Building Homes, Building Hope

Many thanks to Anna at The Forum for the great article on Cashondra and our 50th home!

Cashondra cradles her grandson, Lincoln, as her daughter, Dakota, rubs his head. David Samson / The Forum

Woman who escaped abusive relationship to receive 50th Habitat house

By Anna G. Larson on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:42 p.m.
Inside the second-floor hotel room, Cashondra Fenroy’s 4-year-old twins run circles with their 5-year-old brother.
Their mouths are stained blue from cotton candy, and they giggle nonstop, eventually carrying around their cat, Tigerlily.
Fenroy’s three oldest children smile and occasionally warn their younger siblings to be careful. The person grinning widest in the room of happy chaos is Fenroy.

The Fenroy family is temporarily living in the hotel room until their Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity home is completed in November. 

Like other families who’re chosen through the program, the Fenroys have been putting in their “sweat equity” helping build other homes and learning how they’ll furnish and care for their new residence once it’s complete.

And it can’t come soon enough.

Since moving here in 2009 from Georgia, the Fenroys have lived in apartment buildings that barely fit the family of seven.

But they’re grateful to be here, together.

‘Trapped in a box’

Life was good, at least it appeared that way to people who knew the Fenroys.

They lived in a three-level home complete with an elevator and pool. They hosted parties and enjoyed financial security.

“Everyone thought everything was rosy but there was a horror story behind that picture frame. It was a 24/7 lie,” Fenroy, 43, says.

Fenroy says her ex-partner was an alcoholic who abused her emotionally, physically, mentally and financially.

“I had a good job, life was good – financially good. We had the extra cars, the motorcycle, but it wasn’t worth it in the long run,” Fenroy says. “I definitely didn’t want my daughters to grow up thinking it’s OK to be treated that way. I didn’t want my sons to be tainted either.”

After seven years with her partner, who was never charged in relation to any of the abuse allegations although the police were called several times, Fenroy made the decision to leave the situation. She’d thought of leaving for years but was so invested in the life she’d created, it was easier to create excuses and not leave.

“It takes you a couple years to figure out, ‘No, I’m not crazy. This is really wrong.’ Then it takes you a couple more years to figure out how to fix it. Then it takes a couple more years to figure out how to get out of what I got myself into,” she says. “Even now, years later, I have days where I’m like, ‘Was it really that awful?’ Yea, it really was. It’s hard to do everything by yourself, but it’s better to be alone if you want to be happy.”

With guidance from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Fenroy and the children left one day while her partner was at work. She was terrified, numb and “on auto-pilot” but she’d escaped being “trapped in a box,” she says.

An advocate with the National Domestic Violence Hotline helped the family find their next place to call home.

‘Full circle’

While she was figuring out where to move, Fenroy searched the Internet for the safest places to live in the U.S. Fargo kept popping up, so they moved here.

The YWCA of Cass Clay and the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo helped Fenroy establish her new life, and she applied for a Habitat home last year. 

Years before, Fenroy had been an active Habitat for Humanity volunteer in Georgia.

“It kind of came full circle because now I’m the one who needs help,” she says. “Anybody can need help; it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. Life has a way of throwing you a hardball sometimes.”

The Fenroys were chosen to receive a Habitat home because they met three criteria: willingness to partner, income guidelines and a need for housing, says Jackie Mattfeld, the partner family services and volunteer coordinator for Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.

The organization advertises once a year when they start the family selection process, which takes months. After an orientation class, hopeful families send in their application and other documents, like pay stubs, for review.

About 78 families applied for housing, and 36 qualified, Mattfeld says.

The 36 families then participated in a panel interview, and the Fenroy family was chosen as a partner family in February. Their home is the 50th the local organization has built in Cass and Clay counties.

Since its inception in 1991, Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity has built 50 homes and helped 51 families, including 84 adults and 192 children.

Homeownership has positive effects on finances, health, education, community, sense of self-worth and community, says Pete Christopher, resource development and marketing manager for Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.

Fenroy says she wanted a home not only to improve her children’s lives but so she could feel like a part of the community.

“We knew that she was going to work really hard and she wanted to give her family something that she knew she wasn’t going to be able to do without the help of an organization like Habitat,” Mattfeld says of Fenroy’s panel interview. “I think she really believes in the philosophy of helping others.”

More space to live

People have asked Fenroy if she’s embarrassed to share her story with an entire community.

She’s not.

“It is what it is,” she says, adding that if she can help someone, it’s worth it.

“I used to be one of those people who would say ‘Well, if the relationship was so bad, why did she stay?’ Karma got me. You get invested in so many parts of your life, and everything is all tied in,” she says. “Living in a negative environment for such a long time takes a toll on everybody. I just had to let it go. I didn’t want to (leave), but you can’t fix other people. Believe me, I tried.”

