In the quaint seaside town of North Rustico, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, Deanna Lowe and her two boys, 9-year-old Cameron and 5-year-old Cory, are preparing to deck the walls of their new three-bedroom home in anticipation of the holiday season.
A first-time homeowner, Deanna is just beginning to grasp the idea that this home is all hers. "It's unbelievable. It still hasn't really sunk in yet that it's mine," she says. "I'm sure it will, once we're all settled in."
For more than 10 years, Thrivent Builds has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build and repair homes throughout the U.S. and in 44 countries worldwide. The Lowe home – the 60th home built by Habitat for Humanity PEI – is the culmination of a nine-month journey, including 75 volunteers and thousands of hours of labor.
A journey home
Deanna's application for the Habitat program was initially denied in the summer of 2016. Joelene Spencer, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity PEI, encouraged Deanna to take some courageous steps in order to qualify for the program.
"I'm always rooting for a family to partner with us," Joelene says. "I suggested she ask for a raise at work or ask for more hours, knowing that if the answer was 'no,' nothing changed. But if the answer was 'yes,' everything would change for the better. Deanna, being the strong woman she is, took that advice and the brave step to ask for these things."
Deanna was approved into Habitat's homeownership program in February 2017.
"These people could be doing a million other things in their life and they chose to come help build my home."
Volunteering: A gift to others
Homeowners must put 500 hours of "sweat equity" into their home or another family's home. Deanna worked overtime at her job so when the time came, she could spend days at the build site with each volunteer team. Volunteer groups came from all over the U.S., and as far away as Australia and Belgium, to lend a hand.
"I wanted to be there so badly with the groups who were at the house and to get to know the people who have graciously come all this way to help little ole me," Deanna says.
Her hard work and gratitude did not go unnoticed. "Deanna was there every day and so was a relative or friend. That really drives home the reason why volunteers, like me, are so committed to participating in these builds," says Al Horton, a Thrivent member from Colorado, who spent a week working on the Lowe home in September. "This is not a giveaway program or handout. We're helping the homeowner build a home."
Volunteer Lowrey Moyer – who works for the Habitat affiliate in Greeley, Colorado, and is in the middle of rehabbing her own 1895 home – feels the same way. "Working alongside Deanna and getting to meet her family and friends, I got a sense of the support she and her boys get from their community. I got to hear what the house meant to her, and that was really special," she says.
Overwhelmed, overjoyed and grateful are just a few words that describe how Deanna feels about the people who contributed to her home. "These people could be doing a million other things in their life and they chose to come help build my home," Deanna says. "Seeing the joy, excitement and support of strangers was what made this whole process amazing."
Take action, change lives
Interested in helping a family build their forever home? Here's how you can get involved:
Learn more about Thrivent Builds or make a personal donation to Habitat for Humanity. Eligible Thrivent members can direct Choice Dollars® to Habitat for Humanity.