It may not seem like much, but a wired fence and swing set more than made one Collin County family’s Christmas. The additions encircled their hope and symbolized a desire to stay together.
For at least the holidays, all’s well at Rickie’s and Tammy’s welcoming home in Anna. Situated off State Highway 5, near U.S. Highway 75, their house is still out in the country in a sense. Until Thursday, their children – four foster kids all under age 5 – had limitless space to play.
With no fence and a busted trampoline, that space also meant a physical eternity for danger – a stark contradiction to why the kids are living there.
“Just to give them a home and a safe place to be,” said Tammy, who couldn’t disclose her full name because of a pending legal process to keep all four children.
She had five kids of her own before becoming a foster parent. Her grandson is one of the four now with her and Rickie, and the remaining three are half-siblings. The couple plans to adopt them all.
But Tammy is a school bus driver, and Rickie, disabled, works at a McKinney pizza restaurant, so they face a tight budget. There isn’t much money for luxury, even near-necessary purchases.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Collin County, namely volunteer Virginia Barrett, is working on the children’s behalf. Barrett found out about the family’s Christmas wish for a swing set and backyard fence for protection.
And others soon caught on. Pate Rehabilitation, whose management knows a CASA staff member, donated about $1,000 to purchase the swing set. Home Depot donated materials. And its construction fell on the backs – and hands and hammers – of two selfless groups.
North Collin County Habitat for Humanity (NCC Habitat) latched on to the playhouse mission and enlisted its frequent helpers Hands ‘N Hammers, a group from First United Methodist Church of McKinney (FUMC) that weekly spends time on home rehab projects.
Nearly 40 mostly retired men make up the group, with a dozen or so showing up every Thursday to lend their hands and experience. At 85, John Lyle is the oldest of the group. He linked up after helping them redo the porch at his daughter’s house a few years ago.
Since then, he and the other members have completed more than 40 projects in the northern Collin County area, half of them through NCC Habitat’s Brush With Kindness neighborhood revitalization initiative.
“We like fixing things,” said Dr. Dave Thompson, Hands ‘N Hammers leader. “It’s very satisfying.”
Rarely has that meant building a swing set and transforming a busted shed into a dual storage space and playhouse. Their project the past two Thursdays was a welcomed change of tasks – partly because it was for children, and also because collaboration sparked its completion.
“Anytime we get a chance to team up with others, we will,” said Scott Blackburn, NCC Habitat’s construction manager.
Joined in mission and selfless spirit, the makeshift but seasoned construction crew set the fence, built the swing set, and redid an old wooden shed. Other volunteers poured the mulch.
With a revamped trampoline and backyard portable pool, the house has about everything a child could ever want.
Tammy and Rickie have peace of mind; their little ones are safer. They get a backyard play area just in time for Christmas.
And dozens of others had their hands – and hearts – in its creation.
“If we’re going to make the world a better place,” Thompson said, “it’s one person, one family at a time.”