June 22 turned out to be no ordinary Saturday for Melinda Hendricks.

Staff, family members and friends had gathered under the pavilion at Meadow Park Lake as part of a secret celebration planned in her honor. They wanted to recognize Hendricks’ contributions as the executive director of the Cumberland County Habitat for Humanity and her 20 years of dedicated service to the organization.

“We are honored to celebrate with Melinda for this incredible milestone,” said Development Director Vanessa Petty. “Working with Melinda is a privilege and never fails to be fulfilling and exciting. She always reminds that it’s never been about us; it’s always about the people we serve.”

Through determination, unwavering work ethic, perseverance and God’s faithful plan, Hendricks became the first staff member for the Cumberland County Habitat for Humanity affiliate in 1999. Twenty years later, she is a leader, servant and friend to nine staff and hundreds of families who have been touched by the organization’s homeownership program.

“A leader’s strongest tool is humility; it intensifies credibility,” said Colleen Dudley, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Tennessee. “Leaders learn to lead through persuasion, example and influence rather than positional authority. Melinda Hendricks is that kind of leader.”

Dudley was one of many to comment on Hendricks’ positive influence and leadership skills at the celebration. She described Hendricks as a “humble yet effective” leader who “makes the choice daily to use her influence for the good of others” while also pushing them to “maximize their potential to create a better Habitat and a better community.”

“Melinda never dreamed of success,” Dudley continued. “She worked for it. Congratulations on this 20-year journey! We can’t wait to see what will be accomplished and who will be affected with 20 more years of faithful service.” 

Cumberland County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors President Jeremy Shoemaker thanked Hendricks for making the organization stronger, bettering the lives of the homeowners and for making this county a better place for everyone.

“The results that we should really be looking at are when our homeowners’ kids graduate college, trade school or whatever to begin successful careers,” he said, “when the kids pay off the mortgage for their parents’ house or when we see these families and their children become a stable part of the community we call home. Melinda has been a part of these long-term results for her entire career at Habitat.”

He also recalled the times she has shed tears of joy and worked hard to keep families going.

“The list could go on and on at what she has done for our homeowners, staff, volunteers and board members,” he said. “We hope this celebration of your tenure with us is enough to convey our immense gratitude toward what you do for all of us.”

Before the celebration ended, Hendricks was presented with a vase of flowers with an inscription congratulating her on “20 years of faithful service.” She said she was honored, surprised and overwhelmed by the experience, the gift and everyone’s thoughtful comments.

“With Habitat, you can see change,” she said. “I have seen children become adults and thrive because they had access to safe, affordable housing. Parents have continued their education, giving them better jobs for their families. I hope the Habitat volunteers know that they are part of that change. People’s lives are better and the community in which we know and love is changing for good.

“I am humbled by this love and support from my family, friends, volunteers,” she added, “and thankful that I can be even just a small part of the change that continues to happen. Thank you all so very much.”