In our fall newsletter we started a two part series by Marianne Jackson, Homeowner Support Chairperson who had visited with the four habitat homeowners and their children at their North Road condo unit. She shared their stories from the time they applied to settling in as new homeowners. In this edition, the families discuss their interaction with the Habitat volunteers and how they handled the sweat equity requirements.

On the volunteers:
The conversation quickly took a lighter turn – they were reassuring me: “Once you are in, you are IN!! The volunteers wrap themselves around you and let you know how eager they are to make you feel safe and taken care of. It was like a whole group of grandfathers for my kids. Grandfathers who just want my kids to thrive and live in a safe spot.
Mel: Doug was the manager on my unit and, you know, he can come across as kind of gruff, but my kids just loved him. One time he told them he liked gumdrops and after that they made him a card with gumdrops and you know – that hung at the house and Doug would show it off to everyone. 
Kate: We loved the personalities of the volunteers. Everyone is different but so dedicated. 
Sue: They seemed to love being here and it took a while for me to be able to accept that I could ask for help.  
Together: We were so used to having to do everything on our own, it was hard to ask for help but the support was unending.

On Sweat Equity:
How did you complete your sweat equity hours as single, working parents?
Mel: That was hard. I just kept hearing Habitat will make sure it works out. 
Sue: The lunches were the worst thing.*  I work 40-50 hours between my job at Betsy’s and picking up waitressing and bartending shifts. There was nothing left – I couldn’t just leave my work. Thank God for my parents. We all have parents nearby and couldn’t imagine getting by without them. 
Kate: I still had my husband so we could do the 200 hours between us though in reality I had to do more of them. It’s double for a single parent.  
Jenn: It’s the hours that scare me the most. I have to work. I thought I could do it when my job was three days a week but at four days a week it conflicts with the builds and I feel so much pressure. 
Mel: Don’t worry Jenn. We will get it done with you. Remember when I agreed to stuff envelopes and lick address labels. I went to Minuteman to pick up the couple boxes and he rolls out two dollies full of boxes of newsletters that I was supposed to get done by a deadline.  Laughing, Sue – you remember because you helped – we almost pulled an all-nighter like in college to get those done. 

I asked if they sometimes wished they were in a single family home rather than the condo units.
Mel: I lived in a house and it was overwhelming. Between working full time and the kids there was no way I could keep up with it all. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had this place under the porch - I just shoved things under there believing I’d get back to it but I just couldn’t. 
Jenn agrees.  Having the house was too much. I couldn’t manage – fulltime work, three kids, there was no way to keep up with all the responsibility. 
We have to make homeowner decisions together but -laughing and chuckling – we just text fast and it’s whatever “you” think. We don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. We trust each other. And, of course, we have Anne Chase who is amazing. She has continued to keep us on after she semi-retired and we couldn’t imagine doing this without her. (The conversation was interrupted when Sue remembers to ask the others if they want their furnaces serviced when she has the Maintenance people from Jesse Lyman come – they all nod and agree yes and thank her for doing that - DONE).

On Being an Extended Family to each other
What is it like as four single moms with your kids - managing your schedules, privacy?

We have 9 kids – age 2 to 13. Privacy is not an issue at all. We trust each other so much because we have such similar experiences. There is nothing like having friends who just know. There is nothing to explain. 
Mel: Jenn, I see you packing up the kids and leaving in the morning and I just know what you are going through and I think back trying to remember how I ever did it. 
We don’t schedule things – we just have all those driveway chats and lots of spontaneous dinner chats – like you know, I have some salad, and you have some mac and cheese – bring ‘em on over. 
Kate: But it’s also amazing to know you can ask for help. Last winter when the heavy snow blocked the vents and my furnace went out, Mel just said bring the kids over here. We love having your boys. We’re here.  And Mel’s girls are amazing – they just take care of all the kids and look out for everyone. 
Sue: The kids get along wonderfully – Karis and Alex – well they are like sisters – you know there is only a wall between their bedrooms – so they bicker or fight like sisters and then are inseparable. 
Jenn: They taught Annabelle to ride a bike. They help and play all the time. 

Do you think you are unique? (They hesitate to answer – sort of shy to consider it that way). We are so lucky to have each other because we just have such similar stories and experiences so there is a knowing what it’s like. There’s no judgment. Just respect. 

*Note: Homeowner Support Committee now has a dedicated support person – Joan Lanoie – to help coordinate the schedule and delivery of lunches when the Homeowner is on the build site or cannot be there.