What Did You Do on Vacation?

If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

Remember writing those essays in elementary and middle school? For those of you who know John Dawson, you have probably heard John speak of his trips to Katrina and Joplin as “some of the best vacations ever!” He “sold” a trip to Houston in the same manner. Best vacation ever? Sounded interesting… some were envisioning strutting on a soft sand beach…

BRHR Series 3-01

Or paddling a kayak to a deserted island…..

BRHR Series 3-02

Well, John’s “vacation” may not have had the warmth of a Carribean beach; but it did warm our hearts to have the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.

So, what do you do on one of John’s “vacations?”

You meet those who are much less fortunate because of the impact of natural disasters in their lives….and who eventually become “new friends.”

BRHR Series 3-03BRHR Series 3-04BRHR Series 3-05

You get to work with, and become friends with, like-minded hard-working neighbors and “strangers.” BRHR Series 3-06BRHR Series 3-07BRHR Series 3-08BRHR Series 3-09BRHR Series 3-10

You get to see the disaster “first hand” and clean it up “by hand.”

BRHR Series 3-11BRHR Series 3-12BRHR Series 3-13BRHR Series 3-14BRHR Series 3-15BRHR Series 3-16

You get to replace rotten and termite-eaten studs.

BRHR Series 3-17BRHR Series 3-18BRHR Series 3-19

You learn to remove load bearing walls and install new 24’ support beams and ceiling joists.

BRHR Series 3-20BRHR Series 3-21BRHR Series 3-22BRHR Series 3-23BRHR Series 3-24

You learn to remove the sub flooring and replace it with new ¾” plywood.

BRHR Series 3-25BRHR Series 3-26BRHR Series 3-27BRHR Series 3-28

You learn to remove 2-strand wire and rewire the house with 3 strands.
BRHR Series 3-29BRHR Series 3-30BRHR Series 3-31
You learn to totally gut bathrooms and spray for mold.

BRHR Series 3-32BRHR Series 3-33BRHR Series 3-34BRHR Series 3-35

Our goal on this “vacation” is to leave these homes in better shape with more efficient and effective installation.
BRHR Series 3-36BRHR Series 3-37BRHR Series 3-38
Instead of going to a health club on this “vacation,” you get exercise by sheetrocking most of the house.

BRHR Series 3-39BRHR Series 3-40BRHR Series 3-41BRHR Series 3-42BRHR Series 3-43BRHR Series 3-44BRHR Series 3-45
And if sheet rocking was not enough exercise, there was also a “class” to learn how to lay new flooring.

BRHR Series 3-46BRHR Series 3-47

Going on a “John vacation” can make you money if you buy the right stocks. Home Depot stock was up the week we were in Houston because of our many purchases of building materials, 4 ceiling fans, smoke alarms, 3 new windows, two front doors, 2 back doors, 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom doors, kitchen sink, counter tops and kitchen cabinets that were custom stained.

BRHR Series 3-48BRHR Series 3-49BRHR Series 3-50BRHR Series 3-Door

Sometimes at home we don’t pick up; but, on “John’s vacations,” we certainly do. Actually, it is nice to call the city for help.

BRHR Series 3-51BRHR Series 3-52BRHR Series 3-53BRHR Series 3-54BRHR Series 3-55BRHR Series 3-56

Ever been on a vacation with a personal chef? On “John’s vacation,” we were fortunate to have two. Thank you, Julie and Susan!

BRHR Series 3-57BRHR Series 3-58BRHR Series 3-59BRHR Series 3-60BRHR Series 3-61BRHR Series 3-62BRHR Series 3-63BRHR Series 3-64BRHR Series 3-65

Yes, the kitchen is the “heart of the home.” It was rewarding to redesign and relocate the kitchen for Jesse and Missouri with a new refrigerator and stove added.

BRHR Series 3-66BRHR Series 3-67BRHR Series 3-68BRHR Series 3-69BRHR Series 3-70BRHR Series 3-71

When a family loses everything, it is a joy to be able to help them get “back to “normal.” We purchased a new bed and bedding and a dresser, couch, chair, coffe table, end tables, lamps, and a dining room table and chairs. Yes, the house is starting to feel more like home.

BRHR Series 3-72BRHR Series 3-73BRHR Series 3-74BRHR Series 3-75

Like many “vacations,” you just don’t want them to end. Yes, it was hard to leave Houston. Since we didn’t accomplish everything we had planned, we have offered to pay to have a main circuit box installed, the electrical and plumbing work completed, bathrooms built out, and the leaky roof repaired or replaced. BakerRiply will help oversee the work to be done.

