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EP321: Modeling Grace: Christine Handy's Story of Survival and I Retired At 50, And Was Bored....So I Served People

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2022 3:00 am

EP321: Modeling Grace: Christine Handy's Story of Survival and I Retired At 50, And Was Bored....So I Served People

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 25, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, model, motivational speaker, and author, Christine Handy tells us how she became a breast cancer and medical malpractice survivor whose life was saved by two powerful forces: friends and faith. Scott Gilbert shares the impact he has had as the president of the Roaring Fork Valley Chapter of Habitat For Humanity by teaching life skills to people in prison.

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Time Codes: 

00:00 - Modeling Grace: Christine Handy's Story of Survival

25:00 - I Retired At 50, And Was Bored....So I Served People

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Light, comfy, good to go to. This is Lee Habib, and this is our American Stories. Up next, a story from Christine Handy about survival, forgiveness, and strength.

Here's our own Monty Montgomery with the story. Christine Handy was born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I'm certainly a Midwestern girl. I am a mother of two sons. I am a motivational speaker. I am a writer. I am a lot of things.

Including a model. So I started modeling when I was at the tender age of 11. I loved it. I actually loved being a model.

It was easy for me. I began to hone in on learning those skills to brighten up and be in front of that camera, and it became something that I depended on. And throughout her career, Christine would land modeling gigs at Pepsi, J.Crew, Petco, and Target, to name a few. But success, as great as it is, has its downsides too, especially when success comes at such a young age. I missed a lot of things that were really important for my development, and I try not to blame anybody else because my parents weren't really interested in me becoming a model. They had three other daughters, and it wasn't their goal for me to become a model, but to be honest with you, I was obviously very attractive. And when you have people commenting on who you are, which was solely based on what I look like, you yearn for more of that attention. And when you're that age, when you're that young, you don't realize that other people are getting nurtured in other ways. Like, when I would come home with my report card and it would be straight A's, I would be excited to show that to my parents, but I wasn't getting a lot of attention for that. I was getting a lot of attention because I was getting bigger and bigger modeling campaigns.

You know, like I had just gotten, I remember as a freshman in high school, I had just gotten this big campaign with Pepsi, and I remember bringing my report card home going, look at me, look at me, I've got straight A's. And it just, I wasn't getting the foundation, right? I wasn't, my life wasn't built on my mind, my brain, or inside. You know, I wasn't learning self-introspection. I wasn't learning self-worth.

And most people at 13, 14, 15, 16, you know, society can correct them. Society's applause was not correcting me. Society's applause was pushing me forward into this narrative of, you know, depending on that outside beauty. So the external facade became my measure of my self-worth, so to speak, but I didn't realize it at the time. I started to also develop an eating disorder a few years after I started to model. And part of the reason I believe that I started the eating disorder was because I had some sort of control in my life. When I felt out of control, right, I'd show up on set as a model and the client might say, oh, your hair is not the right length, or your blonde hair is too dark, or your waist is too big, or whatever they were criticizing me for, I knew that I can control what was going in and out of my body, and so that became kind of a lifeline for me, a very destructive one. And the longer I modeled, the quicker the eating disorder blossomed and ultimately erupted. And so I came home from my sophomore year in college and I literally said to my parents, I sat them down and I said, this thing, this eating disorder that all of us are ignoring, this thing exists and it's controlling me and I can't stop myself. And so my mom looked at me and said, I'll take you to the hospital.

And I was there for 30 days and it was great. I mean, I really, I took, it changed my life in a way because I didn't have an eating disorder after that, so it worked. But when I was leaving the hospital, one of the nurses said to me, here's a pack of gum. And I said, well, what's this for? And she said, well, just in case you mess up, just in case, you know, you throw something up, chew a piece of gum. And I thought to myself, she doesn't believe in me.

So she's a nurse and she's seen this before, so if she doesn't believe in me, why would I? And so after that, it took a few years for me to really eliminate the eating disorder because I went back to it a little bit thinking in my mind, well, everybody goes back to it. She told me, but it was that doubt, that doubt that I clung to. It wasn't the strong belief in myself that I'd conquered this, right? It was that doubt that she had put inside of me. That's what I clung to.

By the age, you know, like late 20s, modeling had become a constant. It became the biggest constant in my life. I felt strangely safe in front of the camera and I felt confident and I felt loved. But I was getting older and I was starting to feel this yearning for something, meaning, purpose. I had no idea, but there was a slight emptiness inside of me. But I squandered those thoughts and I reminded myself over and over again that the next steps in my life were what I was living. I was supposed to get married.

