Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Move That Bus!": My Bit On A Habitat for Humanity Project

There was no big bus, but there was certainly just as much happiness and success. This is the story behind the living room project featured in the previous post.

I have watched several HGTV shows and Ty Pennington's Extreme Makeover Home Edition and am familiar with the looks of surprise and awe that homeowners have during the 'big reveal.' They all say the same things like, "Oh my gosh, it's beautiful!" and "It's more than I expected!" and "I would never . . ." and "Thank you so much!" There's almost always tears of joy involved too, during the much awaited, very emotional moment. As much drama as a reality TV show can have. I have always suspected that some part of these reality shows are scripted in some way, but for now I can say that these familiar reactions of awe are very genuine. I remember having seen Ty Pennington cry at least once, and that too I know now, is real.

Last September 24, 2010, Nina Hernandez and her 2-year old daughter Victoria viewed their newly-built, fully-furnished home for the first time. She walked in, took it all in, and did not know what to say for the first several seconds. She cried tears of joy, and I suspect some of sadness, because her husband, who had just been deployed, could not be there to share in this momentous event. I kept taking pictures, but I was crying too. This is her first home.
Left: The homeowner, Nina Hernandez with designers Martha McGowen (left) and Jamie Namanny (right).  Below, right: Not a very good shot, but I tried to capture her first expression.

The Hernandez family joins 17 other families of active military, military veterans and other local civilians who purchased homes in what is now the first neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity homes sold to active military and veteran families. This is part of Habitat's push to reach out to militaries and their families so that they can be able to afford a home in a great community like San Juan Capistrano.

Partnering with Furnishing Hope of Orange County, a bunch of interior designers volunteered their time and their skills to design and furnish these 18 homes. All of the things that went into each home are donated or purchased from funds donated by generous sponsors. Living Spaces was a major sponsor, providing up to $2,500 worth of furniture for each home. The rest of the items, down to the last picture frame, are either donated in kind, or purchased from solicited funds. UNITS Moving and Portable Storage, stored and delivered the furniture for free, and about 45 Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton  helped moved the furniture into the homes. A group of employees from Hyundai also came to help with the important tasks of cleaning and getting the community ready for the big reveal and dedication.

It was a very special project indeed. I spoke with a couple of the military wives, and they said that most of them had been living on base prior to this home. With their husbands gone most of the time, they also never had the luxury of time to put a lot of effort into decorating their homes. 

I worked on the Hernandez home with two other designers, Jamie Namanny and Martha McGowen. Theirs is a three-bedroom, two-story home. Our job was to raise funds, design and furnish a home for this young family.

Design notes and some photos of the home, up next. Keep posted!

Left: Jamie Namanny, Martha McGowen, Nina Hernandez, myself and little Victoria.

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