Habitat for Humanity finishes first project of new program 'A Brush with Kindness'

CHASE — Lake County Habitat for Humanity has hit roadblocks in the last several years due to government restrictions, but it has a new program called A Brush with Kindness to make sure its mission of aiding those in need continues.

A Brush with Kindness was started in response to the high difficulty in getting loans to build houses from scratch. That difficulty resulted from higher restrictions imposed on getting loans due to the financial crash of 2008. While the restrictions prevent companies from giving out the kind of bad loans that caused the crash, it unfortunately prevents groups like Habitat from Humanity from getting them for those who could not afford them otherwise.

"We would love to be building houses from the ground up still, but it's so difficult to find families who qualify now," said Joyce Tessman, Executive Director of Lake County Habitat for Humanity. "The program is designed to repair the outsides of homes. We're doing it to ensure we can still help people even with the higher restrictions placed on us."

Lake County Habitat had a very large presence in Lake County before 2010 when the restrictions were implemented. Tessman and her fellow Habitat for Humanity employees and volunteers want to make sure that presence doesn't go away.

"There's a great deal of poverty in this area," said Tessman. "A Brush with Kindness will not be as costly as building whole new homes, so this way we can keep helping people despite the fact it has become more difficult."

The program includes work like installing wheelchair ramps, replacing siding and fixing doors and windows. The owners provide the cost of the repairs, while the people of A Brush with Kindness provide free labor.

They also are working alongside other groups such as the Houses to Homes program to achieve that goal.

On May 28, the volunteers of A Brush with Kindness completed their first full project. They repaired the home of Teresa Latin, a Chase resident who needed help fixing her house, but would have had difficulty doing so herself due to her having a prosthetic limb.

"The outside of the house had been in bad shape," said Latin. "I had problems with the doors, the windows were bad, the frames were so bad I had to put plastic and blankets over the windows in the winter. What they've done is wonderful. I couldn't have done this without them."

A Brush with Kindness volunteers are now planning new projects and looking for additional help so they can assist even more people.

"Anything we do is better than nothing," said volunteer Sandy Dode. "We would like more people to volunteer. There are plenty of projects for us to work on and we need everyone from high-skill to no-skill."