Affordable Housing Is The Answer

Today, more people need affordable housing than ever before. In the past, the lack of affordable housing presented a hardship to a small margin of our population, but today, an entire generation craves quality housing at an affordable price.

Today, more people need affordable housing than ever before. In the past, the lack of affordable housing presented a hardship to a small margin of our population, but today, an entire generation craves quality housing at an affordable price.

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, “In over half of the biggest U.S. cities, the typical millennial can’t afford a 1,000 square-foot home.”

Rents continue to increase while lagging incomes and huge student loans drag millennials down. According to the article, “80% of millennials want to buy homes,” but finding a quality home in a safe neighborhood continues to drift out of reach.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said housing is the key to addressing most of the societal problems we see every day. He said, “Housing is a powerful platform for sparking opportunity in people’s lives. When you ensure that an individual or a family has a good, decent, safe place to live, that is the fundamental building block for sparking other opportunity.”

Rebecca Releford, one of our newest homeowners, experienced the spark of home ownership, and she says that it changed her life. “It happened on the day we built my roof,” she said. “We were all standing around looking at the top of the house and a worker called me out and said, “Why don’t YOU climb up there?”

Rebecca said to herself, “I’m afraid of heights, but I can’t back down NOW.” So she climbed to the top of the roof and shingled every side.”

Habitat for Humanity helps people like Rebecca build affordable housing. This year more people will look to us for guidance, inspiration and support. The opportunities to make a difference will continue to grow.

Perhaps as we look at the growing number of people who need affordable housing, we should remember Rebecca’s words as she looked at the roof she built and said, “I did what I had to do, now it feels like I can do ANYTHING.”

Sincerely,

Jeff Porter, Executive Director

Critical Repair Work Expands at Habitat

Habitat is building hope by helping local homeowners stay safe and healthy in their own homes. We have completed 19 repairs since July 1st, with another 18 currently in process meaning we will exceed our goal of 32 repairs for the fiscal year. The funding this year for these projects has come through unrestricted funds, Thrivent Repairs Homes, Realtor Care Day, and Community Development Block Grants in Cornelius and Huntersville. Applicants are in the program anywhere from 6-14 months as we match their need with appropriate funding sources.

To help us meet the need, the Town of Mooresville announced a $50,000 partnership with Our Towns to perform repairs in the town through zero interest loans to the homeowners. The program will begin in July, although we are already taking applications.

But it’s not about the numbers. It’s about improving health and safety and reinvesting hope into our communities. After the completion of her repairs one homeowner wrote, “I don’t have to wrap in blankets and gloves to move around in the house…I don’t have to worry about if my anemia is getting worse because of the coldness in my house.”

 

If you want to be a part of helping to create simple, decent, affordable housing by keeping families in their existing homes donate to Our Towns Habitat today.

If you or someone you know is in need of critical repairs for their home, give us a call at 704-896-8957.

 

Volunteers Recognized for their Hard Work and Dedication

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The holidays are a good time to say thanks for the tremendous work and TIME our volunteers give to build homes throughout our community. Each year, Construction awards are presented at a luncheon hosted for our volunteers to recognize their contributions.

Joe Blackwelder, construction supervisor responsible for Habitat Extreme Remodel projects presented the NRI Nehemiah Award to Bob Birch for outstanding service in remodeling homes and inspiring hope through his volunteer work. Bob has served for many years as a Habitat volunteer at Our Towns and with the Charlotte affiliate. Congratulations and thanks for your service.

Manny Rosado, construction manager presented the Golden Hammer Award, Our Towns Habitat oldest award to a volunteer that exhibits leadership, an understanding of our ministry and has a passion to serve the community.

Longtime volunteer, Chris Cashwell, received the award this year! For the last 12 years he’s been a dedicated weekday and weekend volunteer. He began his service at Our Towns by working on the vinyl siding crew with a volunteer group from Wachovia, where he worked prior to retirement. Manny jokes, “We share the same haircut and Chris only comes out to the job site for the great snacks.” Chris is a member of the ‘weekday regulars’ and is also an avid hiker. We are thrilled he has great passion for Habitat for Humanity and grateful for his commitment to our mission.