I was supposed to have kids. And at this point, my self-esteem was so dependent on society and the rules of the place of women. I was locked in, like that was my measure. I was living a performance-based life. I found out quickly that that beauty, that external dependency was quicksand. And when you lose that, you better have some pretty strong foundation.

And for me, I just didn't. And you've been listening to Christine Handy talk about her struggle with, of all things, beauty. It can be a blessing.

It can be a curse, like so many things in our lives. When we come back, more with Christine Handy and her life story, here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation.

A monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to our American stories dot com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming. That's our American stories dot com. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the 9 0 2 1 OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech ODT. We recorded it at I Heart Radio's 10th poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that nerd tech ODT Remedapants, 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?

It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech ODT Remedapants 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can be missing out on big moments with friends and family.

But thankfully, nerd tech ODT Remedapants 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

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Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to our American stories and to Christine Handy's story. When we last left off, Christine was at the top of her professional life. That being modeling.

She had gotten gigs at Pepsi, J.Crew, Petco, and many more. But her life felt empty and things were about to get harder. Here again is Christine. So I guess at this time, you know, being a wife and mother and staying in that box that I was living in kind of got confusing for me. Because I still didn't feel like I was enough. And what was missing, I believe, was who I was. I had no idea who I was.

I often ask myself that. I would say to myself, what do you like to do? And I did a lot of things.

I modeled, I took care of my house, my kids, I was a wife, and I loved my kids, I loved my job. But, you know, looking back, I felt very lost. My soul was trying to figure out, you know, what was life about.

And I really didn't know. And so I would ask myself, like, what do you like to do? The things that popped into my brain were tennis, yoga, going to lunch with my friends, and things like that. And I would stop myself and go, well, do you really like tennis?

And I couldn't answer it. And so instead of taking the time, now, I'm in my late 20s. You'd think that I was mature enough at that point to sit myself down and say, you know, really go through those questions. Because instead of taking the time and the introspection work that I needed, I started to socialize more. Small talk became kind of normal for me. You know, cocktail parties and shopping and materialism and trying to fill myself up with things. Instead of, you know, controlling my portion size and controlling my eating, I started to control my happiness by going to buy a new bag. And so I was just switching idols.

And also at that time, I would turn on the TV and I'd look at E-Network and Bravo and I'd idolize those famous people and those wealthy characters in society that were displayed all over the networks. And, you know, my placekeepers were falling apart, meaning I was getting older, right? So I was aging and crises started to happen in my life. Stress, anxiety began to become a stronghold in my life.

I was numbing that. And soon a huge crisis would begin to unfold in Christine's life. So in 2011, I tore my right ligament in my right wrist, which is not that big of a deal, but it required surgery. And I picked the doctor who I believed would perform the best surgery.

Not that I was worried that there would be any permanent problems because of it. My biggest concern at the time was that I was going to be out of yoga for six weeks. And so when the cast came off six weeks later, I did physical therapy in his office for a day. And then it was the weekend. And the next morning I woke up, it was Saturday morning and my arm had ballooned. So my right arm looked like my thigh bone, literally. It was a deep red, it was swollen and the pain was grotesque. And so I gave it about 24 hours before I called the doctor on a Sunday, which was scary for me. I didn't have enough self-worth to think that he would even take the call.

And if he took the call, when he took the call, he acted put out, he acted put out. And so the shame that I had felt in my life was reinforced immediately. And when you are in intense pain, it's hard to see what's around you. It's hard to listen to your inner warnings because basically you're saying, all your brain is telling you is get out of pain, get out of pain, get out of pain.

And you have a marginalized perspective. For me, I was looking around going, okay, I have to take care of my kids. I can't be in this pain. On that original conversation on that Sunday, he told me I over iced my arm. And so he said, take off the ice and leave it be. And so I did. And I know that sounds crazy that that was his prescription.

And looking back now, it does sound crazy to me. But like I said, when you're in that kind of pain and you've been taught that authority has the final say, listen, he got the medical degree, not me. He is the one that went to Stanford Medical School, not me.

And so I trust in him. Which is why Christine continued to see this doctor even though the pain refused to go away. Then on one of her many visits to his office, he told her what he thought was causing it. He didn't take an x-ray.

