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Howard: Grace and gratitude during the holidays

Elyse Howard
Valley Voices

A bittersweet time of year …

There is a lot packed into the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As I race towards the end of the year, I’m feeling the stress of all the to-dos — from playing elf for Santa, to December birthdays to finals week, then add in the year-end board meetings and budget approvals. I am looking forward to the natural pause that tends to occur between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a chance to take stock in the many things we have to be grateful for.

Elyse Howard

While many in our community are entering their busiest season, at Habitat we’re celebrating our successes and planning for the year ahead. We have lofty goals for the next few years, but we can’t do it alone — and we’re fortunate that we don’t have to. We’ve been graced by the generosity of Habitat partnerships and community support: Habitat starts and ends with our community and the partners that help us fulfill our mission.



Habitat for Humanity at its very core is a grassroots organization and our mission to increase affordable housing doesn’t work without community. We are crafting an aspirational plan that will guide us and push us. The incremental modular pilot project will deliver more homes faster. This simply means more local families will have a house to call home. It’s exciting, challenging and is one more thing I am grateful for here in Eagle County.

Habitat’s role in helping increase affordable housing stock is part of a carefully choreographed dance, with volunteers, partners and experts in their fields working with us. From land planners to town councils, county commissioners to our own board members, it’s only with the wealth of knowledge that we are able to build homes in partnership with hardworking locals. I’m so grateful for the relationships we’ve established over the years, the bright minds and caring individuals I work with.



Jenny moved into her new home at Grace Avenue earlier this month. There was no furniture that first night but that didn’t matter as she and her kids, giddy with excitement, barely slept. Come morning, their feet didn’t touch the ground as they nearly floated to school. Grace, excitement and gratitude permeated their home. It’s been a hard year for Jenny — her father died, previously the family was living in an unheated space without running water. Their Habitat home is the light at the end of a very dark year for the family of four.

Jenny and her neighbors would not have a home if it weren’t for our partners who helped keep us on track to finish the project before the end of 2021. Even with the obstacles of COVID-19 we kept moving forward in part because of land donated from Eagle County Schools, donated and discounted labor and the hundreds of individuals and companies that stepped up before we had to ask. We have more to do, and with the words of one of our most generous supporters ringing in our ears, we will build on.

“We at Habitat are graced, honored, in an earthly way by being able to connect with so many amazing individuals (co-workers, volunteers, homeowners, sponsors and donors) via our mission to help local families achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. All of the gifts that allow us to do our important work, along with the courage of our homeowners, are gifts accepted and grown. This neighborhood will be visible evidence of it all and of God’s grace in our lives,” Mary Lynn said in 2018 when the Grace Avenue site was dedicated.

The neighborhood is community in itself: neighbors watch out for each other, they gather in the street with holiday cheer, they babysit each other’s children. They are the very definition of “it takes a village.”

Our small office has experienced many losses this past year, and it’s a bittersweet season as we celebrate yet miss loved ones. As I move through the hecticness of this season, I’m trying to give myself grace — and am encouraging my friends and coworkers to be kind to themselves. The community has felt the reverberations of losses but let’s emulate the Grace Avenue neighborhood and support each other. We live in a kind, caring, generous community and I am grateful to be part of it.


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