Some things in life are just " meant to be." That was true of my relationship with Gloria Hamilton, one of the dearest friends, and a most faithful Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Gloria recently left us for that celestial plane, to take her place near Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, Dr. Martin Luther King, and other revolutionary lights, now departed. As a gifted public speaker, Gloria could bring down the house with the best of them; I have "God-bumps" as I write this, thinking back to her spirit-fueled talks that often garnered standing ovations. As a volunteer leader, Gloria was there for me without fail, over 100 days in the first year alone. She could have asked much, expected much...because she gave much. Gloria never pined for rewards, always just giving more, and, sometimes even bringing one of her amazing pecan pies. In the volunteering world, it is said that the purest hearts ask the very least. Based on that maxim, she was an alchemist's ideal gold.
Gloria Hamilton, with great-grandaughter Jasmine. Read about their project here.
As part of the Habitat family of homeowners and community volunteers, Gloria became a member of our traveling troupe, spreading the word far-and-wide about the power of creativity to transform homes and hearts. One day, in the summer of 2000, Gloria and I sat talking in a cabin room (we were to provide a keynote address that evening for 600 Habitat staffers) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Looking up at a very tall peak, we shared a revelation, grabbing each other's hands and proclaiming simultaneously " we are almost to the top of the mountain!" Of course, referring to Dr. King's famous words. I am so grateful that just a few years later, indeed, the election of President Barack Obama, proved us right. And, "Glo" lived to see it. Like many African American women of her generation, she had lived through a whole lot.
Looking Back at the Habitat for Humanity DIY Workshops... a memoir excerpt:
"I had come full circle – from my own humble start to a successful interior designer of 15 years. And, it was time to give back. I held an estate sale, selling my worldly goods to fund the start-up project, working more than full-time, for a few years, without income. Later, we found help from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and in the short term the volunteers, too, were generous and charitable. The "House of Belief" DIY workshops for Habitat for Humanity helped homeowners to have the furnishings, window coverings and amenities to make their Habitat house into a true home. I knew the empowerment that would result from the DIY philosophy. It had changed my own life. When you see that you have the creativity to hand-make a home for yourself -- and your family, you begin to believe in the potential to have the life of your dreams. One action of creativity creates more belief. Seeing is believing. A "House of Belief" becomes a source of personal and family inspiration. A visual reminder that creativity is our gift from the source that created us; a Divine heriditary substance that powers the spirit."
Creative Solutions: A salvaged fireplace mantel became a working fountain; a mosaic with our create-believe ideal was embedded in the wall; a crude concrete floor was painted with rock shards and poetry; castoff two-by-fours were turned into a primitive bluewainscoting; three-dollar thrift-store shutters were refinished for the window; a sisal rug was striped with island colors; and canvas for cushions was handpainted with personal symbols for the sofa.
I invited 10 volunteer artists and designers to help me conduct workshops. That became 20 or 30 very quickly. Dozens gathered from throughout the city and helped in every way. Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat's founders, came to see the house and loved the project. They wanted me to share it nationwide. I traveled with Gloria and others, presenting keynote talks, workshops and demonstrations about the project. Habitat affiliate volunteers from Fresno, California; Knoxville, Tennessee; Muskogee, Oklahoma; New Orleans, Louisiana; and many others attended a successful national training event, too. In all, more than 2,500 participated over three years, nationwide.
Color Courage: The color scheme for the living room was formed from the workshop question: If you could name a color to describe you, what would it be and why? The colors were then woven together to create the color scheme for the space. Each participant was represented by their designated color. Need color courage?A recent study of the happiest places in the world reveals that colorful cultures like those of Guatamala and India are happier than more affluent, beige-loving locales. Try thrifting, repurposing, and your favorite bright colors for a lift. When you spend little for the materials it is easier to try something bold. Financial risk can become a barrier to color courage. Repurposing provides a safety net, with less of a monetary commitment.
Island Dreams: Habitat homeowner Janice Busbee sewed her first curtains and valance cut from a Hawaiian shirt. Pillows painted with scenes from the dreams of the homeowners here, to play music – and a thrift bookcase fitted with picture doors. The artist volunteers often worked collaboratively and with the homeowners to express an idea, object or area. It is nearly impossible to accurately credit each contribution as they are so mixed together; the ideas, inspirations and actual hands-on work coming from many people and directions. You will find the key-contributors featured below, and in the book, House of Belief.
Here are some of the original creative volunteers and Habitat homeowners from the Kansas City, Missouri pilot project. Thank you for all you contributed! Also, thanks to the many sponsors and partners. Over the years, literally hundreds volunteered, city-wide. Nearly 17 years since the beginning, you are not forgotten. From the bus-loads of school children, to the many small business donors, thank-you...over and over again.
Front Row (seated): Gary Aragon, Gloria Hamilton, Mary Harbin, Pat Gilmore, Tammy Smith, Crystal Shook Second Row: Keisha, Laura and Andy Rowzee, Ruth Webb, Jodi Stoner, Mike Savage, Tamiko Brooks, Janice Busbee, Winston Slider, Sonja Brown, Brian Shook, Jackie Denning, Claudia Cooper, Darelene Parker, Phyllis Harris, Ladedra Edwards Back Row: Meisha, Evadene Judge
ALL PHOTOS: © Roy Inman
NOTE: See the stories in House of Belief: Creating Your Personal Style. This project is one of 12 beautiful stories and interiors for affluent and limited incomes alike. House of Belief is for all of us.
Post: Kelee Katillac
P.S. Gloria, don't forget that pie recipe, I am looking forward to it, when we meet again.