Web site fosters gratitude, encourages action
Nov. 19, 2010
By Mary Caffrey Knapke
DAYTON DEANERY — Diana Castro is thankful for her home. So are Cathy Meyer and Marcella Cook. Carl Brown, Regina Grubb, Karen Collins
These are just some of the people who have described in pictures and words what they love about the place they call home. More than 100 such entries have been submitted to a photo contest sponsored by Thankful Home, a program of the St. Mary Development Corporation.
The contest is one part of an initiative to encourage people to reflect on the blessings of home. “Thankfulness is really a key to spirituality. If you can be truly thankful for what you have, it changes the lenses that you look at life through,” explained Tim Bete, communication director for St. Mary. “I thought this would be a good way to use the Internet to get people to think about their housing situation and to start a conversation.”
Carl Brown, a member of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Morrow, submitted a photo titled “The Bookcase I Always Wanted,” and said this part of his home displays “a bunch of little things that make up who I am, who I’ve met, places I’ve been.”
He added that gratitude is “the fuel for humility, and without humility, we cannot practice any of the other virtues. It’s central to our faith.”
Information about the contest is available at http://www.thankfulhome.tv, a website launched by St. Mary Development Corporation in June. The site also includes text and video reflections by people who are thankful for their homes, such as Dayton resident Molly Campbell, who writes that her home “has stood sentinel over our family, somehow holding us together when times were great, and when we wondered if we could survive what life threw in our faces.”
Bete said he hopes that these conversations about the blessings of home will inspire people to reach out to the community to help those in difficult housing situations. He also hopes local residents who have experienced a housing crisis — or currently live in a difficult housing situation — will come
forward to share their stories.
“Part of our thinking is that if you can get people to talk about the issues, I’m convinced that the Spirit will work in such a way that new solutions will come forward. That people with different skills will come forward and make suggestions, and things will start to happen that are not going on now,” he said, adding that awareness is the first step toward action. “People have to know what the problem is — to pray about it and talk about it — to make some of those things happen.”
Inspiration for the program came from watching “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” a television series in which the home of a family in need is renovated or replaced. After a Dayton-area family was the focus of an episode last year, Bete said St. Mary Development Corporation fielded calls from many of the people who were not chosen to be on the program. Knowing that “Extreme Makeover” receives thousands of applications from families in need, Bete began to wonder how many families in the Dayton area alone might benefit from the kind of team spirit seen on the show.
“The reason I like the program is, it’s a great example of what a community can do,” Bete said. “With ‘Extreme Makeover,’ because it’s publicized, people came forward in droves. They wanted to help once they were aware of it. But oftentimes, weren’t not aware of it. So we wanted to make people aware of what was going on in the community, what the issues are.” He added that starting with a small project is a good way to get involved. “Maybe a young person has an elderly neighbor, and they could shovel their walk. Maybe shoveling their walk means the neighbor can stay independent and be in their home. That’s a big thing.”
St. Mary Development Corporation has taken inspiration from “Extreme Makeover” and is currently mobilizing volunteers and fundraising to renovate the Kettering home of a family that includes three autistic children. Using the Thankful Home website, as well as social media such as Facebook, Bete spreads the word about the progress that has been made on the home and what is still needed.
Another aspect of the Thankful Home project is a searchable directory of housing programs that can help people in difficult or crisis housing situations. The directory currently covers a nine-county region in the Miami Valley but will be expanded to three counties in the Cincinnati area.
St. Mary Development Corporation was founded in 1989 and has created more than 2,400 affordable housing units, including low-income senior apartments, single-family homes and emergency housing. In addition, St. Mary’s HomeOwnership Center provides home ownership services such as foreclosure prevention.