He didn't take a blood test. He looked at me and he said, you have this thing called RSD. It's a disorder where your brain is telling your limb, which in my case was my arm, that there's pain and swelling, but it's really just in your head.

And I thought, wow, I've never heard of this. I can't believe this thing called RSD can be causing this much pain. And so subsequently he sent me down the hallway to a different office, to a different doctor who was a pain management doctor, who concurred with his diagnosis. Christine then endured two nerve block surgeries, pain meds, and was sent to physical therapy. Yet nothing changed for months. The pain was still there.

That was because her doctor had misdiagnosed her. And it was a random comment that finally led to Christine seeking other options. One day I was on a walk and one of the employees of the town said to me, hello. And I said, hello. And he stopped me and he said, is that a new cast? And I looked down at my arm and I thought, wow, if the town's worker noticed that I'm on my eighth or ninth cast, I need to see a second opinion. And it was that day that I picked up the phone and called a friend and I said, I know you have an orthopedic doctor that is your friend.

Do you think you could call and get me in? This doctor would agree to see her and Christine would finally get the answers she needed to know. The doctor came into the examination office and he said, I know your doctor.

He's very well liked and he has a great reputation. Let's take a look at your arm. Let me take an X-ray. So he took an X-ray and I came back into the room and he came in like 10 minutes later and he was pasty white.

And he asked my husband to come outside with him for a moment and now I started to really worry. And they both came back and said, every bone in your wrist is broken. All those bones have broken and fallen into a pile at the base of your wrist. There is no cartilage left, which means you have an infection that has been undiagnosed. I'm going to put you in surgery today. I'm canceling the rest of my day and I'm going to dig out as much infection as possible. I have no idea what I'm going to find.

I have no idea what the outcome will be, but I know for a fact that we have to get in there today. Christine was then sent to a specialist in New York and was told she would never have function in her right wrist again. Her arm was fused and on one of her many trips back to New York received even more bad news.

My arm was fused in 2011 and so I was just trying to figure out now with bone grafts in my arm and a cadaver bone that replaced my broken bones, how I was going to live for the rest of my life and be a mom and do laundry and drive and cook and all those things that I did, how I was going to do those. Here's where the story gets a little bit more tricky. I was in a hotel room in New York City and I went into the shower to shower and I immediately felt a lump in my breast. Five days later, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Anne, you've been listening to Christine Handy tell her harrowing story. My goodness, just having gotten through so much in her life from an eating disorder to just an emptiness in her life, a recurring feeling that she didn't know who she was as she said it, I didn't feel like I was enough.

And my goodness, in this country, it's so easy to feel that way, man or woman. So much is coming at us and then a misdiagnosis and then an actual correct diagnosis, cancer. When we come back, we'll find out what happens next in the life of Christine Handy here on Our American Story. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the 9 0 2 1 OMG podcast, we have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech O.D.T.

We recorded it at I heart radio's 10th pole event, Wango Tango. Did you know that nerd tech O.D.T. Remedia pants, 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?

It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech O.D.T. and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech O.D.T. Remedia pants, 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family. But thankfully, nerd tech O.D.T.

Remedia pants, 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives.

I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to our American stories and Christine Handy's story. When we last left off, Christine had endured months of pain due to a misdiagnosis resulting in her losing all function in her right wrist. And she had just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Here's Christine talking about the moment she found out about her diagnosis. Actually, I was home alone and I was waiting for my husband to get back from wherever he was. I didn't know where he was. I'd been looking for him in our house. And because I couldn't change, I couldn't get dressed because I had this massive cast on, I needed help to help me get out of my robe into clothes. And I felt my phone vibrating in the pocket of my robe and I looked at the phone and it was an unknown number. And I knew immediately that it was a doctor. And so I picked up the phone and sure enough, it wasn't a nurse to tell me everything was fine. It was the doctor who I had seen who did the breast biopsy. And he said to me in a very small, meek voice, you have breast cancer. And the only thing I remember about that conversation or that day, to be honest with you, I said to that man, am I going to die?

And he did not answer me. I really quit. Because if you think about it, for the past year, that year, I had depended heavily on my friends and family to drive me, to take care of me, to take care of my family.

They used their resources, they used their time, and they left their own families to help me. And now I was facing 28 rounds of chemotherapy and who knew how many surgeries. And I still had a cast on. The grafts, I still, my arm had just been grafted. And so I kind of looked at my life and said, I'm a liability.

