“We just liked the idea that we could do something to help someone get a roof over their head,” Dave resounded. “It’s tough to have a good day if you don’t have a roof over your head.”
It is a rare occurrence to meet someone, let alone two people, who embody so many qualities that you admire. Laurie and Dave Russell are compassionate, inventive, humble, and hopeful. They have been consistent donors, volunteers, and enthusiasts at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County for upwards of two decades. The act of giving back through Habitat Kent is a trait they fostered in their children from a young age and grew to become a family bonding tradition. Beyond their plentiful labor on work sites, their generous spirit will continue to help others in a new way: the Dave and Laurie Russell Family Scholarship for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Families.
A pair of high school sweethearts, the Russell’s shared a wondering glance and a grin when I asked them how long they had been involved with Habitat Kent.
“It’s got to be over 20 years?” Laurie guessed. “[Habitat Kent] has started a chain reaction of service throughout our family.”
They first started volunteering as a family to expose their growing children to another type of life; a life of poverty that was happening right across town that they may have never otherwise witnessed.
“We’re sort of sheltered out here in Forest Hills and we wanted them to understand that not everyone is as lucky as we are.”
While their constant volunteerism is not to go unmentioned, the Russell’s were eager to do something more. That extra initiative took shape in an education scholarship fund they created through Habitat Kent. The endowment will be open to any Habitat Kent homebuyer family member to apply and receive financial assistance for whatever further education they may seek out—college, graduate school, technical training—any program that supports a growing education.
“People have said ‘education is the greatest gift you can give your children,’” Laurie added, “but you can also give it to others, too.”
Dave and Laurie view furthering education as a vital objective for achieving one’s best potential.
“Education has always been part of our fiber—it’s critical,” Dave stated. “It helps people move on and up, it helps them help their families…it helps future generations.”
This idea of theirs had been simmering for some time as they were itching to go an extra distance in helping the community. Habitat Kent is grateful to have the continuous support of families like the Russell’s who simply want to see others succeed.
“We’ve been blessed and so we’re happy to help other people work towards their own improvements for their benefit. We’re just happy to do what we can.”
Allison Palm has been involved with Habitat Kent for over 3 years. In that time she has worn many hats including being a volunteer and working in the volunteer services department. She is currently in the resource development department working with the Habitat Kent board. She also is a graduate student at Grand Valley State University studying nonprofit administration.