Megan’s sister Felicia was adopted at age 8 after an early childhood that included housing instability and other traumas. “I have to believe that housing instability was a contributing factor that created a lot of trauma and stress in her life,” Megan says. “I can’t imagine as a little kid what it was like to go to a shelter and have to go to school the next day and not know where your house was the next night or what was in it.”
Felicia died of an accidental drug overdose in April 2021. “She had a really rough life, and none of it was her fault. She was a victim of a community that really failed her,” Megan says.
Campaign for Families gift will help transform support for families
Earlier this year, Megan and her husband decided to be more intentional about their charitable giving. They were inspired not only through the loss of Megan’s sister, but the need to support community members they see through their professional and volunteer work.
Megan is a cardiac nurse at a Saint Paul hospital. During surges in the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw patients who were ready to be released from the hospital but had nowhere to go. They weren’t able to live on their own, there weren’t enough transitional care options available, and weren’t able to stay with family members. Megan was particularly grateful for care coordinators who worked to find housing for those patients.
Megan’s husband, Ben, is an educator who teaches kids whose families have low incomes and unstable housing. He sees the impact on their well-being. “If you don’t know where you’re going home after school, how can you focus on school?” Megan says. “Education is limited by a child's capacity to learn. If a child is anxious about their home life, their success at school is jeopardized.”
The Habbes explored organizations in the Twin Cities and settled on making a gift in Felicia’s honor to Wilder’s Campaign for Families, which focuses on transforming the support that families need to be healthy, stable and strong. The campaign includes school-based mental health services and the Direct Housing Assistance program, which helps families avoid crisis with direct payments to lease and mortgage holders.
“Stable housing has numerous positive outcomes including employment stability, improved mental and physical health, family preservation and decreased childhood trauma. Housing is foundational, so let’s start there,” Megan says.
Volunteering for Meals on Wheels helps support people who want to age in community
Megan was already familiar with Wilder because she has volunteered for Meals on Wheels for several years. “Meals on Wheels just fills an incredible need,” Megan says. “Working with elderly people in the hospital, you see that there are so many people who are able to stay in their home with some services. And it’s a super-smart wellness check.”
Currently, Megan and her 2-year-old son, Elliott, fill in when other volunteer drivers need a substitute, says Christine Miller, Wilder Meals on Wheels coordinator. “As you can imagine, this kind of “on call” support is not only really helpful to staff but also makes our program stable and reliable for our clients,” Christine says.
Megan sees giving back as an important lesson to share with her son. In addition to her work as a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Megan volunteers for a nonprofit that provides free laundry services for people who lack access to laundry.
“I want to raise my kid to know how blessed we are as a family,” she says. “When you are blessed and you’ve been given a lot and have a supportive family, your obligation is to give back to people who weren’t as lucky.”