Yes, all good things come to an end…but Jesse and Missouri will be in our hearts and prayers for a long time to come. Thank You for this angel pen, Missouri, so that we can continue to write about and remember our “vacaton” with you.

BRHR Series 3-76

“Vacations” like this takes “resources” to make good things happen. We are so appreciative of the Foglia Family Foundation for leading the way with a matching fund of $25,000 and for subsequent donations that allowed us to accomplish what we did to make life better for some and to provide hope for many.

BRHR Series 3-77

BRHR Series 3-78BRHR Series 3-79

We end with a little commerical break. If you would like to go on a “John vacation,” contact The Build Team at http://www.thebuildteam.org/contacts They have “mini- vacations” most weekends helping local residents in need. There may be another week long “vacation” in the Spring. Stay tuned! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
BRHR Series 3-80BRHR Series 3-81
This was truly a COMMUNITY effort! We want to thank all those who supported this effort in so many ways. Visit the website BRHRelief.org for the most recent upates.

BRHR Series 3-82BRHR Series 3-83


Gratefulness in Perspective

On this Thanksgiving Day, we are reflecting on that for which we are grateful.

We are Thankful for so many people in our community who are here to serve others….   John Dawson, in whose DNA it is to use his skills to help others in need. John, who said, “I am going to Houston;” and many followed.

We are Thankful for all the not-for-profits in our community that have been established to serve others and which offer us a vehicle to serve.  The “Build Team” is one of these organizations.

We are Thankful to live in the 60010 area which encompasses our 220 School District and the BACOG area because of the many opportunities to enrich our lives. Having 39 organizations come together to promote the Barrington Regional Hurricane Relief showed that “we care beyond our borders.”

We are Thankful for the many donors who contributed close to $60,000 for materials and supplies to make life better for those in the path of hurricane destruction.

We are Thankful for the many people who helped market our message, plan the mission, and turn a dream into reality.

We are Thankful for the guidance and support from BakerRiply in Houston which  directed us to those in need.  They are there every day to lend a hand to lift someone up.

We are Thankful for St. Martin’s parish for opening their doors wider than ever expected to make our stay in Houston the best it could be.

We are Thankful for the 20 volunteers who reached beyond their comfort zone to serve.  Yes, it gave us all the opportunity to make new friends and to return home with greater gratitude and a broader awareness.

On this Thanksgiving Day, let us remember what Martin Luther said, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”

Giving, and Receiving Even More

If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

I found the entire experience thoroughly rewarding.  It was wonderful meeting and sharing experiences with likeminded (and hearted) people.  I also learned a thing or two about home repair.  But by far, having the homeowners on site for much of our time there was the most meaningful experience for me as it afforded me the privilege of observing how touched and appreciative were Jesse, Missouri, and Courtney.

During my drive back to the airport, Jesse shared how having a group of complete strangers from another part of the country come down to help rebuild his home was not merely a material, but also a spiritual, blessing.


“Having you folks come here was like holding a mirror in front of me” shared Jesse. He continued: “It made me look really closely at myself and my life.  I wanted (and needed) to look at my community and see what I could do to help others in need.  Once my home situation returns to normal, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

That was a powerful and poignant moment for me because I realized that the good we do extends well beyond those we touch directly: we’re actually transmitting the desire to help others through those we help.  The good we do is multiplied and amplified which, in turn, makes me want to do that much more.  It truly is the case that when we give, we receive even more!Danny Headshot



Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA (Finance), MBA (Marketing)

Chief Executive Officer


Barrington Regional Hurricane Relief Week in Houston – November 10-18

 If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

The eight days in Houston felt more like a month, and not because time dragged on or due negative group dynamics. On the contrary, it was because of the groups intense focus on our mission to repair and rebuild a few homes as well as gelling together as a team.  The team that traveled to Houston met once the week before we left, so for the exception of a few who regularly work together on the Barrington Build Team, most of us were virtual strangers.  The strength of John Dawson’s vision and leadership led us through a week where everyone had a job to do, everyone worked exceptionally hard, and everyone got a long really well.  I believe some new friendships were born in the process too!

