"It's a huge opportunity to have fun together, and at the end of the day when you leave, you can look back and see that something you did is concrete, it's there, and it's going to be there for a long time."
-John Wright, Eastside Coalition
Spotlight: Faith in Action
John Nolan from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, John Wright from St. Paul United Methodist Church, and Roy Johnson from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church are three long-time members of the Eastside Coalition. We sat down with these men to talk about the success of their coalition and why they chose to partner with Habitat.
The Eastside Coalition is made up of 11 churches of all different denominations and sizes who share a common interest in helping build Habitat homes. The group banded together in 1996 to raise funds and mobilize volunteers to build their first Habitat home. Since then, the group has built almost 90 homes and these three men have been building homes together for over a decade.
John Nolan says that the way St. Barnabas helps is by sharing their "people, money, and time." Each church has its own outreach efforts which work to raise money for Habitat. They have their own ways of supporting Habitat, and they share ideas with one another. His church, for example, hosts an annual benefit concert in the summer. The money that they raise goes directly to Habitat for Humanity Greater Cincinnati.
"We have a long history of being involved with Habitat, and we have a specific amount of money each year in our outreach budget that goes to Habitat so it's a very important part of our ministry," says Roy Johnson of Good Shepard Lutheran Church. He also told us about how Habitat events, activities, and volunteer opportunities are present in each of their church newsletters. "We're always promoting it, and we're very blessed that our pastors are really into Habitat."
Habitat welcomes anyone of all abilities to get involved. "It's crucial to point out that most of us volunteers had no background in construction. The appeal is the ability to go out and learn how to use your hands, learn more about house-building; it's on the job training," says Wright. He shared a memory of working with an 85-year-old volunteer who helped him to move scaffolding. "Anybody can do almost anything if they want, and anybody can contribute."
"One of the aspects that I think makes it work is that there are many ways people can get involved," Wright continues. There are many roles from fundraising, recruiting, and organizing to packing lunches, swinging a hammer, and painting the walls. "It gives different talents an opportunity to help."
Eastside Coalition Over the Years
Each of the Eastside Coalition churches believes in sharing God's love with people outside their own doors. Working with Habitat for Humanity Greater Cincinnati allows them to put their faith into action and see change within their own community. "It's a rewarding thing… you spread goodwill and our folks feel [that] they're getting involved with the community, literally," says Nolan.
"It's local," starts Wright. "We do some things that are national or international, but this is local, and it gives us the sense that we're doing something here." He talks about the importance of hands-on work, to do something in your own backyard. "It's doing something that is lasting, and you can see the benefit."
Wright, Nolan, and Johnson all agree that they enjoy being able to see the direct impact in their community. "It's a huge opportunity to have fun together, and at the end of the day when you leave, you can look back and see that something you did is concrete, it's there, and it's going to be there for a long time," says Wright. Plus, they explain that volunteering is fun and has allowed them to bond with others.
"It's a community," says Johnson.
Working with Habitat allows the churches and coalitions to connect and strengthen their own sense of community. "You get to meet some of the church members that you otherwise might not have," says Wright. Because there are so many ways to get involved with Habitat, volunteer opportunities appeal to people from all different backgrounds."
"You get to talk while you're working, and you get to know them better," says Nolan. "Comradery is a big part of it. We get to tease each other, trade bad jokes. We learn from each other's mistakes or learn from someone who knows more than you. You can take some of those skills home." Nolan says he's now better at home improvement projects because of his time spent on Habitat build sites.
When asked about their favorite memories with the Eastside Coalition and Habitat, Nolan responds, "we could talk about this for hours!" But a few key memories came to mind, like signing the lumber for a new home with well wishes and blessings, listening to a homeowner speak at a dedication ceremony, and working alongside the homebuyers to build their homes. One of Johnson's favorite memories is when a family from his own church was able to purchase a Habitat home. After immigrating from Africa and moving to Cincinnati, this family started going to church at Good Shepherd Lutheran and through the church found out about Habitat's homeownership program. Johnson enjoyed working alongside them to build their home and said it was rewarding watching a good family put down roots in their community.
"The stability that a house brings a family can't really be overstated," says Nolan. "So the fact that Habitat is addressing that is encouraging." Even though it takes months to build a house and there's such a need, you get to help a family. "You have to start somewhere."
"It's so important that [churches] get to know the Habitat story and that you can make a difference," says Johnson.
"It's a collective enterprise to address a real need. It's self-satisfying," says Nolan. Interested churches can join one of the existing coalitions involved with Habitat for Humanity Greater Cincinnati.
"The number one necessity is enthusiasm," says Wright. "If you show up and give it a try, you'll learn on the job. It's not hard, it's fun!"