Birthday gifts come in all shapes and sizes. When Lovelyn Palm turned 31 in 2010, she made a special request via her blog, Moments with Love: Remembering that the Little Moments are the Biggest of All.
“I reached out on social media asking for donations of $31 for my 31st birthday so we could get some people some clean water,” she explained. “The idea stemmed from my travels to Uganda for an independent adoption in 2009. The children in the orphanage where I volunteered and was matched with our son Clayton came from places that did not have clean water.”
Within two weeks, Lovelyn’s birthday “gift” was put to use by Charity: Water in Ethiopia.
“With everyone’s generous support, we reached our goal of $5,000 which covered the cost of drilling one well at that time,” she said. “They chose the location based on priority and provided us with GPS coordinates so we could see it on Google Earth. With safe water nearby, these people can focus on other priorities.”
When Lovelyn and her husband Matt welcomed Clayton to his forever home in Valparaiso, he joined older siblings Chloe, Anika and Ellie, as well as newborn Bianca.
In 2011, the registered nurse turned full-time mom of five and Matt’s partner in the family-owned and operated custom home building business, started the year off with a medical mission trip to Uganda.
“That’s when I met our sons Nicolas ‘Nico’ and Jude,” Lovelyn recalled. “It took a total of three trips to finalize their adoptions. On one of those trips, Nico asked if I would go with him to a village where he had traveled with a mentor. I learned that he was especially touched by the way these people lived, refusing to sleep on the sole mattress they offered him as a guest and choosing to sleep on leaves as the other children did. He also drank from their only water supply – a lowland swamp that animals drank out of was also used for washing things – instead of the bottle water they brought with them.”
By the time Lovelyn and the boys returned from their visit, which required traveling three hours on very bumpy and dirty roads, she knew they needed to find a way to get water for those people.
So for her 32nd birthday, Lovelyn requested $32 contributions to bring a water source to the village of Busoga in partnership with Holden Uganda, which provides clean drinking water to African communities through Artesian wells. You’ll find photographs of Matt, Lovelyn and their five oldest children – Nico, Chloe, Anika, Ellie and Jude - at the dedication of “#55 The Nabukima Well near Busoga” online at holdenuganda.org/projects.
“We needed 94 people to donate $3,000 so we could build the well, and we ended up with twice that many and raised $6,000 so we were able to sponsor another well in a different location,” Lovelyn said. “With the dedication scheduled in January, our children gave up their Christmas gifts that year and raised the money needed to purchase two goats – a breeding pair so the gift would be sustainable – and six soccer balls for the village.”
“We also received contributions from our church (Calvary Church in Valparaiso) and Ellie and Jude’s pre-K class to purchase 28-30 Bibles for them,” Matt added. “We were told they only had one copy, the Pastor’s which was torn and missing pages. We purchased them in country so they were in their language. The dedication was followed by a church service and then dancing and singing as people filled bottles an jugs with fresh water.”
While Lovelyn and Matt were aware their family was going to grow once again on that trip to Uganda, they had no idea they were expecting what they refer to as their third set of twins.
“Bianca and Clayton were both born in 2009 so we call them our first set of twins, and Jude, who was five when we adopted him, is Ellie’s twin since they were both born in 2006,” Lovelyn explained. “Emmy and Evie turned one in July. We laugh that their favorite foods are avocados, bananas and mangos – staples in Uganda.”
Just as they nurture their growing brood, the Palms have guided Crusader Homes from a start-up to established successful business – even as they needed to chart their course through the housing industry downturn.
“We’re currently living in our third Hawthorne model home,” Matt said. “We’ve built nearly a dozen custom homes here, have three in the works - including one for a doctor whose relocating from Naperville that’s an updated take on an early 19th century bungalow with all wood floors up and down - and we just purchased the remaining 16 home sites in the neighborhood. We’re also the exclusive builder for Executive Park, which is right across the street and caters more to first-time buyers and empty-nesters, with three ranch homes currently under construction and one complete 2-story available at 4108 Crown Drive. Crusader Homes also builds on other sites in the area, and we were pleased to be the builder of choice for a local real estate agent who owned a lot in Beauty Creek.”
Following a change in direction last year when she directed her 33rd birthday contributions to a special needs orphanage that she learned about from a woman in Fishers, IN who established Ekisa “Grace” Ministries International, Lovelyn is calling attention to another organization that shines the spotlight on children who are shunned in Uganda.
“It is not uncommon for children with disabilities to be abandoned by their families in Uganda, and last year we asked 228 people to donate a total of just over $7,500 which is the amount of money needed to cover the average medical expenses for two months in a safe and nurturing environment for them,” she said.
“This year we are working with Sixty Feet, which was started by a group of people in Atlanta to advocate on behalf of children currently in Ugandan remand centers. A large number of these children who have already served out their sentences – and in some instances had their cases dismissed – are simply waiting for a way to return home to their families. SixtyFeet recently took on the daunting task of reuniting 80 children with their families – driving 10 plus hours for one resettlement. They have been asked to resettle a new group of 100 children eligible to leave the facilities. Each resettlement costs an average of $75, so the amount needed is $7,500. I'll be asking 220 people to give $34.”
Along with her role at Crusader Homes, which is reflected in the company’s many unique ideas for organization which include lots of handy built-ins to maximize storage plus a true designer’s eye for pairing colors and materials, Lovelyn is also the Director/Producer of Listen To Your Mother® Northwest Indiana, an annual national series of original live-readings shared on local stages (Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso) and via social media in celebration of Mother’s Day.
She shared her passion for vulnerable children and orphans around the world as a cast member in 2011 with a reading of The Motherless:
“…Sometimes we have to be a mother for each others children … A family flies across the ocean to tell a motherless child that they have room in their home and hearts to love them forever … Loving as a mother to all … It just makes all the difference in the world.”
If you’d like to join Lovelyn and Matt Palm as they provide “a warm embrace to make you feel my love” to the children in Uganda this year, visit her blog (momentswithlove.blogspot.com), Facebook page (Lovelyn Palm) and on Instagram (letlovegrow). You can also call Crusader Homes at (219) 405-8018.