Full circle: A Habitat story for Pam

Pam Israel felt desperate. She was living in very cramped quarters, just 600 square feet for a family of six. But that wasn't the worst of it. Pam recalls the mold, electrical and plumbing issues. The mold had a nasty impact on her asthma so hospital visits became routine. When she did the laundry or dishes, sludge backed up into the bathtub. Fuses had to be changed daily.

"Anything that could go wrong, would go wrong," she said.

Then there were the squatters next door... and the drug dealers who moved in across the street. Her family watched as two men with knives chased each other around her van. Police were there a couple of times each week-guns drawn. She would make her kids lie down on the ground in case something went wrong.

It was not the sort of place to raise a family. 

But that all changed - Pam's whole future changed- when she got the call from Habitat.

Pam had been applying for acceptance into the Habitat for Humanity homeownership program for several years. With all her troubles she had briefly forgotten about her most recent application. But it couldn't have come at a better time.

When Pam's husband came home from work that day she told him she had some bad news.

"I told him he was going to have to give up his weekends...to go build a house," Pam remembers. "And he started crying, and I started crying."

While Pam's family worked on their sweat equity commitment, they were allowed to rent an empty home that had been returned to Habitat for Humanity. Then in 2004 they moved into their new home. After experiencing four moves in two years, plus a period of homelessness, they were finally settled. They had a home of their own in a safe, stable environment.

About a year later, Pam began volunteering at Habitat. That quickly turned into a part time job offer, and after five years as a receptionist at Evergreen HFH, Pam accepted a warehouse assistant position at the newly opened Clark County Habitat Store.  From there she moved up to warehouse supervisor three years ago, leaving her stamp on the people who cross within her realm.

"Pam is our store's longest tenured employee, and I don't think her dedication to Habitat can be matched by anyone," said Store Manager Steven Donovan. "She is like a mother figure to a lot of our fellow staff and volunteers around here."

For Pam, the best part about working at The ReStore is meeting all the different people.

"The customers are always great. You get those regular customers who come in, it's almost like a family unit, is what it is," Pam explains. "The volunteers really do make up The ReStore. You learn about what the volunteers' kids are doing...It's just an extended family that just keeps growing."

As warehouse supervisor, Pam oversees all activity at the receiving dock.  She said they average from 40 to 60 donations a day. But on Saturdays that number can soar to 120. Some of those donations are recycled instead of resold. The Clark County HFH Store made about $45,000 from metal recycling last year.

"We have three volunteers that come in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and they do small-engine repairs: lawnmowers, pressure washer, chain saws, and small electric garden tools. And they get them in working order so we can sell them," Pam says.

There is a need for all different skill levels.

Pam recalls four years ago when Jimmy J. joined the store's volunteer team. Jimmy has special needs and initially a job coach had to accompany him at all times while working at The ReStore. To help keep Jimmy focused on his tasks, his coach worked with Pam to devise a Velcro book of job duty images. As each job was completed, Jimmy moved the image over to the "done" page. Jimmy's job coach has gradually been able to step back as Jimmy has stepped forward, adding more days to his shifts. Now his coach checks in with Jimmy only once a week, and the Velcro book has been replaced with a magnetic job board, upcycled from an old clothes dryer door. Jimmy's jobs have expanded, too. He has learned to take apart sinks and fans, at times using a drill to remove old screws. At times Jimmy has also taken the lead in training new volunteers with special needs. That's quite an accomplishment for both Jimmy and Pam.

And the future just keeps getting brighter.

"Since I started with Habitat, I went back to school," Pam said. "Haven't finished yet, but once I get all my kids through high school then I am going back and getting my AA in business."

If that's in Pam Israel’s plan, we know she'll make that happen, too.

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