Tennessee group helps widows in Tri-Cities to raise funds for orphans

Steffani English hates her leaky sink.

The fickle faucet has become one more thing the 37-year-old Pasco mother doesn't have the time or energy to fix since her husband, Troy, died in September.

English works fulltime as a city of West Richland accountant. When she comes home, she takes care of her three children -- cooking dinner, helping them with homework, and taking them to football practice, Cub Scouts and cheer practice.

"Keeping them involved in activities helps them cope (with the loss of their father), but there's three of them and one of me," she said.

As a mother who values her independence, English has a hard time accepting help after Troy died from a rare form of nonsmoker's lung cancer.

So when she learned that volunteers through the Both Hands Foundation, based in Brentwood, Tenn., wanted to give her home a mini-makeover, she was amazed.

The 4-year-old foundation has a unique mission of simultaneously helping widows take care of their homes and raising money for families to adopt children, said J.T. Olson, Both Hands founder.

When 25 volunteers start work on the English family's home at 8 a.m. today, members of the community can sponsor the workers.

All donations go to Dean and Janice Walker of Pasco, who are adopting two children from China.

"One hand is bringing two kids to their new home, and the other is helping a local widow in need," said mother Janice Walker.

The family is 10 weeks away from adopting two unrelated 3-year-old boys, Zihao and Taizi.

Adopting the children will cost about $40,000, so the family applied for financial assistance through Gridley-Ill.-based Lifesong for Orphans to offset the adoption fees and learned about the Both Hands program. The two groups work together.

The Walkers nominated the English family to receive a home makeover as a part of the event.

English told the Walkers about other widows she thought could use the help more, but the Walkers knew her story and told her she deserved the help.

"Knowing all of this benefits (the Walkers) and the two kids they're bringing into their family, I just couldn't say no," English said.

At first, she just wanted her leaky faucet replaced. But the Walkers helped brainstorm ideas for a grander renovation.

Volunteers will replace most of the faucets in the English family's home and refinish the windows. Outside, they'll pour a new concrete pad, fix the sprinkler system and fence, pull weeds and trim the trees.

All the materials and labor were donated by more than 16 companies, including Beaver Bark Gift and Garden Center in Richland, All Year Tree Service in Pasco and Artistic Curbing in Pasco.

"I was just thinking little and practical changes. But I think they're going to make (my home) beautiful," English said.

And all the money raised during the work project goes toward adopting the two newest members of the Walker family.

The family's faith motivated them to adopt, and they chose the 3-year-olds because they have the same medical condition as their 5-year-old, Azlan -- a cleft palate.

"We want to give another child the life we've been able to give our son," Janice Walker said.

The family is not new to adoption. In addition to their five biological children -- Tarzah, 8; Zion, 7; Azlan, 5; Azahria, 4; and Izrael, 1 -- they adopted 8-year-old twin boys, Zunduka and Chazano, from Africa.

Both Hands and Lifesong for Orphans have raised

$2 million dollars for adopting families and orphanages, Olson said.

In four years, it's held more than 100 events, and this year another 110 are scheduled.

The Walker and English families are the first families in Washington to work with Both Hands, Olson said.

"We have been humbled by the community and the outpouring of support," Janice Walker said.