By Emily Williams
In the words of author Sol Hurok, “The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head.”
Volunteers, locally and from other states, recently came together under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham to help build that roof for one Birmingham family.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my kids’ dreams come true,” wrote Schadell Lewis. “Owning my own home will give my family a secure place to live that will show my girls that they can have peace, protection and comfort.”
For the past 13 years, Vestavia Hills High School’s Habitat for Humanity club has teamed up with Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church to fund and help build a home for someone in the community.
A Habitat home in Birmingham costs $44,000 to sponsor and building one normally takes about six weeks. Therefore, club members and volunteers spend a good amount of time raising money for their projects.
In order to raise their $22,000 in sponsorship dollars, VHHS Habitat club members hosted fundraiser events throughout the school year while VHUMC raised their half of the funds.
In January, the group was introduced to the woman for whom they were building a house. Lewis is a Birmingham native who serves as a personal care attendant with the Collat Jewish Family Services.
As part of her job, she daily assists the elderly who benefit from CJFS’ support services. When she isn’t at work, Lewis is busy raising her two daughters, LenDashia, who is in kindergarten, and Maria, age 2.
When Lewis’s colleagues were told she would be working on her Habitat home they wanted to help. The staff used their staff retreat as an opportunity to help Schadell at the building site for a day.
“CJFS’ mission is to help families strengthen their independence and enrich their quality of life. Working on the Habitat house for Shadell and her girls allowed us to focus this mission inward for a day and help one of our own,” said CJFS Executive Director Lauren Schwartz. “It was a powerful, meaningful experience for me and our whole staff.”
Along with the volunteers directly connected to the project, college students participating in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge helped out while working on two other builds in the area.
Students ages 16 and up can participate in the program and sign up to spend their spring break working on builds in an area of their choosing.
This year, students from the University of New Hampshire and Connecticut College were among the collegiate teams who helped build Lewis’ home.
With the help of the surrounding community and collegiate volunteers, the VHHS and VHUMC team presented the house keys to Lewis on March 17, along with a Bible and a hammer mounted on a plaque.
“This was a moment to remember. … I’ve prayed and prayed for a job that was caring with people with pure hearts who value their staff – I have been given everything I asked for,” Schadell said. ❖