In remembrance, Manny paid special tribute to longtime volunteer, Nick Rechinda who passed away this fall. “He was one of our dearest volunteers,” remarked Manny. “He taught me by example how to be positive all the time. I learned to be patient and to teach new volunteers through his leadership.” Nick was a great husband and father and great friend to Habitat. He worked on over 85 Our Towns Habitat homes and tracked over 2692 hours, all served with LOVE.

Interested in becoming a Habitat volunteer? (No Experience Required.)

Charitable Giving: New Legislation Passed

If you are 70 ½ or older, you can once again make tax-favored charitable gifts from your traditional and Roth IRA accounts.

On December 18, Congress passed legislation that retroactively extends the charitable IRA rollover for 2015 and makes this provision permanent for future years. A total of up to $100,000 can be transferred directly from your traditional or Roth IRAs to one or more qualified charities free from federal income tax each year. Amounts given in this way count toward required IRA minimum withdrawal amounts for the year of the gift. For those with check writing privileges on their accounts, that may be the most efficient way to make gifts directly from an IRA.

Check with your IRA administrator or your tax advisor for more information

Faith and Love in Action in Huntersville

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God’s plan is always perfect. Neither the myth of bad luck nor bleak winter weather can delay or demolish what the Lord starts.

Thirteen — an unlucky number according to superstition — was favorable for Ariel Washington, the single mother who received the keys to the Our Towns Habitat for Humanity Pope Francis house in the Norman Park neighborhood in Huntersville, North Carolina.

On March 13, 2013, a Vatican cardinal, who was once a humble Jesuit priest from Argentina, was elected the new Roman Catholic pontiff. That same year, Washington was approved as a Habitat for Humanity homeowner in process. The Pope Francis house that eventually became hers was the thirteenth Habitat house constructed in Norman Park.
“I am so lucky,” said Washington, who was a 23-year-old mother of two at the time.

She had signed her partnership papers with Our Town Habitat for Humanity on July 3, 2013, dreaming she and her children (then ages 2 and 4) might have a home to call their own and begin afresh. The young mother’s new start began just four months after Pope Francis took his seat on the Papal throne in Rome. This pope, dedicated to social justice and mercy for the afflicted and poor — and who chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi, a man of poverty and peace — refused to live in the lavish 16th-century Apostolic Palace. Instead, the humble and very informal Pope Francis decided to live in the modest third-floor suite in the Vatican guesthouse.

From October 2014 to February 2015, the construction of the Habitat house in his honor never slowed or was stopped temporarily due to complications. God’s favor was upon the house on Titan Avenue in Norman Park.

Filled with hope for the future, Washington stood at the front door of her 1,100-square-foot home on February 28 during the dedication beaming with gratitude.
“This is my first home, and it’s truly a blessing,” said Washington.

A Dynamic Build
Jeff Porter, executive director of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, said being among the 59 Habitat affiliates in the United States to be able to build a Pope Francis house was an honor. “The build was all about excitement, energy and fun. It was one of the first projects for Our Towns after I came on board, and it was a happy time for me … for all of us.”

Porter described the support of the faith community as “tremendous,” adding, “It inspired all our staff, employees and build crews.” St. Mark and St. Therese — two Diocese of Charlotte parishes — came together to provide some of the funds and most of volunteer labor to build the Pope Francis Habitat house.

While parishioners from his church had participated in Habitat builds before and the parish’s Charitable Giving Committee had supported Our Towns in previous years, Father John Putnam, pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville, said this project provided a wonderful chance for the two churches to unite to honor the Holy Father and partner with Habitat to effect a safe, affordable home for a young family. “It was a great opportunity for parishioners to collaborate with non-parishioners in the community to reach a common goal and aid a family in need.”

