Philanthropic Fixer Upper: BIA Members Team Up to Serve Women and Children in Crisis

Originally published in the Louisville Builder.

Teresa Oechsli is a woman of great faith — faith in God, faith in relationships, faith in rehabilitation. Her faith has been known to inspire others to change their lives, to reach out for help and to instill Christian values. Her faith led her to a friend, Jeanette, a victim of domestic violence who dreamed of a safe place for women and children in crisis to retreat. Just weeks after Jeanette shared her vision, she was murdered by her abuser. So, in 2004, Oechsli founded Hosea’s House to guide families as they reorganize their lives and bring Jeanette’s vision to fruition. With the love and compassion of Christ at the center of it all, Hosea’s House opened in 2009, on the five-year anniversary of Jeanette’s death.

A few years ago, Oechsli realized the need to expand. The original house, located on 26th and Montgomery streets in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, had been outgrown. She found the perfect home about four blocks away on Portland Avenue but determined the house, which had been gutted down to the studs, was too large a project, both financially and practically, to tackle alone.

The location was perfect and in close proximity to The Table, a pay-what-you-can restaurant aimed at eliminating food insecurity.

“In my heart I knew that that was our home. I just knew it,” said Oechsli. “It was perfect, and it was right next to a park and right next door to the owner of The Table. It’s just a great place for us to be.

”The three-story Victorian home ended up being a match made in heaven. After much prayer, the home was donated to her by an anonymous donor, and with the help of fundraising and private donations, including the Building Industry Charitable Foundation (BICF), the new Hosea’s House was underway.

Portland Avenue House Renovation

The BICF contributed to the Hosea’s House project and identified it as one of the largest projects in the foundation’s history. Under the direction of Karen McKechnie and Stonehenge Construction, the BICF called out to volunteers for help with all of the interior work, including plumbing, electrical work, heating and cooling, appliances, interior decorating, etc.

M&H Custom Cabinets donated brand-new cabinets, Signature Countertops donated granite countertops for the kitchen, and Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring and Granite provided hardwood floors at cost, while other BIA members donated their time, products and services for the good of the community.

When working on donated time, the challenge is getting the project done in a timely manner. While the renovations took two years instead of the one-year goal, the association, along with private donations and Hosea’s House’s independent fundraising efforts, combined to bring Oechsli’s vision to life.“

We could not have done that house if people had not given their services, their time and their resources,” Oechsli said. “We had private donors and churches and foundations that supported us as well — paid for the air conditioners; GE appliances gave us all brand-new appliances for the house. We were blessed in many areas.”

The end product went above and beyond to make a dream home for Hosea’s House residents.

“Some of the girls have said that they’ve never had anything so nice,” said McKechnie, BIA vice president. “When the girls come in and they see it, they’re just like this is the nicest place they’ve ever been in.”

Oechsli said the residents of Hosea’s House work to foster community. While they do have ample space for privacy, the use of communal spaces like the kitchen and living areas is encouraged. They take turns cooking meals for one another. On Sunday, a family plans the menu for the week and on Monday they do the shopping. Everything is shared to reconstruct and reinforce a family-like atmosphere. The goal is to help these women understand that they are loved and cherished, and a home they love and care for helps to solidify that message.

“Our house is always clean because they are proud of it, and that’s what I feel is life-changing because they start to see and start to believe,” Oechsli noted.

Acts of Kindness, Large and Small

Hosea’s House isn’t a mass operation that funnels large numbers of families and churns them back into the world. The mission is labor-intensive. It’s a long-term commitment. It focuses on a few families who are willing to put in the work to change their lives for the better.

The residents can live in Hosea’s House for up to two years. Once they graduate from the program, they can move back to the old Hosea’s House on 26th and Montgomery, which is being turned back into a duplex to better simulate life in their new environment, for another year.

“Our motto is one woman, one family at a time, in Jesus’ name, and that’s what we focus on — helping one family,” explained Oechsli. “If we can help one family, then for generations that has a huge impact.”

And one BIA member donated much more than time and cabinets to impact these families lives in a positive way.

“It was really amazing working with the BIA and the people that we got to meet through that, I will say, that’s been some of our treasured relationships. Pat Ballard from M&H Cabinets, he is just a continued blessing,” said Oechsli. “The first day we moved into our new home, he loaded our house down with groceries. It was just such a blessing, and the women see that strangers care. And through that relationship he’s stayed connected with us.”

The BIA network is large and has a lot of resources and opportunities to give back to the Louisville community. The BICF already takes on many projects for charity like the Playhouses, Miracle League, Harbor House and several others, but McKechnie believes the association can expand on philanthropic efforts if everyone was willing to chip in. She said many of the BIA membership companies aren’t aware of what the association does in the background.

“If every company would just donate a little bit, this world would be an amazing place,” she said.

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