By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
KEOKUK — For Trevor and Jessica Pullinger, saying “yes” to God’s call to lay ministry and family life also meant saying “yes” to living frugally.
Trevor is the director of faith formation and youth ministry for All Saints Parish, and Jessica stays home with their four children, ages 7, 6, 2 and 6 months. Jessica said, “We budget and make ends meet. If that means we do not go do expensive things, such as movies and vacation, we find other things we can do as a family that give us moments to cherish. God has always provided us with what we need.”
Through careful financial planning, the family has been able to enroll their children in Catholic school, and Trevor and Jessica are open to the possibility of more children in the future. Their shared Franciscan college experience also put them in the mindset of distinguishing wants from needs and having the discipline to “get by on just what you need,” Trevor said.
But one thing that seemed out of reach to the Pullingers was home ownership. That is, until friends suggested the family apply to be part of the Habitat for Humanity program.
The Pullingers were hesitant at first. Jessica said, “We were sure someone needed it more than us.” “Accepting assistance with things is very humbling, in many ways,” added Trevor. “From the day we married we’ve prayed for God’s providence and we’ve always been taken care of in one way or another, something always works out .… This all being said, we’ve never expected anything.”
The more they learned about the program, the more they realized it could be a good fit for their family. The program requires homeowners to pay a down payment, mortgage, taxes and insurance, just as any other homeowner would do. To make these payments affordable to the homeowners, Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteer labor, simple design, donations to pay the upfront costs, and low mortgage rates. Homeowners are required to assist with the building of the home through sweat equity hours or by volunteering with the organization in other ways.
Jessica said the sense of “ownership and responsibility” put their minds at ease.
They applied for the home in March, and during an interview with the selection committee, Trevor said the family wanted to support the organization going forward regardless of the outcome of their application. “I didn’t know a lot about ‘Habitat’ before this whole process started.”
On April 18, Habitat informed Jessica that their family’s application had been approved. She was “in shock and in tears” when she told Trevor the news. “The kids got really excited and wanted to pack right away,” she said.
Habitat for Humanity Selection Committee Chair Ann Eaton said the Pullingers qualified for the program based on their current housing needs and Habitat’s income requirements. “You can’t make too much or too little or you won’t qualify,” Eaton said. She respected the family’s eagerness to help with the build. “Trevor is out there every day,” she added.
Construction began May 22 on the 1,288-square-foot, three-bedroom, house with one bath. Trevor helps with construction, while Jessica and the children pitch in by bringing Gatorade to the construction site and documenting the project with photographs. She shares the photographs and updates on a public Facebook group, “Pullinger’s Habitat Adventure.”
Trevor is new to construction work, but under the direction of project coordinators and site supervisors, he feels like he’s learning quickly.
He has relished the opportunity to work alongside inmates from the correctional facility in Mount Pleasant, as they provide labor for Keokuk-area Habitat projects. “I love that my home is being built with the assistance of guys who’ve made mistakes in life, like I have, and who through this build have been given a sense of hope.”
It’s made him think about the New Evangelization and how ministry can be borne from hospitality, not just planned events. It’s important to “be a really good neighbor to others, hopefully planting seeds of faith along the way.”
The home is set for completion in August, though the Pullingers intend to help with future builds. They’re looking forward to personalizing the home and planting a garden.
They also hope to be able to host dinner guests from all walks of life. Trevor said, “More than just being able to make the home ours, I’m truly excited to make it a place where we, as a family, can be neighbor to others.”
Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry working in partnership with communities to eliminate substandard and inadequate housing by building simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with God’s people in need. Affiliates are located throughout the Diocese of Davenport. The Pullinger family encourages people to help in their own communities. It is a “wonderful organization,” Trevor Pullinger said.