Although she willingly shares her experience, Fenroy hopes people know that her new home isn’t free.

It’s a common misconception about Habitat houses, Mattfeld says.

Families who receive a home repay Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity for the cost of the home but they have a 0 percent mortgage.

Most local Habitat homes cost about $120,000, and the cost is kept low because there are sponsors and volunteer laborers, Mattfeld says.

The money Fenroy pays back to Habitat funds other area homes and homes around the world.

To make those payments, Fenroy works overnight shifts at the post office so she can be active in her children’s lives, too.

“I talk to Jesus all the time, and I don’t have a choice. You’ve just got to do it,” she says.

The family is excited to move into the six-bedroom Eagle Run house in a few months where they’ll have more space to live.

“I daydream all the time about next summer, being able to be in the backyard and play. Kids just really need space,” Fenroy says. “Even when you go to the playground, it’s not the same thing. If you have your own backyard, you can go outside without your shoes on and feel the grass.”

Although it’s been a difficult journey, Fenroy says leaving her partner has allowed her and her family to live an honest life.

“Now, everything is real,” she says. “Now, I’m starting to really get over it.”

How to help: To donate to Habitat for Humanity, visit or text Home50 to 41444 or 51555 for more information.

Anna G. Larson
Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 
(701) 241-5525

8 Ways to Celebrate 8 Years with ReStore

The Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity ReStore is celebrating its 8th anniversary this July.  Because the store couldn’t happen without the shoppers, donors and volunteers who make the ReStore possible, the store wants to invite you to join in celebrating this milestone. Here are eight ideas:

1.Shop the sale. Join us at the store for our anniversary sale July 15-19 for even bigger discounts on our already reduced prices. We had more than 12,000 sales transactions this past year, which allowed us to support the building of affordable homes through Habitat for Humanity, and we couldn’t have done it without our shoppers.

2.Join in on the fun on Facebook. During the week of our anniversary, we’ll be posting a contest on our Facebook page. If you haven’t already, head on over and “like” us at to get a sneak peak at our inventory and chances to win prizes.

3.Enjoy a free float. Who doesn’t love a good root beer float in the summer? Stop out to the ReStore for Float Friday on July 18th and let us show our appreciation for you in the best way — with ice cream.

4.Donate. Let us help you get rid of those extra furniture pieces cluttering up your living room or those outdated appliances you’ve been meaning to replace. Last year, we received more than 1,700 donations and were able to divert approximately 1.1 million pounds from area landfills. Now that’s something to celebrate.

5.Spread the word. Tell your friends about us! Have a friend tag along with you the next time you stop into the store or share photos of some of your favorite upcycled ReStore projects on your social media pages. Help us turn eight years into eight more (and then some).

6.Restore something of your own. Feeling crafty? Check out some of our DIY ideas on previous blog posts and pick up the supplies you need for your next project at our store. (And don’t forget to show us a before and after picture — we love to see the things people make using ReStore materials.)

7.Ask us about more opportunities for involvement. There are a variety of volunteering opportunities at ReStore. Whether you want to get your hands dirty with deconstruction or prefer something a little more low-key, contact us and we’ll set you up with the volunteer opportunity best suited to you.

8.Tell us what you think! Comment below and share your favorite thing about the ReStore. Don’t worry — we won’t make you come up with eight things, but we’d love to hear one!

ReStore Committee Spotlight, LaRissa Nelson


LaRissa Nelson, Flint Communications, Copywriter


  LaRissa Nelson, Flint Communications, Copywriter


  How long have you been on the ReStore Committee?

  Since 2012.

  Why are you involved?

Preston introduced me to the committee. I had previously done some volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity, so I thought joining the committee would be a great opportunity to build up my marketing skills while helping out the ReStore.

What's your role in the committee?

As a professional writer, I bring copy writing skills to the table when writing and proofing print, online and radio ads for ReStore. I also have an interest in DIY projects, so I love writing monthly DIY upcycled craft project blogs.


ReStore Committee Spotlight, Preston Johnson

Preston Johnson, Sundog, Writer
Preston Johnson, Sundog, Writer

 How long have you been on the ReStore Committee?

  I joined the Restore Committee in 2011.

  Why are you involved?

  I helped get the ReStore’s current building ready for opening as part of a volunteer project in college. After I graduated, I stayed involved by joining the committee.

  What’s your role in the committee?

  I spend most of my time on the team contributing to our team’s marketing and advertising activities for the ReStore.

