Love at First Site

Matt Haldeman jokes that his wife Lindsay was duped. The task of hammering nails into the roof of a porch can be difficult: but it is much easier for a taller person. Outfitted with a tool belt and hammer, the six foot two inch Pennsylvania native’s first impression on his future bride was strong. It was also a bit misleading.

“We just bought a house–our first house– and I can’t fix anything. Anytime anything breaks, I just call somebody,” laughed Matt, who met Lindsay on a New Orleans Habitat worksite nearly a decade ago. Though the details of their first meeting are hazy–“Lindsay claims I saw her working on another porch and just left my group to go work with her”, Matt said–they spent the rest of the afternoon working side by side.

Matt and Lindsay Haldeman were two of 50 Harvard Business School students who attended a weeklong service trip to New Orleans in 2009. Matt and Lindsay had “literally never laid eyes on each other” until they spent two days together on a Habitat construction site that January.

“The nice thing about building [is that] conversations just sort of naturally happen because there’s not a lot of pressure,” said Lindsay. “You’re busy actually doing and creating and caring about it. And you’re doing it well because it’s someone’s home. Conversation starts to naturally flow.”

Their worksite conversation quickly veered into a mutual interest in education reform. Education – and service, in general – are still priorities for the couple; both work in education, and are active in the community through the church and other outlets.

When Matt and Lindsay Haldeman married in 2011, their unconventional gift registry allowed friends and family to donate to a cause close to the couple’s hearts: New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. “That’s ultimately the connection that we had,” Lindsay explained. Their wedding donations brought in $9,000 for the New Orleans affiliate.

New Orleans Habitat remains a big part of the Haldemans’ story. “I feel like the story about how someone didn’t have a home, and they worked hard to help with their home, and we helped them build their home,” Matt reflected. “I feel like that’s a story that even our three year old can understand.”

To commemorate their first meeting 10 years ago – “On the porch of one of the houses” – the Haldemans will visit New Orleans with their children, three boys under age five, this holiday season.

Just as NOAHH plays an outsized role in the lives of this Boston-based family, so does the city itself, along with its people and culture. Matt remembers sitting in Mother’s Restaurant with a woman who had moved to New Orleans a few years before the storm. “She said one of the amazing things that happened in New Orleans is that if you were there, and a part of the recovery effort, you were automatically a native,” Matt shared. “It didn’t matter whether you’d been there for a few years, or for a few months, or whether your family had been there for generations. I always thought that was pretty amazing and pretty powerful.”