I'm not contributing. And the only thing that I was worth in society was what I looked like. And now that's going to be gone. Now I'm scarred up on my arm. Now who knows what's going to happen to my chest. I'm going to lose my hair to chemotherapy.

Nobody will love me. And I have no value in society. And so I literally decided not only am I going to quit, but I'm going to take some control in the quitting. Because I didn't know if I was going to survive.

And so I thought, well, I'll just quit before I start. Because my self-esteem was so crushed. Because I didn't believe in myself. And because I was so heavily dependent on the external. And so I said in my own head, I'm just going to take myself out of this equation. I'm going to plan my suicide. And so each day my friends and some of my family would come over and they would try to help me emotionally. And I would start to say to them, you know what? I quit. I feel like I'm just stealing joy from you, from my children.

My children should be getting the attention, not their sickly mom. I'm going to take my life. And they would say to me, you're stealing this opportunity for us to serve you. We're not going to forsake you. God never forsakes us. We're not going to forsake you. We will stand by your side. And I thought, yeah, right.

Once I lose my looks, once I lose what I thought was my value, you guys are going to hit the road, right? Over the next course of the next two or three weeks, I was waiting for my son to get home from boarding school. So I was, at least I could see him before I took my own life. And so my son got in trouble at school and couldn't come home for three weeks. And by the time he got home from boarding school, my friends had convinced me that not only was my life worth fighting for, my life was worth saving and my value had nothing to do with what I looked like.

And that was so new. That was such a different concept than the 41 years that I had lived. But I believed them and I trusted them because they continued to show up for me. Sometimes we can't always rely on our own voice.

Of course, for me, I couldn't rely on my voice at all. I was so insecure. And I would say to myself, you're not worthy, right? They were telling me I was worthy and they were backing it up by faith-based scriptures. And it was each and every day when they showed up. It wasn't like they came once a week and taught me this. I wouldn't have believed them or it wouldn't have been enough for me.

But it was day in and day out and there were multiple women that showed up. And so I had all of those voices for three weeks hammering into me. This story has meaning. There is purpose in all of this.

We don't know exactly what it is, but there is purpose in it. You just have to give us the privilege of walking through this with you. And I thought they were crazy.

There's no way. This isn't a privilege for them. I'm this burden that they have to take care of or that they feel responsible to take care of. I was twisting it in my head. They were saying to me, you're a privilege for us to help. And I was saying, not only am I not a privilege, but I'm a burden, right? That was my own self-talk, which was tripping me up again.

But after a while, I started to believe them because that thought and that action was reinforced by their behavior. You know, when I was going through chemotherapy, one day I came back from chemotherapy and I literally, my parents literally had to hold me up. So my father's on one side of me. My mother's on the other side of me and they're walking me into my house because I'm so sick and so weak. And I walk into my house and I see these post-it notes. I see them in my front hall and we go into the kitchen and I see them in the kitchen.

And I walk over, I say to my parents, I'm like, bring me over to one of those post-it notes. And they were all scriptures. One of my friends had come into my house when I was at chemotherapy and posted 250 scriptures around my house. And so wherever I looked, I could look at a scripture. Wherever my kids looked, they could look at a scripture.

They were on picture frames, they were on mantels, they were on, you know, my kids' bathrooms, they were in the laundry room. And so I was learning from these courageous women. Now, none of them had had cancer.

I didn't have any friends or any contemporaries that had cancer. And so this was all new to all of us. But what they were showing me was that they weren't going to quit on me. And so I credit those voices, those women, those strong, faithful women. But I also credit God. You know, there was some intervention, right? My son got in trouble three weekends in a row. So God was stopping him from coming home. If he had come home the first weekend, I wouldn't be here talking to you.

And what a shame that would have been. And so by the very fact that my son was delayed for three weeks, that ultimately gave me a shot. Now, once I was rooted more in, okay, if these people are going to show up for me, then I better show up for myself. And when I started to show up for myself, I started to pour into more faith-based things. I started to listen to podcasts from preachers. I turned off Bravo TV, I turned off E! Entertainment TV, I turned off the news.

And the only things that I would listen to were life-giving things. There was a shift that was going on. And after 15 months of shutting out the world that I knew, I was able to make a grand shift in my perspective. And what I did after I completed my chemotherapy was I said to my friends, okay, you gave me life, so to speak. You taught me that it is a privilege to serve, and that's what I do now. So for the past six, seven years, every day that I wake up, it's an opportunity to serve, whether it's telling my story or whether it's modeling in New York Fashion Runway at 51 years old, flat-chested, and helping to be a voice for those people.

