Melanie is as much a product of HEB as a person can be. Born and raised here, she graduated from Trinity High School and moved away just long enough to finish college at Texas Tech and start a career. When she got the chance to come home and work with Dalworth Restoration, the decision was easy to make. She and her husband live in Mansfield now, but one of her favorite things about working with Dalworth is the way the Euless-based company invests in their community. Last Fall, she got to jump in beside subcontractors and communications officers to help restore a home just down the road from their office. That little act of service, she says, was life-changing.
The Dalworth team took on a house that needed a lot of specialized work. It had a broken chimney, a deteriorated roof, and a fence that was starting to fall over. The homeowner, Norma, had lived there for more than thirty years. She had lost her husband in the intervening time, and most of her family live on the other side of the metroplex. Most days, her only company is a nurse who drops by to assist her. And memories of the ones she lost.
Norma misses, among other things, her husband’s fantastic cajun cooking and her family’s gentle teasing of her gardening skills. In her backyard, a small patch of dirt yields a series of struggling flowers that serve as a monument to her late husband. When she filled out her Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) application, she added a note to her prayer chest:
“Dear Jesus, please let them choose my house to repair and fix up.”
Life On Mission
Melanie grew up in church, serving on mission trips with her high school and college peers. But HEB has changed since then. It’s more diverse in every sense, which unfortunately means a rise in poverty. So, while she had plenty of experience volunteering in other communities, she wasn’t quite prepared for what she found when she returned to serve her own. Until then, she’d never had the chance to serve here at home.
“It was life-changing,” she recalls. “Going in, I kind of knew what to expect. But, at the same time, you don’t fully know how it’s going to impact you. How it’s going to make you feel. The lady that we were working with — she was an elderly lady — and she was just so in awe of all these people that were at her house doing work. It just gives you a good feeling down in your soul that I impacted her life.”
From her post at Dalworth, Melanie has seen the community change over the last fifteen years. She knows that it’s different. She knows that there are new needs. And she wants to make things better.
“It’s been 15 years since I have been out of high school and it’s a huge difference. I see those differences, and I want to help; want it better. I want people to know that people care about [them],” she said. “This was an opportunity that I saw, that I could better the community, better myself, and better that lady’s life.”
Everything Comes Together
Melanie had no way of knowing about Norma’s prayer. It came long before the two of them would meet. But the widow told us that she prayed specifically for volunteers. As far as she was concerned, they wouldn’t come unless they felt a desire to help. A desire born from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“He gives them, I think, that desire to help people that can’t help themselves,” Norma said.
While we can’t speak for all of our volunteers, it was clear that Melanie volunteered because of her faith. A faith that commands her to love others and work to help them. One that inspires her to do the little things in love, then stand back and watch them grow into something bigger.
“I don’t feel like my little part does very much, but with a group effort, it’s a huge thing. You know, every little bit helps,” Melanie said. “You’re making the effort, and in the end, it’ll be a big thing. I think that’s kind of what Dalworth does. My little things might not feel like a lot, but in the end, it does become a lot.”
“I believe that [through] our day of helping, we paid it forward… it’s just those little gestures that make a negative world a little more positive.”
In the Garden
As fate would have it, her “little thing” turned out to be helping to replant and revitalize Norma’s memorial garden. Melanie’s father had considered himself to be something of a gardener. She laughed as she remembered his feeble attempts to grow anything in the unforgiving Texas clay, but she also smiled wistfully. Her father, black as his thumbs may have been, had taught his children that volunteering was an essential part of life.
Naturally, his teachings came flooding back as Melanie dug into the dirt behind Norma’s house.
“It was just a good feeling, because she had that garden to help remember the person that had passed away, and it just made me remember about my dad,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It was good. I felt a little connected, that I was paying it forward and helping that lady remember a loved one.”
Melanie’s experience, while unique to her, is not exceptional. CPR is a broad program, touching thousands of people every year. Every one of them brings their own history and emotion to the event. Each one has a story. And everyone chips in a “little thing.”
But those little things feel big on a personal level, and they add up to be monumental in the community.
A Little Makes a Lot
During our interview, Melanie struggled to express the extent to which her life was impacted by her choice to volunteer. Not because the impact was minimal, but because it was so far reaching. She grew closer to her co-workers, bonded with the subcontractors who report to her, and shared in Norma’s joy that the house was being restored. But the event didn’t stop when the paint and power tools were packed away.
It was, instead, a reminder that it only takes a little effort to brighten up a dark world. That there’s good news out there if only we’ll go and find it. And that “little things” don’t just add up during a special volunteer event. Instead, they can be part of every encounter. In short, CPR helped to refresh and inspire Melanie’s spirit of generosity and love; to inspire her and others like her to think of others first.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that will help this community. It’s just people taking the time to say ‘I’ll help you with your homework today. I’m here if you need to talk.’ Just making the effort to know that someone loves you, someone cares, someone is here. I think that’s what helps our community,” she said. “one thing that 6 Stones really does is that they let people know that you are loved, someone is here, and we have multiple things that we can help you with.”
Melanie didn’t include CPR projects in her list of small ways to have a big impact. She listed everyday action points; things she could do anytime and all the time. Things that will change the way she walks through life. That’s what we mean when we say that CPR is changing lives. One home at a time.