by Zach Wilcha
The end of the calendar year is a hectic time for everyone. As holidays approach, we tend to lose track of our bearings. Who can blame us? It seems like our to-do lists, filled with shopping and parties and so many obligations, grow faster than we can keep up with around Christmas and Hanukkah time. It can be exhausting. However, as the New Year approaches, it’s also a time to reflect on what the past year has brought and what we’ve done to help others and enrich ourselves.
The older we get and the crazier the world seems to become, we at Habitat Philadelphia like to reflect on how we have fared in our service and devotion to others. This year, as we contemplate the homes we’ve built and repaired, we realize that none of the work we did would have been possible without Philadelphia’s vibrant faith community who help us in so many ways. Whether it’s through prayer, collections, gifts in-kind, or financial investments in large-scale projects, our partner houses of faith have helped us further our Mission as they satisfy their desire to serve others.
Just look how the Faith Community helped us create safe, decent, affordable housing for Philadelphia’s vulnerable families!
This year alone, 15 congregations joined us to repair 19 West Philadelphia homes in the span of 4 days during our second annual Building on Faith Week. Enon Tablernacle Baptist Church led the charge by sponsoring two of those homes. The Jewish Federation of Philadelphia partnered with us to repair the homes of 13 Jewish families in Northeast Philadelphia. The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill donated a significant amount of resources – both financial and manpower – to help us complete four new homes in Germantown. Bryn Mawr Presbyterian continued their decades-long tradition of sending regular volunteers and financial help to repair blocks in West Philadelphia. Church of the Holy Trinity held a rummage sale that raised thousands of dollars for our housing programs. The First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia not only sent volunteers to our sites throughout the year, but also held a collection at one of their services to benefit our programs. When we needed help feeding volunteers, Grace UMC on Oak Lane stepped up to the plate and prepared lunches for us. St. Cornelius Parish sent volunteers to site and became the first house of faith to sponsor a table at our Building HOPE Luncheon.
So many congregations – St. Genevieve Parish, St. Christopher’s, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the Mormon Church, and St. Mark’s Episcopal, just to name a few – joined us on site to volunteer. Many congregations organized ReStore drives, allowing us to collect literally tons of goods to resell to the public. Countless other congregations held us in their prayers, supporting us as we created new opportunities for our partner families.
So upon reflection, our Faith Community partnered with us to make statements of joy and compassion all year round. Thanks to their service, more than 100 families will spend the holidays in a safer, healthier, more beautiful home. Thanks to their kindness, we imparted a sense of pride in home and ability to take on the challenges of being a homeowner. Thanks to their compassion, we made it safe to turn on a light switch which previously sparked, walk across a floor which used to have holes, or walk down a set of stairs which had been missing steps or a handrail. Thanks to their generosity, we lowered utility bills with new windows which keep out the winter cold and open to let in spring breezes.
Thanks to everyone at our amazing partner houses of faith, we allowed families to come home to somewhere safe, decent, and affordable and passed these blessings forward to future generations.
Certainly something worth pondering amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.