Jaime Stephenson closed on his house recently, and gave his kids a safe new home to live in; a home he and 200+ volunteers built just for his family and him. He dressed up for the closing in a bright blue shirt and black tie, and a big smile. Some tears were shed, my own included. It had been a year and months in the making, and he had overcome many things to get to this point including an unrelated hand injury during the process. A father and his children had achieved the American dream of home-ownership, a feat that he didn’t think was possible. Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County had come through, again, providing a home for a family in need—a hand up, not a handout. As the President of the Board of Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County, I couldn’t be prouder of a man and of our community
A year and a half ago, Jamie applied for consideration for the home Habitat for Humanity was building in Cheyenne. He had many hurdles to jump, and qualification for the low interest loan and other guidelines was just the beginning. After we surprised him, and his kids, with the announcement that he had been chosen as the homeowner-to be—a night of balloons and joy and laughter-- the work began. He needed to save some money for housing expenses. He needed to take a class. He needed to learn more about household budgeting. And, he needed to put in over 400 hours actually building the house alongside weekend volunteers; groups and individuals and my own board of directors at Habitat were all carefully coordinated in these days of COVID. Some of the professional work and many of the materials were donated, or at least discounted.
Jamie was there cheering everyone along as he swung a hammer and nailed alongside them.
What is good, and great, about our community is on open display. We all come together and helped build a house, a HOME, for a man in need. It was not given: it was earned and he is paying on a loan. There is pride and appreciation, from a homeowner and from the people who helped with no expectation of recognition.
Even in a town renowned for its level of volunteerism, this is always something special.