Joann Blumenfeld is an energetic, resourceful teacher at a Wake County middle school who says that lessons she learned through Habitat for Humanity set the course for her and her family. The crux of what Joanne teaches her children is simple: Work hard. Focus on school. Give back.
Seventeen years ago, Joann, her husband Sergio and their three small children lived in a two bedroom apartment. The parents slept on the couch. Paying for child care was not an option, so Joann worked part-time from home. A home of their own seemed out of reach until they learned about Habitat Wake. They applied and were accepted into the homeownership program, and began their 250 hours of sweat equity, working alongside the White Memorial Presbyterian Church members who were building their house.
“We were amazed,” Joann remembers. “I felt like the whole community was behind us and we could only succeed.” The Blumenfelds have flourished in the years since: Joann is now a lead teacher and is developing new approaches to teach science to special education students. Sergio is a veteran in the North Carolina Department of Labor and has been named employee of the year numerous times.
All three Blumenfeld children are achieving success in college, and have post-graduate plans that include helping others. Maya, the baby, plans to go into social work in non-profit or hospital administration. Roy, the middle child, recently visited Washington, DC with Habitat staff to lobby for affordable housing. He has served on City of Raleigh government committees and aspires to work in city planning. The oldest, Sabin, after graduating summa cum laude from N.C. State University, earned a scholarship to pursue a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked to make deliveries from North Carolina food banks more efficient, and excels at teaching undergraduates. Like Joann, her children believe “True success is not what you own, but how you can use your skills to make the world a better place.”
Joann looks back on their transformation with gratitude. “There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for Habitat, our house and the community that has supported us,” Joann says.