Habitat helps Indiana family build a better future

For the Bennett family, their Habitat Evansville home came at just the right time. “Moving from the apartment to the Habitat home was a surreal experience,” says Christopher Bennett, who was 11 when they moved in 20 years ago.

“My sister and I shared a room for so long and the reality of living in separate rooms seemed both exciting and intimidating. I remember us both adapting to the change very well, and it allowed me to truly begin to form my identity.”

“It was a huge difference,” says his sister Christina, 13 at the time. “It kind of gave a sense of ownership, that this is yours and you could have your own creative space.”

With her mortgage payment less than half of what she had paid in rent, Cynthia Bennett had more money — and time — to invest in Christopher and Christina. “Education was always a must in my home. They knew as soon as they hit the door, they had to do their homework and then chores,” says Cynthia, who works in education as a family engagement coordinator. “I was always home, and we had supper. We always talked about our day — what we did and how could we make it better if something didn’t go right. That was nice — to be home.”

Cynthia’s work to complete the Habitat program and help build their home while taking care of her family was not lost on her children. “The fact that she worked so hard to make sure that we were secure, that we had our privacy and a place to call home — [it was] so very uplifting and inspiring to see her do that and actually follow through and have it happen,” Christina says.

As Christopher watched his mother support him and his sister and otherwise maintain the household, he learned the meaning of responsibility. “I remember cutting the grass for the first time,” says Christopher, now married with two kids of his own. “Simple lessons of responsibility seem so small at the time, but they grow and remain with us as time passes, becoming an essential foundation of adulthood.”

The generosity of others made a big impression on them all as well, from Habitat staff to the volunteers who helped build their home. Cynthia is still in touch with her mentor family and has spoken on behalf of Habitat Evansville and served on affiliate committees. Both children have devoted their lives to helping others. Christina will complete her medical residency in June, while Christopher has a master’s degree in criminal justice and works as a manager of infrastructure protection.

“My experience, in addition to my faith, has driven my desire to assist others and was the reason I chose to go into law enforcement,” he says. “Whatever the form of giving, I have learned that it is a satisfying experience to know that you have changed the course someone’s life to a more positive direction with what seems like a simple act of service.

“There is no doubt in my mind that my life would have been very different if others did not give.”