BEDFORD — As the clouds break and the morning sun bursts through onto our parking lot, a contingent of volunteers stands ready. It’s Day 2 of the Spring Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) Blitz, and over 1,200 volunteers are on hand to bring much-needed relief to their neighbors. A sizable portion of those men and women are gathered in a separate location, celebrating the arrival of the CPR program in yet another of the so-called Quad Cities. As of April 8, 2016, we serve Watauga, Richland Hills and Haltom City in addition to the original tri-city community in HEB.
Over the course of the two-day blitz, 6 Stones and our community partners — from cities to churches to businesses large and small — would update and renew fifty homes in six different cities. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs were completed, delivering relief for men and women who could never have afforded to rescue themselves. These homeowners, each of them a complete and marvelous person, had simply reached their limit. We all need a little help sometimes. That’s part of the reason we all have beautiful stories: every story needs conflict for its hero to overcome.
Here’s a look at the heroes in this community and the obstacles they conquered last weekend:
Hurst Rallies for Retired School District Employee
After serving 24 years in cafeterias all around the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District, Patricia retired to a quiet life in an aging house in Hurst. Much as she loved the students — and hearing their stories — it was simply time to move on. She loves this community and believes the best of everyone in it. But she never expected to be blessed the way she was during the Spring Blitz.
Patricia and her husband had maintained their home for years, with him working from a chair because he had only one leg. But there was only so much they could do for the rotting garage doors and fading eaves. Matters became more complicated for Patricia when her husband passed a few years ago. On April 8th and 9th, the City of Hurst adopted her home, coming to the rescue for a woman who had helped them raise and entire generation of students.
Her only regret was that her always-generous husband couldn’t share the day with her.
Bringing Neighbors Together
Less than a year into marriage, Sandra was abruptly divorced. The couple had only recently finished purchasing their home when the split came and she was left to pay for the entire thing. Her first payment on the house was also the first she’d make as a single mother. With her family spread far away from her new residence in Watauga, she resigned herself to going it alone. Years later, her neighbors showed her that she didn’t have to.
In fact, one of the volunteers on her house requested a day off from work to ensure that he could be present for both days of labor. According to him, “there’s no better way to spend a vacation or a staycation in town than hanging out with your brothers and sisters in Christ and fixing up someone’s house in need.”
Sandra is just one of many people served by our expanded CPR program. We would never have been able to help her without the support of her community.
Why They Serve
The men and women who give their weekends to fuel programs like this one do so for a plethora of reasons. For some, it’s about supporting the community that raised them. For others, it’s an investment. Still others come to represent their faith. Plenty more just want to be a positive influence on a world that seems increasingly negative. Whatever nuances affect their position, however, one thing is clear: they can do more together than they would ever accomplish alone.
“It’s pretty good to work together; to see people work together when we don’t even know each other,” said one volunteer in Euless.
The goal of CPR has always been to unite this community and to create a space for lasting change and meaningful relationships. That process involves recognizing that the homeowners we serve are not the only ones who receive healing during the blitz. Sometimes, volunteering is even more meaningful for the people swinging the hammers.
”It means the world to me [to serve],” a Bedford volunteer said, fighting back tears. “Because of the mistakes that I made, I want to do something better. I want to do something that’s going to bless somebody else and not hurt someone. I want to do something that’s going to lift somebody up, bring a smile to their face, and bring them joy. And it’s bringing me joy to be able to do it.”
Joy is contagious. It also cures heartache and isolation. As with all of our initiatives, prevailing wisdom at CPR is “the more the merrier.”
As part of a new Mobile Giving initiative, volunteer teams competed to raise the most on-site funding through a text-to-give program benefitting 6 Stones initiatives like CPR. Men and women simply texted “CPRblitz” to a predetermined phone number during their breaks on site to pledge a gift that would ultimately bless the homeowner at their site. The volunteer groups with the highest total giving earned $250 gift cards to Walmart for the homeowners they served, helping to offset needs beyond home repair.
With a total of $540 raised, the more tenured CPR community in HEB were declared the victor, topping the $235 weekend total for Watauga, Richland Hills and Haltom City. The Quads had been in the lead after day one, however, and they nearly took the title for the weekend excepting the late arrival of an anonymous donation that would have put them over the edge.
Individual home winners were House 47 and House 27 on Friday and sites 14 and 39 on Saturday.
Beyond Homes: Quad Community Powers New School Alliance
Through relationships forged by CPR, 6 Stones and World Vision were able to partner with Birdville ISD to supply students in need with school supplies during the most recent blitz. A total of three campuses received kits for each of their classrooms, with over 40 classrooms at Watauga Elementary outfitted directly and teachers at the other two sites allowed to shop for their individual needs through World Vision’s supply trailer.
“Our area is an area of need,” said Watauga Elementary Principal Sarah Upchurch. “We’re at 70% low socio-economic status. That means that we have families that are doing their best but that need some help. So we try as a school community to look for ways to reach out to our families and serve them.”
That community does all that it can on it’s own, but benefits from an expanding support network. In fact, 6 Stones was connected to the district by Aspire; an independent, federally funded after-school program that provides meals and extracurricular access to children whose families struggle to provide more than the basics. According to Sarah Kimton, an Aspire representative within the district, the program prevents many students from going hungry at night. But supplying a program like that isn’t easy or cheap.
“We’re here for these kids and we’ll do anything for them. These kids at this school need us in their lives,” Kimton said. “Their parents can’t afford school supplies. All the way around, this [drive] is just really awesome.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Nicole Bryan, a 5th Grade teacher in the district, who said that the end of the year is particularly difficult for her students. Upchurch confirmed that many classrooms are under-equipped by the close of the second semester, partially because students transferring in at the break don’t receive the traditional back-to-school and Christmas support packages provided by most companies. Said Bryan, “Sometimes I’ll say ‘cut this out,’ and I have to loan out about five or six scissors. It just takes a lot of time from their learning when you’re missing supplies. This is going to be awesome. Seriously, I’m tearing up.”
Upchurch says that the district — and more often, the teachers themselves — usually foot the bill for students who fall through the cracks. Many of the men and women who came out to pick up supplies for their classrooms compared the drive to Christmas, and one referred to it as “winning the school supply lottery.”
For what it’s worth, World Vision was just as pleased to be involved in the process as were the teachers and faculty at Birdville. While they had furnished the supplies and Aspire petitioned the district for support, both parties needed a little boost to get things going. 6 Stones, which serves as a neutral platform upon which to build initiatives like this one, was able to connect the dots between several groups and round out the excellent work of the other nonprofits in the area.
“Our model is that we come alongside folks to make stuff better. This is the first time that someone has come alongside us to help us do what we do better,” said Gilbert Young, the site manager for North Texas at World Vision. “6 Stones’ connection to the community and their understanding of community work make it possible for us to do this. They identified the school, they vetted the school, they provided the volunteers. It doesn’t get any better than that for us.”
We aren’t the solution to any particular problem. We’re just the catalyst that gets the solution going. While it’s unlikely that school supplies will be part of future CPR blitzes, the relationships developed during this weekend in April form the foundation for more impactful assistance in the future. It’s our hope that the three schools served by this mini-drive will be a springboard for much bigger investments in Quad Cities schools over time.
All told, that’s what CPR is meant to be: a springboard. A starting point. A catalyst. So let’s move forward together.