Lake County has been our home base since the Valley Fire raged through Middletown and the Cobb Mountain area. Through all the struggles and challenges of rebuilding after such an awful disaster, one thing has remained constant: our desire to get people home. Today we are proud to celebrate Jocelyn French coming home.
This home dedication began with Kevin Cox, the founder and CEO of HCRN, speaking on the joy of this occasion. “It is very special because a home is done. This was a house built out of love. This is a house built by individuals who [didn’t] have to be there,” Cox began. He thanked all the volunteers who gave up their free time and vacation days to come and serve here in Lake County. Our volunteers are so fantastic, they come hoping to have an impact on our homeowner, and in the case of Jocelyn, “They all walk away thinking ‘wow she was awesome.’”
The French home was the product of a collaboration with Mennonite Disaster Services, and a lot of work within the community. We especially want to thank Moke Simon, the county supervisor, for all of the work he’s done to get Jocelyn back home. Simon spoke at the dedication, “Today is just an honor. Hope City, everybody who worked on the house, the AmeriCorps kids, [I] can’t thank you enough for what you’re doing for our community. Today is one of those days I get emotional. Jocelyn I am so happy for you guys.” The tall burly Simon bent down and gave French a great big hug. French said, “I just wanted to thank you all. If it wasn’t for Hope City I wouldn’t have [this home].”
Working alongside Hope City and HCRN on this project was AmeriCorps. They were integral in finishing up French’s home. In the words of Kevin Cox, “I used to say it takes a village, but it no longer takes a village. It takes a big city. A Hope City. All of us [working] together.” With that, the representative from another of our partners, Middletown Bible Church, stepped up to begin gifting Jocelyn with her house warming gifts. First was a brand new bible so that she could reflect on the grace that brought the volunteers and funding for her home to be finished. Next came a quilt specially made by our friends at the Presbyterian Church of the Master, and a prayer shawl from the United Methodist shawl ministry. She was also presented with a small and simple cross, hand made by our Lake County Construction Manger, Bill Johnson. After that came a copy of The Peanuts movie, courtesy of the Schulz family.
The final item presented to French was the key to her house. HCRN Board President Carl Benner had the honor of presenting this small but important piece of French’s home. “I’ve been standing here thinking about this and what this key means. From the first shovel of dirt to the first nail, the very last in all the people from all over the country. What a small thing for so much love. It means more than just a key, it means a lot of lives have been here,” said Benner. French smiled and said, “You’ll have to show me how to run the dishwasher.” The group laughed, and Jocelyn’s home was a happy place. Welcome Home Jocelyn.