hygge cares is our monthly initiative made easy by OrthoCarolina where we focus on different wellness aspects. Our October hygge cares focus is community wellness. You can learn more about hygge cares here.
We get asked about it a lot – “How do you say the name? Hig-ee? What does that even mean?” Before we get into the real meat of this blog post, let’s break it down: it’s hoo-gah, and it’s a Danish concept. Hygge is the idea of being cozy, comfortable and happy, to the point where have a feeling of well-being. Take a quick scroll through the “hygge” hashtags on Instagram and you’ll see a lot of interior design.
Hygge goes so much further than a comfortable space, though. More importantly, it’s about who you surround yourself with, not what.
If there’s one group that truly recognizes the importance of community, it’s Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte, a local affiliate of the national Rebuilding Together nonprofit. The organization focuses on making critical home repairs to ensure families can stay in their homes and their communities, rather than be forced to sell their home.
In fact, their mission says it all: “Repairing homes, revitalizing communities, rebuilding lives.” Helping foster communities by keeping families in their homes is at the core of what they do.
Currently, the local team of four is working in Charlotte’s Druid Hills neighborhood on one of their largest projects yet. They’ll be making critical repairs to 6 different homes in the neighborhood.
“Our focus isn’t just any house, we’re specifically focusing on the Druid Hills area to start with our Building A Healthy Neighborhood program because we recognize for it to be successful long-term it needs to involve organizing community members,” says Patricia Lovejoy, a community outreach coordinator at Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte. “Once we’re gone the community has to be able to sustain itself.”
The program launched at the Druid Hills Academy Build, which was a collaborative effort organized by Rebuilding Together, but it brought together several other local nonprofits as well. Digi-Bridge will be offering up their typical STEAM Saturday programming to the school while Pop Up Produce planted a community garden for the students to care for throughout the year so they can learn about healthy habits and how to grow their own food. Brand the Moth painted murals in the school to give students and teachers alike a sense of pride.
Involving other key players like the local school is a part of building up community wellness, but it goes even further. The types of repairs Rebuilding Together focuses on in the homes they work with contribute to an individual’s mental and physical wellness, too.
For example, a common issue the Rebuilding Together team and their volunteers see is black mold that comes when homes aren’t kept dry. Black mold is toxic and can make anyone who breathes it in very sick. Asthma is a common concern. For a family living in a home with black mold, the risk is serious.
And if a mother is worried about the ceiling that is falling in, the steps that aren’t safe for her children to walk up or the poor insulation that fails to keep them warm once it gets chilly in Charlotte, it’s unlikely she’ll also be focused on her or her family’s mental wellness.
“Life is chaotic enough no matter who you are or what you do, but imagine not having stability at home or at least a place to go home and feel safe and feel like your health isn’t at dire risk,” says Jesse Elkins, another outreach coordinator.
Jesse and Patricia joined the Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte team over the summer through AmeriCorps. The pair sees firsthand the difference having a safe home to live in has on the homeowners they work with. They’ve also seen their own mental, physical and community wellness improve since starting their own roles.
Physically, the work you do on a “rebuild day” is a true workout. Spending the day lifting, sawing, drilling and doing other things to build up the home will make you break a sweat.
Mentally, both say the work they do to help repair these homes is incredibly fulfilling. What they do has a direct impact on Charlotte’s families and their generational wealth. No matter how difficult the day or how complex the rebuild is, they feel accomplished and satisfied at the end of it.
But for both of them, it all comes back to community.
“I just think community is such a big part of who you are and how you see yourself and how you grow up and evolve,” Patricia says. “It’s important that that is as positive and fulfilling and empowering as it can be.”
For the month of October, hygge has partnered with Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte to focus on community wellness, and it all kicks off by us putting down the easy coffee mugs and picking up the hammers. We’ll be volunteering alongside the Rebuilding Together team on October 5 to help them make those critical repairs in Druid Hills, and you’re invited.
You do not need to have any experience at all in making home repairs – in fact, both Jesse and Patricia were novices when they started. The only thing you’ll need to bring with you is $25, which covers breakfast and lunch for the day + a really freaking cool shirt hygge and Rebuilding Together is collaborating on. Trust us – you’ll want to wear this shirt after volunteering.
Want to come help us build community wellness in Charlotte? Just click here to sign up.