During the Spring of 2016, over 1,400 men and women helped 6 Stones restore homes in six cities. When their work was done, fifty families had seen their homes transformed by the generosity of a community: thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours providing facelifts for homes with ruined foundations, rotting eaves, and shattered windows. The transformation that took place that weekend testifies to one undeniable fact: the people of Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Watauga, Richland Hills, and Haltom City are truly remarkable. Especially the ones we overlook.
There’s more than one way to be poor. We often think of poverty as a purely physical, financial affliction. But the truth is that poverty can be much more diverse. Much as monetary obstacles can debilitate a person, poverty of the spirit can ruin us. We can be poor in heart or poor in perspective, lacking an understanding of our world and our neighbors. Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) is about rectifying poverty in all its forms. Homes are repaired, but so are lives. Homeowners find healing, but so do the men and women who serve them. In fact, the richest people in the community are often the ones we refer to as being the least. And the things they have to give are more valuable than any donation or repair.
Their stories make all of us rich.
Anthony: “I’ve Always Worked for Everything”
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Anthony has lived with his wife in Haltom City for decades. They chose the house for its charm in the years before housing prices skyrocketed, and the idea of leaving it has never been broached. Their back yard, sculpted by Anthony into a veritable rainforest over the years, is one of the most lush and beautiful we’ve encountered during a blitz. A stone patio, overflowing with dark green leaves and vibrant pink flowers, is the centerpiece of a landscape the veteran molded with his own hands. The home prospered under his care, until those hands — which hadn’t known rest since his adolescence — were found too full to function.
“I’ve always had to work for everything I have ever got,” Anthony said, recalling his first job hauling stone to pay for new school clothes at the age of thirteen. “I don’t take a lot of friends. I’ve been messed over too many times, so I’m real leery about that kind of stuff. But you people were a blessing to me. I could never repay you guys for all the stuff that you’re doing for me.”
“Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I’ve never won anything. I figure I just hit the jackpot with all the stuff that you guys are doing for my home. It’s great!”
When he applied for the CPR program, Anthony was only hoping to have a few shoddy windows replaced. Instead, he found himself the proud owner of a new roof and had the rotting wood in his home torn out and replaced. His shed was refurbished, his already immaculate lawn touched up, and, of course, his windows professionally installed. But, perhaps because he’s worked for everything and trusted so few people in the course of more than half a century, he gave something back, too.
Anthony helped 6 Stones staff to select and design landscape for several other houses during the blitz. Although he’s physically limited by his age, he’s still more than ready to work when given the opportunity. After our interview, in fact, he wandered across the street to chat with a neighbor whose health had begun to decline. With the exterior of his home restored, Anthony says he’ll be able to focus on maintaining details on the inside. Between those interior touches and the neighbors he watches over, it’s unlikely that Anthony will stop working anytime soon.
That’s the way he likes it.
Rob: “My House Was an Embarrassment”
There’s a restful sensibility to Rob and his home; a hidden bungalow near the heart of Euless. Even with dozens of volunteers packed onto his lawn, their chainsaws snarling as they bite into overgrown foliage that threatens to consume the home, the air in his living room is still. Soft-spoken and contemplative, Rob is the sort of person who can fade away into solitude; in fact, he may prefer it. But that quiet isolation left him helpless when his heart began to fail.
Rob is no stranger to mechanical problems. He’s an engineer with years of experience designing trucks for private companies and the United States Department of Energy. During the CPR blitz last spring, his driveway was stocked with vintage cars that were his hobby projects before his body betrayed him. So, when it comes to the electrical problems in his chest, Rob has a sort of assured acceptance. He almost chuckles as he explains that the doctors still aren’t sure why his heart misfires. But his eyes fill with tears when he looks out on the men and women who came together to do for him what he couldn’t do for himself.
“I’m just so thankful, because my house was really neglected and I can’t physically do anything anymore,” Rob said. “My house was kind of an embarrassment to the neighborhood, and that was my main concern.”
“It just amazes me, how much these people are willing to give.”
The Euless Fire Department identified Rob’s home as one that could be salvaged through CPR. Such referrals aren’t uncommon; firefighters are often tasked with identifying fire hazards in their cities, and overgrown or crumbling houses fit the bill. As of April, however, Rob’s house no longer does. Now, he’s dreaming of the day when, health restored, he can finish touching up his latest passion project: a vintage, cherry-red Chevrolet.
Laquita: “We’re Both Getting Older”
For more than 20 years, Laquita has lived in a house secured for her family by her grandmother. She and her children had struggled to get by in an apartment for years, but rent kept rising and the budget stayed the same. They were rescued by the generous assistance of the family’s matriarch, who helped Laquita move into her Hurst property without incurring any debt or mortgage payments. But even a fully financed home deteriorates over time.
“It’s been a really good house. I really haven’t had too many problems with it,” Laquita said. “But it’s getting older and I’m getting older, so some things are just not working like they used to. In both of us.”
Drug use and bad relationships have kept Laquita’s daughter away, sometimes finding her in jail while Laquita assumes responsibility for a pair of rambunctious grandchildren. For more than three years, the dedicated grandmother has worked a part-time job with a local gardening store in the space between school schedules and busy weekends. With only small windows of time in which to take care of chores — from laundry to home repairs — she found it difficult to maintain the aging home. For a time, her son helped her to manage the property and tight schedules, but she has been hesitant to call on him since his own children were born.
Both boys darted around the yard as Laquita told her story, chattering as they took to swings and climbed trees in a yard that had just been mowed for the first time in weeks. The family’s mower has been broken for years, and there’s no money to repair it. Family members come to manage what repairs they can in their spare time, but find it difficult to do more than temporarily ease the pain. Broken windows, punctured siding, and dead trees on which young men are too eager to play are more difficult to fix. Through the CPR program, however, the home was restored.
“It’s a blessing that they did all this work. Everything they did was awesome, and it helps me a lot because I’m hardly ever here,” Laquita said. “It just makes me feel better that my house looks nice again. It gives me something to feel good about.”
That good feeling, and the burst of energy that it brings, will help Laquita to keep pace with the children she’s taken in. She’s hopeful, too, that her daughter has turned a corner and will return to the family on good terms soon. Until then, however, she’ll keep working strange hours and orchestrating complex schedules so that her grandchildren can be normal boys, living in a normal home.