Elaine Childress stepped into her newly renovated home in Rocky Mount, Va. with a basket of blessings: a candle, a plant, a supply of Snapple, a blanket, a jar of coins, a start-up toolbox, a bible and some food. But the biggest blessing of all was the reconstructed house itself, now made practically brand-new by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity—with the help of staff and students from Sullivan Foundation partner school Ferrum College.

Ferrum Dean of Students Nicole Lenez, Residence Life Area Coordinator Leya Deickman, and members of Ferrum’s women’s wrestling team played a key role in the extensive renovation process, which wrapped up with a dedication of the renovated home on October 17.

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“It has been a privilege to serve with the members of the local Habitat for Humanity board as our community worked to give Elaine a gorgeous renovated home,” Lenez said. “Our students worked tirelessly for Elaine, truly living out our motto, ‘Not Self, But Others.’”

this photo shows Ferrum College students and staff members working on a service project for Habitat for Humanity in Rocky Mount, Virginia

Ferrum College staff member Leya Deickman (in purple) works with students Katrina Anderson (in grey), and Morgan Flinkstrom (in blue) on a Habitat for Humanity service project.

On every available Saturday over the last year, Ferrum College staff members and students, mainly the women’s wrestling team, worked with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to ready Childress’s home as part of a renovation process that took two years in total. The house was gutted and then updated with siding, windows, decks, drywall, cabinets and plumbing. Childress’s home also received a new electrical and ventilation system as well as all new appliances.

“While volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, I understood that I was helping the community and Elaine,” said Deickman, a former member of the women’s wrestling team. “At that moment, the atmosphere felt cheerful and light, making our manual labor feel effortless. Although the laughs and memories were enough to instill this experience in my mind, the thank-you note I received this past month reminded me of how impactful a simple volunteering experience could be for someone in need.”

As required by Habitat for Humanity, Childress herself put in plenty of “sweat equity” in renovating her home. According to the Franklin News Post, she expressed her gratitude to the organization and volunteers as well as to God. “I’ve had to be very patient, but I’ve never given up,” she said.

This story has been adapted and expanded from the original version appearing on the Ferrum College website.

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