So much of daily life has been put on ‘hold’ during the COVID-19 crisis. Even those who were looking forward to taking possession of a new home through Habitat for Humanity found their dreams deferred for a time because building had to cease. Volunteers who spent their free Saturdays working on rehabilitating old houses or building new ones alongside prospective Habitat homebuyers were sidelined by the pandemic. In the midst of it all, the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati affiliate has stayed connected with expectant homeowners and coalition volunteers, so that when the building could resume, we could all come together to finish and dedicate new homes for families.
The HOPE Coalition in Cincinnati was the vision of the Rev. Jason Leo, then Rector of Calvary Church, Clifton. As a long-time volunteer with Habitat, Jason met with leaders from several Cincinnati churches to create a coalition of volunteers to work with the local Habitat affiliate. At its inception, it included both Episcopal and Presbyterian churches.
One of the unique things about the HOPE Coalition is that it is one of only a few coalition partners that is willing to go where the work is; many coalitions focus on specific neighborhoods or sections of town. HOPE Coalition volunteers have helped build houses in several Cincinnati communities over the years: Northside, Price Hill, Hartwell, Lower Price Hill, and Lincoln Heights. Some of our volunteers have ventured into Erlanger in Northern Kentucky.
As a coalition, we are not only versatile in our location, but we are versatile in how we extend a helping hand. From the beginning of our collaboration, not only do we provide builders, but knowing that every church couldn’t always provide volunteers to pound a hammer or lift a paint brush, we asked each church to take a weekend several times during the build season and provide lunch for the workers on site. In many cases, going out to find lunch can stall the momentum of a build, and our churches have provided amazing lunches to the volunteers who were present on any given Saturday. This has provided an opportunity for volunteers who do not feel physically up to being on the build site provide support to their Habitat builders.
All the participating congregations* not only provide volunteer hours through a variety of means, they also provide financial support to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati.
We are still experiencing the pandemic, and many volunteer opportunities have ‘dried up’ during this season. Because the people of HOPE Coalition are eager and willing to serve, as a coalition partner, we have been able to get back to building. It is strange to wear a face mask all the time, but we do it. It is strange to wear gloves all the time, but we do it. It is strange to have to limit our numbers on a site, but we do it. And we miss our lunch crews terribly, but we know providing lunches isn’t part of the protocols either.
So although we may not be able to live into the fullest expression of who we are as HOPE Coalition, we are back to bringing a house to life, and working alongside homeowners who have a dream.
*Current HOPE Coalition partner churches: Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming; Church of the Advent, Walnut Hills; Calvary, Clifton; Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati; Christ Church, Glendale; St. Andrew’s, Evanston
The Rev. Anne Reed is a deacon serving Christ Church, Glendale, and St. Andrew’s, Evanston, and is also the executive director of the Transfiguration Spirituality Center. She somehow finds time in her schedule to be a frequent volunteer at HOPE Coalition builds for Habitat for Humanity.