“We are people of action.” Tom Simon says to the excited group packed around the tables of the Education Center on a balmy February night. There is a special electricity in the room, a buzz almost, that is impossible to deny. “We are people who show what the action of working together can do.”
And Tom is right. The group sitting around the table first came together in 2011, nervously discussing a project that had never been done on this scale before in the Fox Cities and finally, in 2013 they began a project known today as Habitat’s Interfaith Build. And thanks to their five years of hard work, partnership, patience and understanding, over 60 Fox Cities residents sleep in a safe, decent and affordable home each night.
What started as nervous meetings, worried about accidently offending someone and not knowing much about each other has evolved into so much more. Jim, the self professed ‘good old Lutheran boy from Kimberly’ runs in to the meeting late but he’s not to worry, Pakistan born Akhtar, from the Fox Valley Islamic Society, has saved his favorite Lutheran a seat. As others from various faiths trickle in late, our Interfaith friends literally, and symbolically, are making room at the table. Gone are the days of tiptoeing around each other as we squeeze in the chairs and catch up on family, jobs and life. These days, the only taboo topic is, surprisingly, NFL football.
Now that the band is back together, discussions begin about this year, this very special year. It’s the fifth anniversary of Habitat’s Interfaith build. And while five years is an impressive milestone in itself, its what this group has accomplished in five years that is impressive.
Seven homes. Over 25 bedrooms in five different Fox Cities communities. And its not just homes. Homebuyer, Blia, from the 2013 build project pushed past her boundaries and built almost every day on the home. This experience built her confidence so much that she obtained employment better than she could have imagined.In five years, newborns have come home to the safe and loving walls of these Habitat homes and the laughter of grandchildren bounce off the halls of more than one of the Interfaith projects.
What’s greater than helping build a stable foundation for these families to have successful futures? The Fox Cities faith communities that put aside differences to focus on what’s important: their neighbors.
“You can’t feel good if your neighbor is not feeling good. One day you’re going to be in the same way and its better to go and find out how they’re doing. It’s better to go and help them out,” says Akhtar Sultan of the Fox Valley Islamic Society. And his neighbors answered the call. To be exact, 54 faith communities answered the call from eight different faith traditions over the years.“You know what? We’re all the same,” says the ‘good old Lutheran boy from Kimberly. “We’re all fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters and daughters. We all want what’s best for our children. We want to help those in need. It’s a beautiful thing.”