More Than a Service: Building Relationships as a Nonprofit

By April 29, 2019Spotlight

As a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping people with their homes, we get to meet all kinds of people with all kinds of needs. Some people come to us needing a ramp built so they can access their home despite their disability. Others come to us looking for financial help to replace their furnace. Yet others come to us looking for help making their homes more energy efficient.

Among those that we help, some really stand out. One such person is Lisa Marie, who came to us last December needing bathroom repairs. While many people are (understandably) worried and stressed out about damages to their homes, Lisa was a joy to interact with from the start. With her heartwarming smile, bubbly attitude, and talkative nature, Lisa made the entire approval process fun.

Overall, the process of helping Lisa didn’t take very long; she applied in December, was approved by Christmas, and the work was completed by early February. With people like Lisa, though, it doesn’t take long to form a relationship. In that short period of time, HOW’s executive director Pam Kennedy was able to connect with Lisa strongly, striking up a friendship even more quickly than it took to repair her bathroom.

Lisa is one of those people that you just can’t help but root for. Every time you interact with her, you just cross your fingers and hope that something fantastic will happen for her. Luckily, although no one knew it, Lisa was about to experience the opportunity of a lifetime.

In February, Lisa learned that she was a finalist for the Hoosier Lottery’s $1,000,000 Blowout 2nd Chance. The drawing was comprised of five finalists that

hadn’t been selected in the initial round of the lottery, each of whom was offered an overnight, expenses-paid trip for two to Indianapolis on March 15th. Lisa had one problem, though: she needed a second person to accompany her.

An extremely positive person, Lisa was beyond confident that she would win. “I started working with a financial planner on how I was going to invest my money before I even went to the drawing,” she said.

A few weeks before the drawing, Pam powered up her computer and saw an e-mail titled “Subject: Million Dollar Road Trip.” Lisa asked Pam to come along as her plus-one on the trip, promising good food, great company and the chance to see her win a million dollars. Pam readily agreed, and the two prepared for the once-in-a-lifetime journey.

“Pam volunteered to drive,” Lisa recalled with a wry grin, “because I had been pulled over every single time I’ve gone to Indianapolis since I was 16 years old. On top of that, I was an anxious wreck, so it was probably wise to have someone a little more level-headed behind the wheel.”

Pam chuckles every time she talks about the trip.

“Never in my life have I met someone so confident about random luck falling their way as Lisa,” she recalled. “Every time I tried to remind her that there was only a 20 percent chance for her to win, she’d go ‘I just know I’m going to win. There’s no doubt in my mind.’ She even got with an investment planner to work out how she was going to invest the money! Some people might say she was setting herself up for disappointment, but I think there’s really something to be said about the sense of hope she exudes. I’m a bit more of a pessimist, but Lisa really taught me a lot about the power of optimism.”

Once they arrived, the two women checked in to their hotel.

“It was a really hip, modern place called The Alexander that had art down the walkways,” said Lisa. “It was by far the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The Hoosier Lottery really set us up well.”

The next day, the two women enjoyed a day on the town. The first thing they they did was attend a St. Patrick’s day parade. While there, though, they noticed a shy little boy who wasn’t getting any candy thrown to him because the other children were better at gathering the parade were better at getting noticed by the parade workers.

“We stood behind the boy and hooted and hollered and pointed at the boy until he was drowning in candy,” Lisa said. “Probably not good for his teeth, but it was worth it to see his huge smile.”

Lisa also convinced Pam to splurge a little and buy her first lottery ticket, thinking that her luck might rub off on her. “She won 7$, but she didn’t even know how to tell if she won,” Lisa laughed as she retold the tale. “It’s a good thing I was there to help her figure it out.”

When the evening rolled around, Pam looked on as Lisa was taken on-stage with the other finalists as the drawing was announced. According to Pam, Lisa looked “extremely happy on stage, confident as ever.” Everyone waited tensely as the announcer drew the name of the winner, which was…Anthony, a lawyer from Nappanee, Indiana. Lisa and the other finalists congratulated him and headed back for their respective homes.

Naturally, Lisa was somewhat dejected after being so certain that she would win. Pam, however, wasn’t going to let her leave feeling disappointed.

“When we got back to the car, Pam looked at me and said, ‘You’re not going to be a bummed-out loser the entire way back, are you?'” laughed Lisa. “I rolled my eyes and said of course I was, but in truth was already feeling better.”

Pam followed up, “Before long, she was talking about how she’d have to work to become a millionaire. She sounded like she was joking, but she firmly believes that she’s going to be a millionaire someday. Truth be told, I wouldn’t bet against her.”

While the drawing may not have gone as hoped, Lisa and Pam had developed a friendship worth far more than money. These types of interactions are the kinds of things that make running a nonprofit worthwhile: you may see people at their lows, but you also get the opportunity to see people’s spirits lifted higher than they ever thought possible. Meeting people like Lisa is why we do the things we do, and we here at HOW will continue working to get more help for more people because of them.


If you would like to learn more about the ways HOW impacts our community or attend any of our classes, including our Home Energy Impact class or our Lifecycles of Homeownership class, please reach out to us! You can contact us at (574) 269-7641 ext. 106, fill out this form, or follow us on Facebook.  Additionally, you can come to our offices at 109 W Catherine St. Milford, IN 46542. We are always looking for donors and volunteers so that we can impact the lives of more people!
At Housing Opportunities of Warsaw, our mission is to encourage and expand safe and affordable housing by providing opportunity and choice through investment in people and communities.  Through educational courses, emergency home repair and home retrofit programs, assessing homes for health risks, and transitional housing, we are dedicated to helping our neighbors get through times of difficulty and become self-sufficient once more.