Unless passersby saw a group of enthused volunteers working this past weekend, those driving along 45th Street SW might be surprised to see a freshly painted and restored home that now adorns the street.

Homeowner Karen Gray needed to make some repairs, but after a recent back surgery, she did not have the ability to repair and paint the home herself. As it turns out, a group of volunteers from Texas A&M University at Commerce asked Habitat for Humanity if there was a place they could help out. Connecting the group with Gray, Habitat Director Judy Martin scheduled a Brush with Kindness event for a rare July session — rare due to the Texas heat.

Initially, the group thought it would be 30 strong, but in the end, it could corral just seven students. To help fill the gap, Immanuel Baptist Church arrived with its own group to finish the work.

Contrary to popular belief, Habitat for Humanity does more than build houses from the ground up. In addition to its standard construction projects, the organization hosts approximately seven Brush with Kindness events every year, during which volunteers of all ages are invited to come paint or make repairs on a property. Gray’s house represents the first completed Brush with Kindness event of the year, as the organization struggles to put together a team like it had before Covid-19.

After Gray had back surgery, the thought of climbing up onto a ladder to make some of the needed roof repairs seemed a little out of reach. A single mother to two daughters, she worried about an accident that might leave her unable to provide for one daughter still living at home.

“I’ve been a single mom several times in my life, and so we’re getting started over in a new place… This past year, I found out I had a bad back and I was going to have to have back surgery. So I was kind of a little panic stricken that the house is not going to wait forever for me to get caught up to get it done. So full-time work and trying to be a mom, there’s just not enough time in the day to do all those things,” Gray said.

Overcome by emotion, she thanked the volunteers for their help in making repairs and repainting.

“And you know they did stuff to my house that their houses probably needed done also. They’re giving up their time to come. This has been a very nice blessing for us to have been able to be a part of that,” Gray said. “They just gave up their Monday and came over here to help finish the house. I just couldn’t say thank you enough to them.”

She said it gave her a sense of security and more time to spend with her daughter.

Besides Brush with Kindness events, Habitat for Humanity also builds homes for those in need, providing qualifying residents with a 30-year mortgage minus taxes or interest rates. To qualify, homeowners-to-be need to also help pay for the home with “sweat equity” or 300 hours of work on other Habitat for Humanity homes.

Martin looked to events such as Brush with Kindness as evidence of the good Habitat for Humanity does in the community.

“My favorite part is working with the people and the gratitude, and seeing what it means to them. Because some of them have just lost all hope. Particularly on the Brush with Kindness, some of these elderly people, they think they’re not ever going to be able to get anything done to their home because they can’t afford it and they can’t physically do it. And so you know, most every time we do a job, the people end up crying and in tears and so so grateful,” Martin said.

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