From beginning a career in mechanical engineering at the age of 19 to running her own home repair business throughout Santa Cruz County, Rebecca came to Habitat for Humanity with a few tools up her sleeve. She had just retired and looked to resettle close to family in Portland. Never being fond of idleness, she also sought to put her hands to good use.
Among the many organizations she sets her sights on, she knew she would find volunteer opportunities with Habitat. Once she helped build Helensview, a 21-home community in the Cully neighborhood, she was hooked; returning every week to build more homes from the ground up.
For Rebecca, it’s all about combining ingenuity with creativity. Much like developing long-lasting medical devices for patients in her former career as a mechanical engineer, building sturdy homes conjures up that same passion. She loves taking the architectural designs from the very foundation all the way to the point where the homes are move-in ready. And knowing that she is part of an organization that aligns with her values cements everything firmly in place.
“Habitat is just lockstep in tune with me and I with them,” Rebecca said. “I feel like I have been absolutely blessed in my life. Having a dedicated family, a home; I never worried about where I was going to sleep. I know how valuable that is. And when that’s not true for everybody, I feel compelled to lend a hand.”
So every week, Rebecca picks up where she left off–whether it’s hammering away at the build site, revamping a playground alongside volunteers from Thrivent, or training to guide volunteers in building playhouses, she is constantly pouring herself into helping others.
When she’s not putting her heart into volunteering with Habitat, she bestows her unyielding kindness to her friends and family. Right now she’s in the midst of using recycled materials to create a lending library for her sister. Complete with an enclosed bookshelf atop half a wine barrel, the lending library is a simple gift to the neighborhood with long-lasting value.
Rebecca’s generosity comes from a deep-rooted belief in the power of kindness. It’s something she passes on to her grandchildren, telling them that 95% of your success in life will come from being kind. She tells them, just be kind and you will be successful in whatever you choose to do.
That strength in kindness is something she observed her parents carrying out when she was a child. Her father was a union carpenter and was always helping those in need, neighbors and strangers alike. Living during The Depression taught him to be creative and inventive with scarce materials and understand the need for taking care of one another. Rebecca watched him build sound structures from wood and quickly picked up useful skills she would use later on in life.
Like when she was 19 and showed up to a research and development lab asking for a job–no degree, but a wealth of knowledge packed into her brain nonetheless. Or the time she started her own home repair business called, “Tavish and Her Tool.” The animal shelters she is currently building with RedRover and the homes she continues to build with us.
With a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of kindness, Rebecca’s set of tools go beyond her inherent skillset. She is a humble leader among a volunteer community whose passion is nailed in every board and beam that goes into building these Habitat homes.
“If you’re able to do it that’s what you do,” she says. “That’s what I do.”