A group of young volunteers from Louisiana is giving new hope to a couple of widows in Americus, Ga., this week.
The youth group from First United Methodist Church of Bossier City, La., first visited Americus two years ago in June of 2011 when they worked to repair a couple of homes at Koinonia Farm. This week, they have returned to help Frances Haugabook and Minerva Garcia make repairs to their homes.
“We loved it the first time we were here,” said Callie Dean, the church’s youth director. “We really enjoyed the work that we did, as well as the relationships we developed with the people we met. I think it’s unique among all the mission trips I’ve been on in that we’ve been able to stay in touch with The Fuller Center and be involved back home with The Fuller Center in Shreveport and Minden (Louisiana). It’s nice to be back.”
Dean also said that it’s good for the church youth to be able to see the roots of The Fuller Center to get a better perspective on the work they are doing.
“The Fuller Center is rooted here and has long-term relationships with the people they serve,” Dean said. “You’re still keeping in touch with the people whose houses you’ve worked on — and that’s a cool thing.”
Both Haugabook and Garcia have dedicated much of their lives to raising children — their own and others’ children. And both fell upon hard times after losing their husbands.
Haugabook raised seven children — including the four nieces and nephews she took under her wing when her sister died. She was a pillar of strength during those years, but after losing her husband and then battling ovarian cancer, she has struggled recently to make basic repairs on her home.
So she was thrilled to have the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing bring in two groups to help fix up her home — volunteers from Wells Fargo who worked one day on her home June 22 and the Bossier City kids all this week. She said the girls with the Bossier City group remind her of a younger version of herself.
“These are some working kids, I tell you,” Haugabook said with delight. “They’ve been hard-working from day one. Even the ladies! These ladies are working under the house just like a man. That’s me!”
Garcia also put in her time raising children — including 10 of her own and three stepdaughters, in addition to grandchildren. Originally from Texas, she and her farm-worker husband kept bouncing back and forth between Americus and Florida before they decided to settle permanently in Americus in 1998 so that their children could have stability in their education.
The family’s modest home sits on a 2.5-acre plot down a dirt road, and Garcia had set her sights on an adjacent 8-acre plot for her extended family. But after her husband died four years ago, she fell behind on payments. The seller cut her no slack.
“I had already given him about $18,000,” she recalled. “And when I got behind, I asked if I could lower my payments, and he said no and just took over the land again. I asked if I could at least have that little piece where my husband had a garden, and he said no. So I lost all the money I had given him.”
Her home is almost paid off, though it badly needed the work being done by the Bossier City group.
“I’m so happy they’re helping and doing all of this for my house,” she said. “They’re doing a great job. I love what they’re doing. They’re nice kids and doing their best to help.”
“She’s an amazing lady and has worked hard with us this week,” said Dean, who has worked all week at the Garcia site. “It’s been fun.”