“I was bit by the Habitat bug a couple of years ago,” said Habitat Kent homeowner Tennille Harkness. Tennille paused and got a bit choked up while sitting in her living room just two years removed from moving into her Habitat home.
“I’m definitely blessed. The timing was perfect. The conditions of my old living situation weren’t healthy,” Tennille said. “I worked hard in the Habitat program for my kids. And I want them to eventually own this home in years to come.”
However, the “Habitat bug” did more than build a home for Tennille and her four kids. It also gave her the itch to serve her block on the west side of Grand Rapids. This itch to serve manifested itself this past week when Tennille accepted a position on the board of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization.
“I’m excited to be on the board and represent the residents on the west side,” Tennille said.
The leadership opportunity developed through Tennille’s consistent attendance at neighborhood events, desire for neighborhood safety, and planning of a block party.
“One of the board members of West Grand Neighborhood Organization told me that I was serving my neighborhood and block even though we didn’t have a title for it.”
In the middle of her explanation of all the neighborhood activities she’s a part of, a light bulb went on for Tennille. “Whoa, I guess I didn’t know I was doing all of this. I’ve kind of just been...doing it.”
Whether intentionally or by natural instinct, Tennille seeks to instill a sense of community and passion for others in her children.
“I bring my kids with me everywhere. I’ll look online to see when there are Habitat home dedications so we can be there for other families. And it’s important that I instill these values for my kids.”
When Tennille was in the Habitat program, she donated sweat equity hours, as well as spoke at Habitat Kent fundraising events. “We’ve been on the receiving end at different times in our life,” Tennille said. “And now we’re in a spot where we can be on the giving back end of things.”
Tennille plans on nurturing her family's established roots in the West Grand Neighborhood.
“I’m not going to leave this home. And I told my son he isn’t either, and he better take good care of it in the future,” Tennille said. “I remember picking out each and every detail of this house since it was built from the ground up.”
Tenille’s dedication to her home is overflowing into her block and neighborhood. Her passion and life are an initiation of Habitat Kent’s mission of building homes, communities, and hope.
“If there’s one thing I could say to anyone in my west side neighborhood it’d be to get involved,” Tennille said. “It’s important for us to be connected in what’s going on and to be on the same page.”