By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — The president of St. Ambrose University swung a hammer to put up drywall at a Habitat for Humanity home Dec. 12 in Davenport. Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, joined students from the university as well as community volunteers for the building project that will become the home of JoAnne and Tegan Long.
The mother and daughter were on site even though they have earned the 250 “sweat hours” required by Habitat for Humanity. They have been waiting for a Habitat home for some time and are excited to move in next April. “This means the world to me,” JoAnne said. “I never thought this would happen.”
She said she’s had a tough life. “I was an orphan and had no family. I’ve been on my own since age 13.” …“I haven’t been able to give my daughter a lot other than love and discipline.”
JoAnne had been going to school studying drafting when financial aid dried up. Due to a disability, she has been unable to work.
She first checked into a Habitat home in 1997. Mother and daughter were homeless and didn’t have enough income for a home. She didn’t try to put in an application.
Eventually the two were able to find an apartment. Because of the disability, it is hard for JoAnne to climb stairs. “It’s hard to find a place to rent that is on the first floor,” she said. Her hope was to live in a first-floor apartment or even some day to own a home.
As Tegan got older, she started working two jobs and gave her checks to her mom, who manages finances for the two of them.
JoAnne decided to apply for a Habitat home last year. “We barely made the income guidelines, but then we were rejected the first time we applied.” She said the rejection was because of Tegan’s age — 25. Habitat officials thought Tegan could move out or get married, leaving her mother without the necessary income to pay the bills.
“We each wrote letters to Habitat committing our support,” JoAnne said. The application was approved.
The two selected a lot offered by Habitat and have been able to choose some of the building details for their home, such as siding and roof color and interior fixtures.
Ashley Sconzo, a St. Ambrose sophomore and member of its Habitat group, said work began on the house in July and nearly 50 students have helped with the building. St. Ambrose students and staff typically work on the building once during the week and also on Saturdays. Ray Shovlain, St. Ambrose’s athletic director and coach, and various athletic team members have been among the volunteers.
“We’re worked a lot of double shifts on this one,” Sconzo said.
Sr. Lescinski said service “is part of our vision of the university. The students are making this vision come alive.”
The university’s Habitat organization also is raising $5,000 to be a sponsor for the house, said Kathy Anderson. She is executive assistant to Sr. Lescinski, advisor of the SAU Habitat chapter and chairs the Board of Directors for Habitat — Quad Cities.
“It’s inspiring to work with our students as they build this home for Joanne and Tegan and will continue to build homes for families in need. As Sr. Joan stated, this truly fits our mission of enriching lives and our history of service and social justice,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she appreciates Sr. Lescinski’s support and enjoys the opportunity to work with her on a Habitat project at least once a year.
JoAnne said she feels lucky to have such a loving daughter and now the opportunity to have a home.
“I have gotten through a lot through prayer,” JoAnne said.