Or if it's just encouraging my friends and showing up for people, total strangers, they taught me how to live a life of service, and that's what I do. And a special thanks to Monty on the storytelling, and a special thanks to Christine Handy for sharing her story. My goodness, those words at the end. I turned off all the things that didn't matter, the Bravo channel and all the TV, and I poured only life-giving things into my mind, into my heart, into my soul. And that created a grand shift in perspective. And a special thanks to all of her friends, those people who poured so much love into her life.

The story of Christine Handy, here on Our American Story. Did you know that NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 mg can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango? It's true! I had one that night, and I took my NURTEC ODT, and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 mg. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.

But thankfully, NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 mg is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So, lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit uhcmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we continue here with our American Stories, and today we bring you the story of Scott Gilbert, the head of a Habitat for Humanity chapter, and the strange journey he took to get there. I went and taught school at a private school in Connecticut. Pretty quickly was elevated to be the head of the middle school. I was coaching several sports and I loved it, but decided to cover my base. I'd go back and get an MBA at night and went to the University of Connecticut, Stanford branch, which if I say quickly, it sounds like Stanford. That's a pretty good MBA. University of Connecticut, not bad, but it's not Stanford.

But anyhow, depending who I'm playing with, I might skip part of that and just say Stanford. So as I was completing my fourth year and getting my MBA, I'd gotten a raise from $15,000 up to $18,500. I said, wow, this is really kind of challenging. And I was very conscious of one of the guys I taught with. He had three boys. He worked. His wife worked. He had a second job.

He was probably in his mid-thirties. He was miserable. He hated the school. He started to hate the kids.

He hated their parents because they didn't pay well enough and he couldn't get it together and he really resented life. And I remember saying, I need to move on. I don't want to be one of those guys.

I don't want to be caught in a bind and looking for someone to blame for my situation. So I took my master's degree, got a job with a wonderful advertising agency and ended up working with that agency for 25 years. And then at some point I was transferred to New York and we had a vacation home in Colorado.

My wife said, hey, I'll live in Colorado. Come home when you want. I'm stopping on the way to New York. I'm getting off the bus.

You can keep going. So for a couple of years I was one of the co-leaders of our New York office. We had hundreds of staff members and I was age 50 and my kids were both graduating from college.

And I was like, you know, this advertising run's been awesome. I love what I did. But here I was, 50, going back and forth to New York to Aspen, Colorado, thinking this traveling back and forth every week is going to kill me. And so I decided to retire at 50 because I'd made enough money to put my kids through college. And that to me was a major accomplishment in what I'm supposed to do. And kind of at 50, wasn't sure what to do. I probably stared out the window for a better part of a year.

The only appointments I had were taking the garbage out on Thursdays and getting my hair cut once a month. But then I saw an ad in the paper for a program called the Pre-Collegiate Program, which is a mentoring program for students who would be the first generation of their family to go to college. So I called up a superintendent of schools I knew and another head of school and had them write letters. And I realized pretty soon thereafter that I didn't need a very strong recommendation.

They just needed warm bodies. But spent several years mentoring Latino kids here in the Valley and got very connected to their lives. And in the meantime, I was looking for more to do. And I'd heard about Habitat for Humanity and explored that a little bit. And at the same time, my daughter graduated college, came to work to be a teacher in Denver.

And we checked out some garden apartments that weren't very nice. And I said, you know, we just spent a lot of money putting my daughter through college. She wants to be a teacher.

I want to set her up for success. It's somewhat unlike how I was set up, such that we could find a small home that I could own. And she could part-own and she could rent out rooms to some fellow teachers and friends. And as long as she wanted to teach, she could stay in that house. And if she wanted to leave teaching, we could negotiate that.

I was really enjoying Habitat. But I was thinking about my life where I couldn't stay as a classroom teacher, which I wanted to at the time, but thought it wasn't viable. My daughter couldn't make it work as a teacher herself without some help. But what could I do to help in an environment where I live, which is a resort market, with very high-priced real estate and homes? $750,000 doesn't get you much.

I mean, it's really crazy. How are teachers ever going to make it? I can't personally buy homes for all these teachers.

