volunteers also repair homes for about 40 low-income Durham homeowners each year.
We often share the story of Pearlie Alston’s home on Juniper Street in East Durham. The city had Alston’s home slated for demolition, not realizing anyone lived there. A Habitat grant funded $5,000 worth of building materials, and Habitat volunteers pitched in to leverage $5,000 into approximately $20,000 worth of repairs. Alston likes to sit on her front porch now.
Each year when we open our repairs application window, we’re immediately overwhelmed. This past year we quickly closed the applications -- we simply don’t have funding for the volume -- but not before we received more than 200 applications. Clearly, there is great need in our community.
We want to do more, and we need to do more. We know that by serving more homeowners through Habitat’s repairs program, elderly homeowners will be able to age in place and Habitat will help preserve existing affordable housing stock.
Durham Habitat currently has a great opportunity to serve more families with repairs. We received a challenge grant from the Stewards Fund, a foundation that supports many Triangle area non-profits. The Stewards Fund challenged Durham Habitat to raise $71,250 in new, increased or lapsed donations designated for Durham Habitat repairs. If we reach that goal by Jan. 31, the Stewards Fund will donate $71,250 to our repairs program.
The Stewards Fund challenge grant is designed to help Durham Habitat build a solid base of supporters for our repairs program. Habitat will use this challenge as a way to encourage churches, faith organizations and/or members of congregations to learn about and support our growing repairs program.
I’m thinking back to the little girl in the pink boots. I’m glad we repaired her house because I know it will help her on to a brighter future. I worry about other kids who live in similar places. It’s just not acceptable, and we need to do more.
If you’d like to help, please visit durhamhabitat.org to make a donation to our repairs program. Invite our faith relations leader Rebecca Harvard Barnes to come speak to your community of faith. We’d love to share our work with you! Contact Rebecca at 919-682-0516, ext. 121, or [email protected].
Blake Strayhorn is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Durham Inc.