In 1996 David Emanuel, one of the co-founders of the Nevada County Habitat affiliate, asked his fellow congregants at Nevada City United Methodist Church, if any would like to be a part of this new venture. Barbara Dean raised her hand.

Barbara joined the Homeowner Selection committee, and has been a part of the selection process for every Habitat homeowner selected.  She is the chair-person of the committee, and has been for more than a decade.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to work with people who are interested in making a big difference in people’s lives and in the life of our community,” Barbara says. “It’s also very exciting to witness the community response to the good work of Habitat.”

The Homeowner Selection committee is an applicant’s first contact.  Undertaking a fair and impartial process, the dedicated team members of the committee review applications that assess the need for housing, their ability to pay an affordable mortgage, and their willingness to partner with Habitat (sweat equity and more).  For Barbara, and the rest of her committee, the day a family is notified that they have been selected is a special time.

“It’s very exciting!” Barbara says. “It’s like a Christmas gift and we get to watch them open it. In life we all receive many gifts, so it’s wonderful to share those gifts with others whose lives may have been more challenging. It’s a sharing of God’s grace in a visible way, providing them with a new lease on life. It’s really a gift of relationship for all of us, a gift of love.”

While Barbara cares deeply about all of the families selected over the years, she does share a special connection with the single moms that have been selected. “I was a single mother. I understand the many hats they must wear, and often with little support. I like the fact that, with Habitat, we become like an extension of their families, helping them be successful homeowners.”

Reflecting on her more than 25 years of service with Habitat, Barbara sees her role a little differently today. While she’s just as committed today as she was when Dave Emanuel sought help in 1996, she is also looking to the future of this organization she loves.

“What I’m realizing is that a part of my role now is helping others move into leadership positions.  I want to share what I know and also share what we’re learning. We have to look at new things and new ways to make our selection process more efficient and in keeping with new and better ways of doing things.”

In keeping with her commitment, Barbara is the first to raise her hand in learning those new things – and hopes that others will follow suit in keeping the spirit of Habitat alive for many years to come.


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