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Earning sweat equity hours takes on an "artsy" look

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Groundbreaking for the Chad Davis family in February 2020 in Spindale.

Discovering new ways to earn the required 300 sweat equity hours before ownership of a Habitat for Humanity home has certainly been a challenge for future Habitat families since the global pandemic.

With COVID-19 restrictions, families weren't able to do hands-on work at the home but they still had to complete the required hours.

Sheila Cain, Family Services/Community Outreach with Habitat for Humanity, and future Habitat homeowner Chad Davis sat down to talk about earning the hours since Chad is a future homeowner.

Sheila, Chad, 37, and his two daughters came up with an impressive and innovative way to earn the hours.

"They are too young to work on our construction site and other than their school grades, there were no other opportunities for that age group to work toward the sweat equity requirement the family has to meet," Sheila said. "And we think it's important that everyone in the family plays an active role in getting those hours because it gives them a sense of ownership in the house too."

Chad wanted to keep his daughters, Melody, 8, and Malia, 6, busy with projects. Daughter Melody especially enjoys art.

From the first conversation, the siblings along with their dad, began creating thank-you cards, booklets and thank-you baskets for Habitat volunteers.

"When Chad first brought the thank-you cards and booklets they had made, I was shocked," Sheila said. "I was expecting maybe 25 or so and they had made 76 booklets and 20 cards. A few weeks later they brought baskets with mints or Snickers bars in them with a sweet message and we thought those were precious too."

Chad, who works two full-time jobs, said he and the girls found some of the project ideas from Pinterest and others from each other.

More than a year after the ground breaking for their new home in Spindale on Feb. 29, 2020, the siblings and Chad actually made 170 multi-page booklets filled with art work, drawings and words of thanksgiving to all volunteers.

Using acronyms for Habitat, the Davises created art work for: Humble, Awesome, Brave, Intelligent,Trustworthy, Achievable and Thankful.

For instance the art page with the word "Brave" features a volunteer climbing a ladder to work on the house.

"Trustworthy" describes how the Habitat family feels about trusting the volunteers that their house is what they need and "Thankful" represents the family's feelings toward all volunteers.

On each of the pages, there are rhymes written by Chad with illustrations from the girls.

Melody and Malia also painted their handprints on construction paper and added the words, "Thank You Habitat for Your Helping Hand."

The family gathered at the Habitat office in Forest City recently and talked about the art work. Chad and his daughters were dressed in matching red shirts, red shoes and dark pants. One of Chads' hobbies is photography and he takes every opportunity to get the best photographs of his family as possible.

"Each booklet took over an hour," said Chad of earning the hours.

Melody said each book has at least five pages with art, drawings and cutouts on each.

On the Snickers candy bars the girls wrote, "Don't Snicker. We meant to say thank-you,."

With painted popsicle sticks, they created the candy baskets that also included mints.

"We Mint to Say Thank-You," they wrote on the baskets.

When Melody and Malia first began the art work, they did single sheets of construction paper but at the suggestion of their dad, they created the multi-page booklet.

"I wanted them to spend more time on the thank-you booklets," Chad said.

They had to have an abundance of supplies for such projects.

"Some of the volunteers helped us," Melody said.

The volunteers who assisted with buying supplies couldn't physically help at the home, but they wanted to do something to keep encouraging the little girls.

Chad is also completing a requirement to work 25 hours at the Habitat Restore. He has completed eight hours thus far and will finish his hours when school get back in session and he has more time.

Also to earn hours, Chad and the girls also talked with a group of youth volunteers visiting the county this summer and Chad shared their story. Chad has done to get hours as well like the Homeowner Education Workshops he attends twice a month, Women Build, and he cleans the job site at his house.

When the family moves into their home on Pennsylvania Avenue in Spindale, the girls will share a bedroom, although there are rooms for each.

Before they get their own room, Chad wants to make sure they are responsible for cleaning "their room" together.

"We have to show we will take care of our rooms before we get our own," Melody said.

"I want to share a room," Malia said quietly. After all, it will be a brand new home in a new neighborhood and Malia wants to stick close to her big sister.

Malia said she might be just a little lazy but they are already making their beds at their rental home and doing other chores.

While Chad works, babysitter Tasha Barnette cares for the girls and they also spend some time with their mother, Christian Malendrez.

Tasha recently shared a large basket of goodies for the Habitat staff and volunteers at the office.

Chad works from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. at Synergy Action (a group home for disabled and mentally challenged) and the girls are in the care of their baby-sitter. He arrives home in the mornings, takes the girls to school or where they are going for the day and then begins his other job at "All Ways Caring HomeCare" where he works one-one-one with clients.

"All the thanks goes to the good Lord," he said about his family, life and work.

While clients are sleeping at night at the group home, he too can sleep, which allows him the rest to work the second job.

He's home for dinner with the girls, home work, some fun time and obviously to build sweat hours with the art projects.

The family enjoys biking on the Thermal Belt Rail Trail and walking the Purple Martin Trail.

"We like to go to KidSenses," said Malia. "And Big E's, Scoops, Bubba's and Chunk 'e Cheese," Melody added.

Chad graduated from East Rutherford High School in 2002 and began attending Isothermal Community College where for two years he studied Office Assistant/Technology. But after that time, he began working at the group homes.

Chad said the Habitat home "is a dream come true for me."

"I never thought I'd get my own home. I always thought I'd live in someone else's home," Chad said.

On the date of the groundbreaking in February 2020, Chad wrote these words;

On this special day, I would like to give my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, all the glory and all the honor for what he is continuing to do in my life, as well as my girls. Last year, a church friend came to me and told me that the Lord was going to bless me with a home. She was completely unaware that I've been praying for a home for the last 4 years. I knew in due time, God would bless me with something, I just wasn't sure what it would be. Little did I know, he was blessing me with something bigger than what I prayed for. And I finally get to announce that my girls and I will begin building our brand new home this summer. This is a dream come true for us. Thank you Thelma Twitty for the word God gave to you, to give to me. And thank you to those who often pray for us! We are Always standing in the need of prayer and we ask that you continue praying for us during this new journey. Thank you Rutherford County Habitat For Humanity.

The Davis home is the 83rd built by Rutherford County Habitat for Humanity, and may be ready for occupancy by Christmas. If not, it will be the first of 2022.

If Chad, Malia and Melody are in their new home by Christmas, they will have a brand new Christmas tree.

"I threw the other one away. I knew we would have a new tree," Chad said.

Sheila said the Davis family is working toward a better future - a new, affordable home they will grow up in, thrive in.

"This is a life changing event for the Davis family. This could be Chad's forever home. Melody and Malia will most likely be living in this home when they get their license, go to prom, graduate high school, go to college. There will be so many firsts for the Davis family in that house and I know that Chad will remind them as they get older that they worked for that house too. It's an extraordinary lesson to be taught. It's obvious he has worked with and taught his girls a lot so I know this journey to homeownership they are on will be something he talks about with them in those life lessons that come up through the years," Sheila added.

'It's a dream come true," Chad said again.

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