The House That Barbara Built . . . With A Little Help From Her Friends

by Frances Hill

Barbara Hudson's 20 year commitment to Habitat for Humanity has helped to provide 34 San Gabriel Valley families with decent and affordable housing.

As she and Joe Hudson retire from the area to Fallbrook, she leaves a legacy of caring activism. Friends and well wishers can say farewell with a contribution to the house at 1201 Cottage Grove in Glendale that has been designated: The House That Barbara Built . . . With A Little Help From Her Friends.

With Barbara Hudson, the cup is always three-quarters full. She greets every day with an electric smile and every problem with the determination of a sprint runner at the starting gate. Suggestions and solutions pour from Barbara like water from a gushing garden hose. Obstacles wash away as swiftly as her smile and embrace enfold a just-met friend into her project of the moment.

For 25 years, Barbara has recruited the La Cañada Flintridge community to help those in need of food, clothing, shelter and hope for the future. Her concern for neighbors in need began in the small town of Springfield, S.D., (pop. 500) where she grew up.

"Everyone does it all in a small town and everyone is there for everyone else," she said. She pursued that desire to help, earning a bachelor of science in nursing at the University of North Dakota. Her first job took her to New York City, where she met and married Joe Hudson and began raising two sons, Christian and Jonathan, and a daughter, Catherine.

Barbara involved herself in local political and social activities, helping to form a neighborhood food co-op and becoming a member of the Episcopal parish of St. Ignatius of Antioch, located on the Upper West Side of New York. Together with families she recruited, the parish supported soup kitchens, community food pantries, homeless shelters and inner-city housing renovation. Barbara was the first woman elected to the Board of Vestry in her parish.

The Hudsons moved west in 1978 and, three years later, settled in La Cañada, where the family attended St. Bede the Venerable and Barbara converted to Roman Catholicism. Eager to be involved in the community, she organized the "Skidettes," a group that for more than 20 years has provided meals to St. Vincent Center on Skid Row. She also gave time to the Good Shepherd Shelter for battered women and children and to inner-city projects at Dolores Mission, Las Familias del Pueblo and Jovenes.

"It's one thing to prepare the food for delivery," she says, "but to actually go to Skid Row and to personally hand out the lunches is a very powerful experience. It is a concrete example of our caring for each other, and of the care God has for each of us."

Looking for more ways to serve, Barbara helped form the "Caring Churches of the Foothills," which involves members of the La Cañada Protestant, Mormon and Jewish communities. Now in its 25th year, the group prepares 1,000 lunches a week, 52 weeks of the year.

Seeing a need to expand the social justice efforts at St. Bede, Barbara became co-director of the Justice & Peace Ministry at the parish, developing presentations on social justice issues and supporting outreach programs to Dolores Mission, M.E.N.D., The Sycamores, Habitat for Humanity and Homeboy Industries.

Katy Sadler, vice-principal at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and also a co-director of the Justice & Peace Ministry says, "Barbara is one of the most passionate seekers after justice that I have known. She does the research, she does the hard work that has to be done, but with compassion and concern for each person along the way."

When asked, Barbara will say that the most intensely committed of all her involvements has been that with Habitat for Humanity. Beginning with trips to Mexico to work on Habitat projects, she was involved at the start of the first Habitat for Humanity Affiliate in the Los Angeles area: San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity. At each of the 34 houses built in the region, Barbara has swung hammers, put up drywall and pounded nails, while serving for many years on the affiliate's board of directors as executive director, board member and board president.

"Habitat embodies the heart of the Gospel," says Barbara. "It's inspiring to see how much can be done when so many people work together. It is really working together to build - not just homes, but lives and communities. Habitat's vision crosses all line of political parties, all ethnic and religious groups, and all social classes. It is a common ground, for the common good."

In 2003, Barbara was a recipient of the Cardinal's Award. "Barbara is a remarkable woman," said Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles. "She is blessed with many gifts and talents, as well as a truly generous spirit. Her dedication to Gospel values is evident in all aspects of her life. She has lived out these beliefs with joy and enthusiasm and that example has been a great grace and blessing."

Msgr. James Gehl will honor Barbara at the 11 a.m. Mass Sunday, July 24, at St. Bede the Venerable. Following the service, friends are invited to join the La Cañada community and the San Gabriel Valley Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity at a farewell celebration from noon to 3 p.m. at LCF's Memorial Park. A recognition ceremony, directed by Mayor Anthony Portantino and attended by local officials, Habitat members and families, will begin at 1 p.m.

Donations to "The House That Barbara Built" can be made to: The san Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity, 770 N. Fair Oaks, Pasadena, CA 91107.

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