ReStore Committee Spotlight

We at Lake Agassiz Habitat are fortunate to have so many amazing volunteers! Our ReStore committee helps raise and maintain the community awareness of ReStore and spread the word on the benefits of utilizing the store. The members play an integral role in Habitat's growth and are responsible for sharing Lake Agassiz Habitat ReStore's values, mission and goals with the people living in Cass and Clay counties.


  Shelby Cochran,

  How long have you been on the ReStore Committee?

  Since 2012.

  Why are you involved?
  I really enjoyed working with this committee while I served at LAHFH ReStore and wanted to continue helping out where I could. ReStore has a great mission that I love sharing with new people!

  What’s your role in the committee?
  Mostly I use project management experience in coordinating our committee's projects as well as communication in networking with others for projects. Having that year of working full time with Habitat, I also have a lot of expertise as far as what the ReStore has done in the past and what I learned in my experience that I can apply to our projects.

4 Ways to Turn Spring Cleaning Trash into Treasure


What’s your favorite thing about spring? The warm, sunny weather? The green grass and blooming flowers? The piles of junk on the curbside? It’s the time of year for spring cleaning, and everyone’s throwing out their old furniture, appliances and more. But what if you could turn those trashed items into treasure?

With a few supplies and a little DIY effort, it’s possible to turn that junk into something completely new and functional—while keeping it out of the landfill. Whether you’re scoping out the sidewalks for something to revamp or ready to repurpose something of your own, give one of these spring upcycling projects a try.

1.    If you have an old couch

For a cozy place to enjoy the warmer weather, turn your discarded couch into a cozy outdoor daybed. All it takes is an old sofa, recycled wood and some elbow grease.

 2.    If you have an unused refrigerator

Spring is a great time to throw the first backyard barbecue of the season. Keep your drinks cold by turning your old refrigerator into an ice chest with just a friend and some lumber.


3.    If you have an empty dresser


To get your garden growing, turn your old, abandoned dresser into a potting bench. With
some handiwork and paint, it’s the perfect storage space for your pots, seeds, soil and tools.





4.    If you have a discarded headboard

Swing into spring with a unique piece of furniture for your front porch. Turn your unused headboard into a porch swing with the help of a few other upcycled materials, some pillows and paint.





Remember, if you have any usable furniture, appliances or home improvement items that you aren’t ready to repurpose, donate them to ReStore! Your donations are tax-deductible and we can do all the heavy lifting for free—just give us a call at 218-284-5253 ext. 3 to schedule a pick-up.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore is located at 210 11th Street North in Moorhead, Minnesota. Our hours are 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday through Friday and 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Saturday. Visit us online at



Building Hope

It was the 60’s in Americus, Georgia when the first inklings of what is now Habitat for Humanity took shape. On a small community farm called Koinonia, a farmer and a biblical scholar practiced the art of sharing goods, seeking to put God’s love into action. The scholar, a man named Clarence Jordan, met a couple named Millard and Linda Fuller who shared a similar mission. Together they developed the idea of “partnership housing.”

The idea was that those in need of adequate housing could work alongside volunteers to create affordable homes. The houses, built at no profit, would be paid for through no-interest loans provided by supporters. Fundraising would be pooled to build even more homes. They called it “The Fund for Humanity.”

Dream became reality when the first concrete-block home was given to a couple, Beau and Emma, and their five kids. They had a modern kitchen, indoor bathroom and heating system -- much different from the unpainted, uninsulated shack with no plumbing where they had previously lived.

After taking their mission global to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and then returning to the United States, the Fullers officially launched Habitat for Humanity International in 1976.

The Fullers in Zaire.

Today, over 40 years later, this global organization has helped build, renovate and repair more than 1,000,000 affordable houses. These homes are now sheltering more than 9.8 million people worldwide.

Locally, Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity (LAHFH) is proud to be a part of this global story that is changing lives.

LAHFH strives to eliminate substandard housing right here in the Fargo/Moorhead community by constructing and rehabilitating homes for low income families. We believe that every man, woman and child should have a simple, durable place to live in dignity and safety. We believe that decent shelter in decent communities should be a matter of conscience and action for all.

With the generous support of donors and volunteers, LAHFH has made a lasting and meaningful impact in our community by helping local families realize their dreams of home-ownership. We have served 55 families, by constructing or renovating homes in Cass and Clay Counties.

This Giving Hearts Day, we want to open even more doors for our partner families. To do this, we’ve determined that a donation of just $24 will purchase one doorknob. This is how YOU can help open the door for a local family so they can have a safe affordable place to call home.

On February 9, 2017, your donation will be multiplied by Western State Bank, First Lutheran, Olivet Lutheran and other generous donors. It the best way to show your support, and maximize your gift.

Join Lake Agassiz Habitat, and #givewhereyoulive this Giving Hearts Day, by giving HERE on February 9!