A Humbling Experience: an interview with Denise Bermudez about why she supports Habitat
(left to right) Denise Bermudez with her daughter and Cynthia, a Habitat homeowner.
Denise Bermudez is a one-in-a-million kind of Habitat supporter. Since 2007, she has volunteered her time, resources and ideas serving as a regular volunteer, donor, home sponsor and even as a member of the affiliate’s Board of Directors. As of December 2015, she has played a significant role in building homes for 25 local families through B/CS Habitat. Giving so much in such a short period of time is an amazing feat that begs the obvious question…Why? What would compel her to give as she has over the years to help these families in need, most of whom she did not know beforehand?
Reflecting on the first time she heard about the work of Habitat for Humanity, she remembers a late 1980s television commercial that showed Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter appealing to people to help them in this mission of building houses for families in need of good, decent and affordable shelter. Denise admits she was mesmerized:
It just spoke to me…I stood there, watching and listening…and I said to myself, this is what I have to do! I can’t do it now, but someday, this is what I will do… build houses with Habitat and help families have a better life.
Bermudez admits that homeownership isn’t for everyone, but for those who are ready, it is a remarkable and life-changing step. She likes the “Habitat model” of homebuilding and ownership because the homeowner plays such an “active part in the process.” The fact that the family can say “this is mine, I’ve worked for this, and I’ve bought this myself” is a cause and a purpose that Bermudez can believe in. Though it took almost two decades and a move halfway across the country, helping families through Habitat for Humanity has become a significant part of her life’s work.
According to Denise, part of the answer is the inspiring and humbling experience that comes with sponsoring a Habitat family. She admires the courage and perseverance of Habitat homeowners; many applicants are denied the first time they apply to the program. They face tremendous adversity, and it would be easy for them to be angry about the way life turned out for them, yet they remain joyful. During her interactions on the construction site, homeowners tell Denise that they asked the Lord to give them the strength to keep going and try again. Getting to know these families and their stories is one of her favorite parts of giving to Habitat:
To work alongside these families as they build their new homes… is both rewarding and an incredibly humbling experience.
Another part of the answer lies in Bermudez’s view of giving and philanthropy in general. She feels a real duty to help those in her community who are in need. She explains it in this way:
I’ve been incredibly blessed in my lifetime…and I believe that you [must] give back…First, you take care of your family and their needs, and once they’re taken care of, then you start helping other families and other people in ways that maybe they can’t take care of themselves. It’s not that these families want to be living in these [poor] conditions. They are doing everything they can to try and get out of this cycle of poverty, but, for whatever reason they just keep getting knocked down again…[so] if I can give them the hand up, then I want to try and do it.
Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity and the hundreds of families served through our work over 25 years would not exist but for the countless hours volunteered and the generous donations from caring and honorable people like Denise.
To truly “love your neighbor as yourself” is not an abstract concept for Denise — it is her life’s work; the result of which has been profound.