When Stephen Pierce was a Davidson College student and his car broke down, naturally he called mom and dad for help. In turn his parents, Cynda and Wayne Pierce of Newnan, Ga., called Angela Adams and Kenneth Parker of Mooresville. The Mooresville couple helped Stephen get his car fixed, and he was once again on his way. “They were like surrogate parents,” Cynda Pierce says of Adams and Parker. When current Davidson student Joseph Sills faced a risky drive home through a snowstorm after Davidson College dorms had closed for the holidays, the young man found himself in a jam. His mom, Maria Sills, also called Adams and Parker, and asked if her son could spend the night at their house. “We felt free enough to call them to ask if he could stay with them,” says Maria, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn. Adams and Parker forged these strong bonds and friendships with the other families through Our Towns Habitat’s HomeStay, a volunteer program in which local families provide lodging for out-of-town families visiting their kids at Davidson for special events such as orientation, Parents’ Weekend, or graduation. In return for a night at a home in the north Mecklenburg/south Iredell area, the parents contribute $65 to the Youth United division of Our Towns Habitat, which uses the money to build Habitat homes. The next scheduled HomeStay visit is May 19-20 for commencement. The Sills family will again be back with Adams and Parker as they watch son Joseph graduate. HomeStay tries to match rooms to guests’ needs, putting guests without cars close to the campus and offering big homes to big families. Since HomeStay began in 1994, grateful guests have contributed more than $130,000 to Our Towns Habitat, making the program the single biggest contributor. Most of the money goes to homes built in the area, while 10 percent goes to build homes in Guatemala. To date, eight Habitat homes have been built in the area, with a ninth in the fundraising stage. Students from Davidson College and five area high schools help build these homes, along with many of the host families – some 35 of them – from the towns of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville and Mooresville. Hosts don’t get involved in collecting the money, says Adams, a software engineer for Salesforce.com. Youth United gives her envelopes that she leaves on the beds. The Pierces have stayed at the Adams-Parker home on several weekends, and, Habitat volunteers themselves, always find a way to donate. Adams and Parker are Our Towns volunteers with their church, Davidson United Methodist. At Davidson’s graduation last year, the extended Pierce family—including three grandmothers and a step-grandmother—all slept in extra bedrooms at the Adams-Parker home, which allowed them to all see Stephen collect his diploma. He’s now a student at Southern Baptist Seminary. HomeStay originated when Jane Cain, music director at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, enrolled her daughter in Oberlin College in Ohio 1994. Residents there were hosting parents, with the money supporting a local worthy cause. Cain was a long-time Habitat volunteer, and also served on the board. “I thought ‘Well, we’ve got a college here (Davidson). People bring their students. Why couldn’t we make some money? Davidson College started putting out the word in its mailing to new students, and the church bulletin advertised for volunteer homes. Adams, who has been hosting families about seven years, says the experience is very fulfilling. “I’m always so impressed with the kids that come to Davison. Their life experiences are off the charts. It’s fascinating meeting them.” During the special weekends, Adams puts out fresh linens, offers coffee and cake in the mornings, and generally stays out of guests’ way. “They know where the kitchen is,” she says. But when needed, she’s there. Stephen Pierce’s sister, Jessi, was attending Virginia Tech when the campus shooting tragedy occurred in 2007. Adams knew that Cynda Pierce was driving to Virginia to pick up her daughter, so she called and insisted that they stay with her on their way back to Georgia. “She waited up for us,” Cynda Piece recalls. “It was very emotional. She just stayed up and listened to Jessi tell the story again and again. She made us feel at home.”
If you’d like to participate in the HomeStay program, contact Jessica Grantham at Jessica@OurTownsHabitat.org.