Habitat for Humanity Builds on MLK Day 9 Years and Counting
A day of service, honoring a man who served.
When Rachel Grier- Reynolds gifted her children tool belts almost a decade ago, she had no idea how many lives she would impact.
Grier- Reynolds and her husband, Rick, have been dedicated to service for as long as they can remember. The two have worked on multiple service projects in and out of the states, finding the art of service to be ‘thrilling.’
“We wanted our children to have a share in this as well, so when we gave them the box for Christmas, which they probably thought was going to be cashmere sweaters, we said for Christmas, you’re getting a Habitat [for Humanity] build,” Grier-Reynolds laughs.
Grier-Reynolds reached out to Kevin Gilmore, executive director of Sussex County Habitat for Humanity, with idea of doing a build on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Although Gilmore said the organization doesn’t normally build on Monday, he decided to willingly make an acceptation.
Grier-Reynolds sparked this idea in 2008, the same year she was diagnosed with lung cancer and given eight months to live. Nine years later, Grier- Reynolds jokes and says that’s the reason her family was so willing to participate.
The day of service, now coined Rachel’s Day, continued for a few years before adding new additions. Grier-Reynolds invited the Burris family to take part, doubling the size of the event and the service.
“Rachel reached out to us in 2012, she saw what a great opportunity it was for her family and she wanted to expand it,” Rachael (Burris) Keys says. “We’ve all grown up together and we saw it as a great opportunity to reconnect, spend time with the Grier/Draper clan and to give back on a day of service.”
Keys says she works on spreadsheets for the majority of her day, so a break from the norm was welcomed.
“It’s nice to see it come to life and how it’s able to take you out of everyday life and focus on helping someone else. At the end of the day, you look at walls you built, the walls you actually constructed with your hands and realize it’s going to help someone in your community.”
Grier-Reynolds and Keys are both thankful for the build day and what it has provided to their families and the community. Gilmore is extremely thankful.
“It’s a way to remember Martin Luther King Day as a day of giving back, not just a day off,” Gilmore says. “Her family has come from all over to join in, they invited friends and we’re up to about 35 adults and 15 children.”
In addition to giving back to the community and building houses, Gilmore says Rachel’s Day has changed the way people look at Habitat for Humanity builds.
“When people think about volunteering with habitat, it’s another way to do it — bringing your family together through service I think teaches children a lot and it’s like a family reunion. It can also be used for corporate bonding and team building.”
Jason Burris, who has also contributed to the last several builds, says there are many reasons why he participates, and one of them is supporting an old friend.
“It’s pretty special for me because Kevin Gilmore and I were really good friends growing up and it feels good to support him because I know his heart and soul is in habitat.”
In addition to supporting a friend, Burris brings his children every year and says it’s a great family day. He stresses the importance of children doing something for others, knowing they will not receive anything in return.
The most recent Rachel’s Day build involved three different houses in Ellendale, Del. After the build, Grier-Reynolds invited her friends and family over for a spaghetti dinner, preparing a special recipe her mother used to make.
“King was so much about uniting people, groups, families, even enemies,” Grier-Reynolds says. “He was about building, uplifting, not isolating… This has the same kind of effect — it’s so expansive, it’s incredible how healing it can be, helping other families, getting the time to get together and hang with each other.”
Grier-Reynolds says the get together has grown so drastically, she doesn’t know what her family would do without it.
Visit www.sussexcountyhabitat.org to learn more about Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.