BAKERSFIELD — Sherman Tatum doesn’t have lofty desires when it comes to the house of his dreams. He’d just like a modest house with a front porch and maybe, if he’s lucky, a garage out back where he can tinker and build things at his leisure.
“I imagine myself sitting there on the porch, drinking my coffee in the morning and reading,” says the 62-year- old, his face framed by a white beard.
The porch, it turns out, is a happy childhood memory of being with family.
As he talks about this house he’s been dreaming about, his eyes light up and his cheeks begin to rise as a grin takes over his face. He smiles because it already exists and he and his wife, Barbara, 55, are eager to move in.
The Tatums were selected to receive a home from Habitat for Humanity Golden Empire and it couldn’t happen soon enough. The rented four-plex where they currently reside has an air-conditioner that doesn’t always work and plumbing and electrical problems. It has one small bedroom, a tiny living room that isn’t much bigger and no space for their two small dogs to safely roam outdoors.
Their soon-to-be-home — in the small Kern County community of Oildale — is an existing home that is being rehabbed and repaired. Sherman keeps a photo of the house on his cell phone. He looks forward to helping with construction, putting the required sweat equity into the home he and Barbara hope to occupy in a few months.
Sherman works at The Mission at Kern County, the largest provider of homeless and recovery services in the county. He was once a resident who sought help at The Mission during his own recovery journey; it’s where he met Barbara who had also fallen on hard times.
The two leaned on each other during those difficult times. At first, it was just a friendship. Later, it developed into something more.
After completing the recovery program, Sherman took a job as a case manager and residential supervisor at The Mission 12 years ago. He and Barbara married after she decided to propose 10 years ago.
Barbara was his rock. She helped care for Sherman’s ailing father who passed away recently at age 87.
“It was a load off of my shoulders her taking care of him,” Sherman says of his wife.
Together, they have been an unbreakable team that has weathered a lot and come through it on the other side.
The couple shares a strong faith in God. Sherman is also a pastor who oversees Saturday chapel services at The Mission.
With Sherman working for a non-profit and Barbara’s growing health problems that make her unable to work, they have struggled to make ends meet and have moved between rentals. After Sherman’s father passed away, the owner of the Oildale home where they all lived decided he wanted to sell the house which is how the Tatums ended up at their current, cramped rental.
The Habitat home ownership opportunity came at the perfect time.
Sherman found a flier at a local laundromat seeking applicants for a Habitat home in Oildale.
“I tore the flier off the board,” he says.
It was meant to be, he insists. The Habitat home was in the very same neighborhood where Sherman had lived for 13 years, it was familiar. It was home.
They learned they were selected for the home in early April. They were told to come in and fill out some additional documents — all part of a carefully-orchestrated ruse — and were greeted with a huge surprise announcement and balloons.
Barbara still can’t believe she will soon have a house where she can put a washer and dryer inside instead of saving quarters for shared laundry facilities. She looks forward to family visits and holidays.
“Having a home where my daughters and grandkids can visit… That’s what I’m looking forward to,” says Barbara.
Together, Sherman and Barbara have seven grown children — from previous relationships — and 13 grandchildren. But they’ve really never had much room to host and entertain them.
“It’s not a house I’m just buying and moving int0; it’s a house that is actually becoming a part of me, and I’m becoming a part of this house,” says Sherman.
The best thing about the house, says Sherman: “It has a porch. The way I see it, God knew the desires of my heart… God made it come true.”