#25ReasonsWeBuild: Because this home is a sanctuary
After two decades, Helen Rodenburg’s home is chock full of fond memories. One thing especially sticks out for Helen, though: congregating with her four children around the dining room table.
“It became a celebratory place to meet,” says Helen. “It was the place to share and to pray together and to cry. As a parent, those were some of the best memories.”
Helen and her children, Amber, Heather, Ginger, and Anthony, moved in to their Habitat home in 1988. Helen, a single mother who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, was relieved to escape the stressful, circular process of renting in Boulder. Before she heard about Habitat, Helen was renting a small home from a friend at church, an elderly woman who had become a surrogate grandmother for the family. Although this friend was kind and didn’t raise the rent on Helen, the living situation wasn’t ideal.
“I was concerned for two reasons. First, the house was small, and I had just had my fourth child,” said Helen. “And secondly, she was elderly and I just didn’t know how much longer we would be able to rent from her.”
Helen heard about Habitat first from her church pastor. Shortly after, her children brought home Habitat flyers from school.
“I thought, wow, is God trying to give me a message here?” remembers Helen.
When she attended a homeowner orientation, she realized three other families she knew were also applying for a Habitat home. Her first instinct was to withdraw her application. “I wanted one of the other families to get selected,” she said.
But in the end, Helen decided to submit her application.
“I thought, my children have a right to live in a home too. I followed the steps, submitted my application, attended meetings, and just continued to pray about it. If it was meant to be, it would be.”
Helen was selected as a homeowner at Violet Hollow, a development of sixteen affordable homes in Boulder. Immediately, she relished the sense of community in the new neighborhood.
“People were coming together, helping one another build their homes, so you got to know the families before you actually moved in. I started to see how this program works, how it unfolds, and the blessings that came with it.”
That sense of community stayed true throughout Helen’s tenure as a homeowner. Helen appreciated knowing that her children were safe while she was at work, and that they could go to their neighbors if they needed help in her absence. She remembers watching her kids grow up with the other neighborhood children. Most of all, she remembers finally having a home base for her family.
Now, Helen’s children are grown and having children of their own. For the growing family, the Violet Hollow house is still a sanctuary.
“That home, that dining room table,” said Helen, “is still the core of us.”
Helen’s daughters are now college graduates with successful careers, and her son recently graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder. Two of her daughters recently became mothers, and Helen is now grandmother to three little girls. For Helen, the stability and love that came hand-in-hand with homeownership contributed directly to her children’s success.
She also believes that a stable home played a key role in cultivating her children’s passion for giving back to the community. Once Helen became a Habitat homeowner, she was able to spend less time working to make ends meet, and more time volunteering for local nonprofits like Flatirons Habitat, the Humane Society, and Little Flower, a maternity home in Lafayette.
“I wanted my children to know that no matter how little you have there’s always something you can give back,” said Helen. And her children have kept that lesson with them. Heather volunteers with her local church, Ginger has volunteered as a nurse in Nicaragua and Ethiopia, and Anthony works regularly with Young Life mentoring teenage boys.
In retrospect, homeownership changed the course of Helen’s life and of her children’s. “Without Habitat, I’m not really sure where we’d be,” said Helen. “But we wouldn’t have this success story if it weren’t for our home.”