My role, along with Julie Zuidema, was to provide meals for the crew and to purchase furnishings and appliances to replace some of what was lost in the flood.  Our goal was to find good quality, reasonably priced furniture and appliances so when the family move back into their house, it would be a home were they will be able to sit comfortably in their new living room, cook in their kitchen, and have a bed to sleep in.

First the food…Julie and I were tasked with feeding the crew.  John Dawson said the meals were important, so we took our job seriously and tried to make healthy nutritious meals to keep the crew going! We were up early to set out the cold breakfast items and I brought my electric griddle to make eggs, bacon and pancakes. After a few days, I had down who had what type of eggs: Tom – sunny side up, Bob – over easy, Jerry – over medium eggs etc.  We would also set out the lunch items so each person could make their own lunch to take the building site.  Julie and I alternated days we were in charge of making dinner and played sous chef when the other was the head chef!   We were a great team!  Below is a picture of dinner on Thursday night when Missouri and Courtney joined us:

BRHR Series 2-01
Grace before our meal.

Regarding the furnishings, Julie came up with a brilliant idea to check out a local Cort Furniture Rental showroom. Our first stop was to look at their used furniture, and we hit the jackpot!  Below, are pictures of the furniture we picked out.

BRHR Series 2-02BRHR Series 2-03





From Cort, we purchased a sofa, chair, end table, coffee table, kitchen table with four chairs, a queen size box spring and mattress, frame, headboard, dresser with a mirror and bedside table, and two lamps.  Since we were working on Hurricane Relief, Cort gave us a 25% discount.  So, all in all, we purchased all this furniture for $1100.  A great deal for some really decent furniture!

We also purchased bedding and few other items at Home Goods and TJ Maxx as well last some items from local charity shops.  We purchased a refrigerator and stove from Lowes.

BRHR Series 2-04brhr-series-2-05.jpg

Below is a picture of my favorite purchase, which cost $2.

BRHR Series 2-06

It is a reminder that in the toughest of situations, the Lord Surrounds His People.  And, We are ALL His people!  The mountain ahead of Jesse, Missouri and Courtney to rebuild and repair their home was insurmountable to them.  They did not know how they were going to do it.  And then the Barrington Regional Hurricane Relief team showed up. They were so blown away by what was being done for them, that Jesse kept saying to Kevin Dawson he didn’t know how to thank us.  Kevin told to Jesse to ‘Pay It Forward’.  So, Jesse asked for a big picture of all of us that he could hang on his living room wall so that every time he looked at it, it would remind him to ‘Pay it Forward’.  Below is a picture of Missouri, Courtney and Lisa looking at the picture we took of the whole team and had framed for them:


Toward the end of the week, when Jesse thanked Kevin again, Kevin said to Jesse, “Don’t thank me, thank God, because He is the one who pointed us to you”.  Yesterday before we were leaving, Jesse said to me with tears in his eyes, “It’s a miracle that John, his older brother Kevin and their merry band of Angels descended upon us.”  Missouri said to me with tears in her eyes, “Last week, I couldn’t see where we going, I just couldn’t see it. Then you guys show up. Now, I can see it. Now, I can see it. I can’t thank you all enough.”

It’s so important to keep faith during times of outrageous trials.  This family, along with approximately 62,000 families were removed from their homes due to Hurricane Harvey.  Nearly everything they owned was destroyed. Approximately 10,000 families are still not able to move back into their homes.  Jesse, Missouri and Courtney’s home needed a tremendous amount of work that may not have been done anytime soon without the help of the BRHR team.

By the time we left Houston yesterday, I felt that we were leaving knowing we all played a part in significantly lifting up a family, who did not expect being lifted by God’s grace in this way. Their unlivable house was transformed to their new ‘happy place’ that they could once again see themselves living in.  Although our team was not able to completely finish the house, plans have been made to get a contractor in to finish it.

As far as the Barrington Regional Hurricane Relief team is concerned. We all came together, we worked together, we ate together, and slept on church floors together – and I have to say, I think Houston was as much a happy place for all us during our week there as Jesse, Missouri and Courtney’s new house be for them too!

Susan Gibbons

BRHR Series 2-08brhr-series-2-09.jpg


Paying it Forward!

If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

Among our group, and the many conversations we have had, whether at meals, while driving to the work sites, or even just talking in our rooms, one topic comes up time and again. The appreciation and humility of Jesse and Missouri Blanton, homeowners of 9038!

