Much more than just a home. A better life.
Geoff Blum arrived right on time Thursday morning, driving up to a neighborhood filled with modest homes that at first glance, might not stand out to the average passerby. But there’s something special about this area. Many of the homes were built not by corporate construction companies hired by flashy builders, but rather, by people who simply care enough to want to help those who need it.
Habitat for Humanity builds homes for those who need them, but cannot afford them on their own. It began nearly 34 years ago and to date, more than 300,000 families have benefitted from, in Habitat’s words, “the world leader in addressing the issues of poverty housing.”
As part of their Play Green campaign, the Astros have become heavily involved with Habitat. That was evident Thursday morning, when several dozen Astros front office workers teamed up with FS Houston to help build yet another home that will soon be ready for a deserving family.
Blum and Astros announcer Bill Brown were the “celebrity builders,” but both were quick to note the true work was being done over a much more extensive period of time, long after they were gone.
“Watching volunteers who are doing the actual work is what I think strikes home to people who maybe haven’t been involved in this type of venture before,” ‘Brownie’ said. “There are so many volunteers that give their time. They come out here all day, not just for a few minutes like we do. They put up a home in what, seven days? That’s incredible.”
The home sits in a 126-home Houston Habitat for Humanity subdivision and features many environmentally sound elements that fall in line with the “green” theme that has become so prevalent to American life.
“I had no idea how involved it was,” Blum said. “The houses are green, everything they’re doing in the attics to cut down on the heat getting in the house, cut down their A/C bills, making their own sustainable energy efficient buildings, is pretty impressive. They’re well-built homes. That’s exciting.”
The family members who will live in this house was not present, but their neighbor, Luz Flores, stood on her porch and marveled at the kindness of the volunteers — both from the Astros and from Habitat — who put in their time simply for the sake of helping others.
Upon meeting Blum, Flores, herself a beneficiary of a Habitat home, grew emotional as she talked about the life she and her children have been afforded because of Habitat.
Flores is a single mom of an 11-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter. Her income would have never allowed for her to buy a home, and she figured she’d be a renter for the rest of her life. Until Habitat came along.
“There wouldn’t have been another way if Houston Habitat hadn’t helped us,” she said tearfully. “I tried before and there was no way. With my income by myself, there was no way.”
“And this,” she added, gesturing to her home, “Is mine now.”
The Flores family moved into its home Jan. 1, and life for the children changed in ways Luz never could have imagined. Her kids ride bikes around the neighborhood. Her daughter is building a garden. They have friends who come over to visit, to study, or simply to hang out.
These are things most take for granted, but for the Flores kids, this is all new.
“There are always kids in my house,” Flores said. “I love that. For 11 years, my son never had the opportunity to bring somebody home. Now, (his friends) live down the street.”
Flores laughed when she recalled a conversation she had with her kids about their bedrooms.
“My kids have always said, ‘Mom, I want to have this, Mom, I want to paint my room.’ I never had the opportunity because it wasn’t ours. Now I’m like, ‘You can do whatever you want to your room. You can paint it black if you want. You can paint it any color you want.'”
Luz had Blum’s complete attention as she thanked him, and everyone involved with Habitat, for making this happen.
“You’re sharing your time, you’re sharing your life,” she said. “You’re sharing that feeling of giving. It doesn’t matter who you are. It means a lot to me for them to be here, as well as the other volunteers. They don’t have to be here. They want to be here.
“You’re making a difference. Not just for that family. You’re making a difference for me, and that neighbor, and that neighbor over there. We’re all growing together.”
And her words struck Blum, along with everyone who was listening in on the conversation.
“To see the excitement in her eyes and have her talk about her kids the way she did, about them having their own rooms and being in a community with a bunch of other kids that they’re going to hang around for another 10, 15 years, it’s pretty special,” Blum said.