Helping Hands During the Holidays

Date Posted: 1/9/2014

Many TAC staff members volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity community in northeast Houston on December 17th. Some might call it ‘leading by example’ but everyone agreed it was a full-fledged blessing to be partners in the process of building a community.


Underneath the safety glasses, hard hats, coats, and gloves on the very chilly morning of December 17 were about 20 warmhearted individuals reporting for duty as Habitat for Humanity volunteers. These eager souls left their warm Texas Annual Conference offices on Main Street to be “Bob (and Barb) the Builder” for the day.


“It seemed fitting that, as we were making room in our lives once more to receive the Christ Child, that we were ‘making room’ for a family to have their own space,” shares Rev. Gail Ford Smith, Director of TAC Center for Clergy Excellence. “As we were working on the interior of the house, I thought about and prayed for the people who would turn those rooms into a home with their possessions and their love.  I tried to imagine the sound of their laughter and voices as we swept up and nailed in hurricane clamps.  It was such an honor to be part of a group of dedicated workers who stepped out of their comfort zone to show how much they love God and their neighbor in this tangible way.  We prayed for the family that will receive this house and we asked God’s blessings to be upon them so that they may know God’s love for them in Jesus Christ.  Our work for Habitat made my Advent very special.  I hope we do it again next year.”


Mark Hellums, TAC Controller, Pensions and Health Benefits adds, “It was truly a rewarding experience to be able to contribute to the community.  It was fun to be a part of the teamwork that developed over the workday amongst the volunteers.  I enjoyed getting to know better some of the folks in the office that I don’t have the opportunity to work with on a day to day basis.” Adds Nancy Slade, TAC Clergy Excellence, “It was a wonderful experience working with the group and learning new skills.”


“The Habitat staff members were very patient and encouraging even to the point of trusting me with a nail gun. It was touching to hear one of the young carpenters described his job as a ministry and the best job he had ever had,” reported Paula Arnold, Director of Communications. 


“Houston Habitat for Humanity greatly appreciates the work completed by the group from the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church staff,” says Jerry Kovaly of Habitat. “We were able to push for completion of the exterior trim of one of the homes, and some interior work as well.  Without the volunteer effort of groups like those from the Texas Annual Conference we would not be able to carry out our mission: Houston Habitat for Humanity works by faith to change lives and empower families by building homes in partnership with God and people from all walks of life. In doing so, we eradicate substandard housing and transform the lives of our Family Partners.” 


Serving as the staff cheerleader and “foreman” for the day, Rev. Diane McGehee, Director of TAC Center for Missional Excellence, reminded all that the home is the tool to break the cycle of poverty for the Family Partners. Living in a home of their own, she explained, also empowers the children to seek to be homeowners thus breaking the cycle of poverty generationally. 


According to Jerry, the Family Partners purchase their home with a 0% mortgage and pay principal, taxes, insurance and Home Owner Association fees, which is just under $600 per month. “Our Family Partners put in 300 hours of sweat equity working on their home and other nearby homes,” he says. “Our partner families attend classes in finance, budgeting, and minor home repair and execute a will (to manage their estate) with the help of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Association, and receive training in how to run a Home Owners Association.”


“It was exciting to be a part of one of the 64 homes that will be completed when Harrel Park Phase 1 is finished,” adds Diane. Habitat construction in Harrel Park started in 2011, with the first home completed in 2012. TAC volunteer, Barbara Eoff noticed the sense of community already taking place onsite. “There was great camaraderie with a combination of workers, volunteers and homeowners who were all pitching in and working together.” 


To date, Habitat volunteers have helped build and/or work in 15 neighborhoods in the Houston area -- and have built 946 homes.  Adds Jerry, “We will complete our 1,000th home when we are building in Harrel Park Phase 2.” 


Houston Habitat can always use volunteers to build or do clerical work in the main office and to volunteer in the retail sales outlet, ReStore. Donations are also welcome -- of money and new or reusable items, details at