Natural Habitat

Howard Walker, father of senior Elizabeth, expected to help build the skeleton of the Hockaday and St. Mark’s  community’s Habitat for Humanity house.

Instead, he ended up fracturing his zyogmatic arch, the bone above the eye, after falling from  the roof and being hit by the loose sheet of plywood which made him slip. It caused a “deep abrasion” next to his eye and a laceration on the cartilage above his earlobe.

An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where Elizabeth and Head of Upper School John Ashton met him.

The family was surprised by the rare accident. “My dad and I have worked with Habitat for Humanity a couple times before, and the worst thing I’ve known to happen is a couple bruised fingers from an ill-placed hammer,” Elizabeth says.

Fortunately for the Walker family, Howard has healed quickly. After surgery repaired the fracture, he received stitches for his cuts.

According to Elizabeth, the swelling and bruising around his face “has gone down a lot.”

Over the course of the recovery process, Head of Community Service Jeanie Laube sent flowers to the family, and Dean of Students Meshea Matthews called them to check in quite frequently.

The response to this accident is an extreme example of the strong community that the ongoing Habitat project has cultivated. The volunteers have not only built houses, but also have built a support group.

The incident will not stop Elizabeth or her father from working with Habitat in the future.

“Our experiences have always left us with a sense that we’ve made a difference in our community and we’re appreciative of the opportunity to help,” Elizabeth says.

This year is no different. For the fourth year, Hockaday and St. Mark’s students have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for a family in need.

This year, the family of Patrick Robledo will be the recipient of the house located in West Dallas on Homeland Avenue alongside the Habitat houses previously built by Hockaday and St. Mark’s.

For eight weeks, 30 to 40 students, parents and faculty volunteers from Hockaday and St. Mark’s work from approximately 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. building the house.

“Everybody has their own little things to do each day, and each week, we have different tasks,” Robledo says.

Currently living in North Dallas near Central and Royal Lane, Robledo says that his “apartment is small,” for his family.

Robledo has two children, a seven-year-old boy named Isaac and a two-year-old girl named Madeline, as well as another boy on the way, due in April. This new child will be welcomed into their family just one month after the family moves into their new home.

On March 5, Habitat for Humanity will officially pass the house into their custody with an inauguration ceremony. The new house will give Patrick more room to raise his family.

“It will help us a lot as in owning something. We don’t really own anything now, just a vehicle. Owning a house will give us more pride in who we are, and just help us out more as a family.”

Robledo became involved with Habitat for Humanity through a friend from work, whose daughter works for the company. “He told me to just go apply and see what happens,” Robledo says. He did, and just hours later, “I was already signing paperwork for the house.”

In order to qualify for a house, the owners have to work for 400 hours, called “sweat-equity” hours. They build their own houses, as well as helping construct other families’ homes.

Walker is not the only student who understands the rewards of helping a family achieve homeownership through this process.

“Habitat provides the unique opportunity to see one’s efforts come into fruition,” St. Mark’s Junior Garrett says. “Not only are we rewarded by the satisfaction of making a house from scratch, but we are also able to see the pleasure on Patrick’s face. [He] is so grateful for our continual support.”

With the exception of Howard Walker’s accident, the construction process has run smoothly since January. Even with the recent snow and icy weather, Alicia Carter, Hockaday’s assistant director of community service, says the build is still right on track and has not been affected.

According to Carter, “We’ve never been behind before, and this year is no exception.”

—Megan