Tell me about yourself.
My family and I have lived in Fremont since 1995. My husband Keith and I have a son named Jesse and a daughter and son-in-law, Mattie and Taylor Wentz. I love listening to and telling stories and work for the state-wide office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Tell me how you first got involved with Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity.
A number of years ago, the annual fundraiser for the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity was a live and silent auction. Karen Melang, a former Executive Director, invited me to serve on the planning team for that auction for several years. Not only did I discover that the auction was fun to plan and help with, I also got to hear the stories of what our Habitat affiliate was up to in the community. It didn’t take long to figure out what a strong organization Habitat was and how much people enjoyed supporting its mission and the people who are served.
What’s your first memory of something related to Habitat?
It’s not actually my FIRST memory, but one of those first years helping with the annual fundraising auction, Karen Melang and I decided to sell something together. People offered to bake cakes, write poems and serve meals for the highest bidder. Karen and I thought we could sing “Happy Birthday” to someone. Since “Happy Birthday” is the only song I know how to play on my accordion and since Karen can make some of the most delicious pizza in the world, for several years Karen and I offered and accordion-and-pizza birthday serenade. That was pretty special. ☺
What has surprised you most about working with Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity?
I knew that there were many details that went into the work of Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity, but I had no idea the number of details until I started serving on the Board. Not only was the amount of details surprising, but I was also surprised at how patient people are in helping me learn those details. The staff and other volunteers just seem to accept me where I am and help me understand the next thing I need to know. In a world where sometimes I feel like I can’t know enough, the folks I’ve met through Habitat let me know that what I know is enough to get started, and they can teach me along the way. I love that, and I hope that story can help encourage others to get involved, even if you may not feel like you know enough about what you’ll be doing. There will be people who will help you along the way, too.
What do you wish other people knew about the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity?
I wish everyone in the Fremont area knew what an amazing experience it is to volunteer for Habitat. Whether it’s serving on the Board, working in the Home Store, building a home, being part of a home dedication, planning an annual fundraiser or attending the fundraiser, there is so much to learn and give through volunteering. There is an incredible amount of work to be done in any Habitat affiliate, and that means what volunteers DO is critical to the organization fulfilling its mission. Just as importantly, though, by volunteering with Habitat, a person also learns a great deal about the community, the positive ways that Habitat for Humanity works within that community and the wonderful variety of people who are involved with the organization, from homeowners and staff to other area nonprofit agencies and volunteers.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating, volunteering, etc.?
Do it! ☺ One thing I love about volunteering with the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity is that I can drive by homes in my community and think, “I put up those house numbers,” or “I learned how to cut siding in that driveway,” or “I tiled the bathroom in that basement.” I can be in a neighborhood and remember having a conversation with a homeowner about what this home means to her family. I can recall how another homeowner wrote the words of a Psalm on the studs in the wall before the drywall was put up. I can chuckle at how I took on the job of cutting and putting in insulation even though I had absolutely no idea what to do, but I did it anyway.
What’s the best thing to happen since you started working with Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity?
Without a doubt, the best thing that has happened has been what has already been happening in Fremont for nearly 25 years. That is, families are becoming homeowners. They are moving into safe, decent and affordable housing where their children can have rooms of their own and where neighborhoods are enhanced because of the quality of the individuals who are part of the homeowners’ families. The entire city of Fremont benefits because of the new taxpayers these households represent. The ripple effects of having a Habitat affiliate in Fremont are many.
What’s your favorite memory with Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity?
I’ve appreciated serving on the Board for Habitat and meeting people I’d never known before. One Board member, Dave Millie, asked me to step into the conference room at the Habitat office one day. It was after I’d shared a brief invitation at our annual Board meeting for people to volunteer. I thought maybe I’d said something that he wanted to talk with me about, and I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have been. Dave took me into the conference room and picked up a book that was on the table. “Do you see this book?” I did. “It’s about carving bark from trees.” I wondered where this conversation was going, but then Dave reached under a large towel that was on the table and pulled out a piece of bark. “See this bark? It’s from a tree that fell down between here and Arlington. I can use this book to give me some ideas about how to carve this bark, and I can look at the bark and think, ‘God gave me this bark. And I have some ideas for how I can carve it.’” Then Dave reached under the big towel again. This time he pulled out a completed carving. It was a series of whimsical cottages—something like elves would live in in a fairytale. “Here’s what I decided to carve out of a piece of bark. See—God gave me the bark and I said, ‘What can I do with this?’ and I did what I could do.” I could see where Dave was going with this. He was saying that Habitat for Humanity offers us tasks to do. There are a wide variety of choices, from building homes to donating to working in the Home Store. It’s up to each of us to look at what we’re given to do and say, “I can do this.” And then we do it to the best of our ability. At the end of this conversation, Dave said, “This is my book. I’m going to keep it. But here—you take the bark and carving. Go. Tell the story.” (I just did.) ☺
What do you do when you aren’t working or volunteering?
I really enjoy hanging out with my family and with friends, walking and reading. While I love to stay at home, I also really appreciate traveling and reading historical markers, listening to podcasts and singing some favorite Janis Joplin songs along the way.
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