There's no way. But I could possibly shift Habitat's focus from people caught in a cycle of poverty who really probably aren't ready for home ownership and shift our focus to try to help people who are gainfully employed but sort of locked in underemployment such that they can live here, but they never be able to afford to own a home. And one of the most critical areas is the difficulty teachers are having and how can the teachers ever afford to live here without teachers in all of the community. And now suddenly my life's threads sort of connected, and now I can take Habitat, which we've built into a thriving nonprofit, and shift its focus to an area which we've found to be more appropriate use of everybody's time and money in our community. We got the school district to donate land that was being underutilized and had no particular purpose besides being like a buffer, and got the county also looking for help with the workforce to support it. So the school district gave six acres of land. The county gave $3 million to help with the infrastructure, which is putting in the utilities and the roads. And the next thing you know, we had a viable project.

The need is staggering. We had 42 different families apply for the nine spots. So basically it was less than 25% chance of winning the lottery. I've got an ex-felon working here. He's a wonderful guy. He's been employee of the year. We had another ex-felon who was employee of the year. Someone who's been incarcerated really appreciates freedom more than someone who's always had the freedom. One guy had been a drug dealer out in Ohio. I don't even know what violation the second guy had. There's no reason to ask him.

It doesn't really matter to me what he did or didn't do. And so I treat him with the ultimate respect because he treats us that way, and I don't want him to ever think he's being prejudged because there's no reason to. So we've got a couple felons who work for us. But more importantly, we actually have an amazing program. We have a state prison about an hour from our job site, and the prison crew went out and helped on various projects in the community that would help the Department of Transportation shovel snow. And one of the guys working there, a guy named Chad Robinson, he really believed that giving them more meaningful work to do while they were out on work crews would have a more lasting impact.

I mean, anybody can pick up litter on the highway, but get them working on a crew, building homes for Habitat, would give them more skills and a greater sense of value and give them a better chance when they got out. And the guys come two, three, or four days a week. A crew of five to eight guys come in a van with one of the guards.

He's not armed. These are guys in a level one minimum security prison who have been through the system or heading towards release. But the really nice thing at the job site is we've had times when we've had a good nucleus of guys, and we end up doing training with them and train them to get what's called a best card.

And it's a card that enables them to actually be a contractor. They have to pass a test. The last time we had eight guys take our class and they went for the test, they all passed the test. The town official couldn't believe they all passed, couldn't believe eight prisoners would study that hard, work that hard to pass the test.

He waived the fee. So what's nice is, you know, we're getting these guys to come help. We feed them like kings to give them some respect, and we're preparing them when they get out to actually have a skill. And what's weird is the skill, what you and I would think in building a home is, you know, how to use tools and how to learn how to frame a home.

But the skill is really learning what it's like to have a job, learning what it's like to take direction and not think someone's disrespecting you. So, you know, guys end up in prison because they haven't found a better way to make a living, and we're giving them a chance to break free from their vices. And a similar story that's really stunning, we get a lot of nice donations for our restore, and some stuff just doesn't make the grade that our customers are going to want to buy. So we put that into a big truck, and every few weeks this group comes up from southern Colorado and takes it back and sells it in a thrift store there.

We had no idea who they were. And the first time, this guy came in with a gift basket. I said, can you explain what you guys actually do, because I'm not sure I know. I know you take our leftovers. He said, yeah, we have this group called New Horizons Ministry, and we take the things that you give us, we sell it, and we use that money to take care of babies while their moms are incarcerated, you know, up to two or three years. And then when their moms get out, they get their babies back, and every Wednesday we take babies to visit their moms. And they moved that prison, so now it's a two-hour trip each way, but we want the moms to see their babies.

And I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that something we were doing, really just getting rid of things so we didn't throw them away, was having such an interesting benefit on a pretty much underserved community and ignored. And it's just really heartwarming to know that the efforts we make have such a far-reaching impact. And you've been listening to Scott Gilbert, the president of the Roaring Fork Valley Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and great job, as always, to Alex for his work out in the field.

And the story was brought to our attention by Carrie Morgridge and her Morgridge Family Foundation that supported Scott's work, and with philanthropy, of course, being another form of association that Tocqueville touted and was mesmerized by when he came here in the 19th century, and it's still going strong, stories you don't hear anywhere, stories about American generosity, and just grit and love here on Our American Stories. Each year, nearly 60,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with uterine cancer, the most common type of gynecologic cancer. Talk to a doctor about your risk. Ask your family about their cancer history and learn about uterine cancer symptoms, like any vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, because treatment is most effective with an early diagnosis. Stay up to date with appointments and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. Knowing your body and what's normal is important.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 05:23:44 / 2023-02-16 05:41:51 / 18

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