Jesse and Missouri
Jesse and Missouri – forever changed!
Let’s start back a ways. Jesse and Missouri were childhood sweethearts, living their lives to the full, raising two beautiful daughters, and enjoyed a well cared for yard with fruit trees. Both worked hard at their jobs, with Jesse driving a truck and Missouri working with BakerRipley, helping those in need get their bills paid. Then Jesse, struck by heart issues, was unable to work, needing several surgeries. The two stuck together, Missouri making sure Jesse made all the medical appointments he needed, and Jesse trying his best to follow the doctors’ advice. Jesse’s most recent surgery in mid-August left him needing to be careful of how much work he did.
Sunday, August 27, 2017, water started flowing in the street, and the creek in back topped its banks. As the day went on, Missouri felt the carpet squish under her feet – the water was coming into the house! Jesse had the family start moving things to the attic, but they were going to wait out the driving rain, hoping the water would go down as it did with hurricane Allison in 2009.
The water did not recede, the rain kept coming, and the water kept rising! Monday morning brought water up to their knees in the house. A neighbor sent some fishermen who were doing boat rescues in their neighborhood. When Missouri tried walking to the waiting boat, the rain was pouring down, the water was freezing, and it was up to her chest. The boat took them to the end of the street where the water was shallow enough for a truck to take the families the rest of the way to a nearby church, which was dry.
With this, their nightmare was just getting started!
They stayed with Jesse’s brother a couple days, and then were able to get into a hotel. The needs were immense, and everything was overbooked. They ended up being able to negotiate that they can stay in the same room for a few weeks, and also that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) would be able to pay their bill.

With the flooding, the family lost everything not up on high shelves in their home – furniture, bedding, clothing, appliances, and all three of their vehicles! They had to get up at 4:00 to be first in line to get two rental cars between the three of them so they could get to work. They needed to scrape for clothing since theirs was all water damaged, and needed to juggle their already tight schedule of work and medical visits. Missouri and Courney could at least share one vehicle since they worked fairly close together.

Then, as both Jesse and Missouri have enthusiastically shared, a team of Angels showed up! They welcomed us into their home, which as you saw described in previous posts, was a true disaster area! The walls and floors were wet, studs rotting, roof and soffit leaking with wind damage, and the remainder of their life’s possessions in the back yard. Our team was the first positive ray of hope they had in 3 months!


One or more of Jesse, Missouri, or their daughters Courney and Tammy, were there each day to help move things, bring us lunch, share their stories, and cry when they saw what we were doing. Jesse is so proud of the work we are doing, and all the value we are bringing, that he is staying the night in his truck to keep his home secure through the night! The greatest thing Jesse and his family did for us, however, was show us true humility and appreciation. Their genuine love for what we did with their home made each member of our team stop, take a breath, and realize we were truly making a difference to this family.


Jesse wants to come to Chicago some day to visit. We welcome him with open arms, and open hearts!

Making a Difference

If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

Everyone has stepped up, but Rotary took two steps forward.  Our local district Rotary 6440 was one of our largest donors! THANK YOU SO MUCH!  They not only made a financial donation but also sent a Rotarian Lisa Kovac to help. When Rotary heard about the Barrington Regional Hurricane Relief, they had already started collecting books for one of the YES Prep Charter Schools in Houston. http://www.yesprep.org   Since Tom Malia was driving a van of supplies to Houston, we offered to take the 40 cartons of books and deliver them to many smiling faces this past Monday.  When we drove up to the school, the students were eagerly waiting to help unload the books.



The Need is Unlimited

 If you are new to our story, please start in the beginning.

In a previous blog we shared pictures of Jesse and Missouri’s home where the majority of our efforts have been expended. We have also been working at two other homes.

8538 is in a nice area of town that had never flooded until Harvey.  Soon after the house was flooded, the homeowner removed the wet drywall which has made it much easier to get the house back in livable condition.  Over the last couple of days, our team insulated all the walls, installed new drywall, and had the walls taped and mudded.  What will be a surprise for the homeowner is that we will help install new carpet so life can resume pre-Harvey.

The 3rd home is owned by an elderly couple and has extensive damage. The roof is about to fall in, the bathrooms need replacing, there is termite damage and mold …more work than we can accomplish this week.  We have had a work team there for over two days replacing studs, insulating and dry walling as much as we can. This is another overwhelming task

Spending a week in this neighborhood has put life in perspective.  The “honey do list” looks pretty good in comparison.  We are very fortunate!