Beth Zuhosky, ministry coordinator at St. Mark who organized the church’s volunteers, said, “I think Christians see needs where they live and believe they understand, but until believers stand alongside those in need, sit with them and listen, do they really feel it in their spirit. Then, faith in action becomes real to them.”
Putnam added, “I was really impressed with how much the experience inspired both the Habitat workers and all the volunteers. It also was wonderful for me to see the joy on the faces of the family on the day of the house blessing.”

Working side by side, the faith community showed that love is a verb. Father Vince Curtain, pastor of St. Therese in Mooresville, was part of the roof-raising day on the construction site, and some of his parishioners, as well, stewarded their time and talents to be an integral part of the work crew that built the Pope Francis Habitat house.
“It was a dynamic build! There was a huge sense of community and energy with this project,” said Manny Rosado, construction manager with Our Towns Habitat. “My staff was very impressed with the dedication of the church volunteers. Pope Francis is about love in action, and the parishioners were modeling that. It felt like they had been working with us for years.”
He continued, “Everything went very smoothly. It was fall and winter, but we did not have any weather delays. Other houses under construction next to it in Norman Park had delays and unexpected expenses, but not the Pope Francis house.”

Rosado is in his thirteenth year with Our Towns Habitat. The affiliate serves North Mecklenburg and Iredell County, including the towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville, Troutman and Statesville. In 27 years, the organization has welcomed more than 350 families into safe and affordable homes. The housing program is funded by donations, grants and sales from three ReStores.

Our Towns has been named an “Affiliate of Distinction” by Habitat for Humanity International. In addition, it has received several awards and many generous grants.
Among the 1,400 Habitat affiliates across the United States, Our Towns is in the top ten for tithing a percentage of their donations to fund home builds in other countries. Since it’s first year, Our Towns Habitat has donated $1.8 million and is recognized as a Sam Mompongo award-winning affiliate.

Prayer of a Martyr for the Poor
Construction began on the Pope Francis Habitat house in Huntersville on October 18, 2014. Just three weeks later, on November 5, Forbes magazine ranked Pope Francis the fourth most powerful person in the world. He became known and beloved as “the people’s pope.” Through the winter, the enthusiasm of the Habitat volunteer crew for the completion of the house paralleled the country’s keenness for the pontiff. Pope Francis’ popularity among U.S. Catholics, non-Catholics and even unbelievers continued to climb.

Washington and her children, Naisyia and Messiah, also became more and more excited for their house to be completed. Working 400 hours of sweat equity, she juggled parenting and working full time at the General Motors Financial office in Huntersville. Her dream of moving from a two-bedroom apartment that cost nearly every dollar she made into a three-bedroom home with a yard for her children kept her going. She also was motivated and sustained by the volunteer parishioners, with whom she hammered and painted, including St. Mark’s Zuhosky and her family, Scott Lagueaux and Bobby Collucci, and St. Therese’s Tom and Gressel O’Regan, to name a few.

“We were all very attached to the project,” said Zuhosky. “St. Mark was very honored and humbled to have been asked to partner with Our Towns on this special house. Once our volunteers met Ariel and spent one day on the work site, they wanted to go back weekly.”

Admitting she hadn’t known a lot of Catholics before she became a Habitat homeowner in process, Washington described everyone with St. Mark and St. Therese as down-to-earth and gracious. “Everyone was so normal and fun. We built a bond, and they became like family.” Washington and her family attend Greater Faith Worship Center in Huntersville.
Rosado said he was impressed by how the volunteers from St. Mark and St. Therese took Washington under their wings. “I witnessed complete, unselfish giving. And Ariel often was overwhelmed by the love they bestowed upon her.”

The 23-year-old also was thrilled to learn new skills and work with the tools on the build site. “My favorite thing was installing the wood floors. I thought it would be so hard, but the pieces fit together like a puzzle — like snap and go — it was amazing!”

The workdays began early and progressed efficiently. As always, construction manager Rosado began with prayer. Every Saturday work session, Rosado shared the words of some of his favorite saints. “I was born and raised Catholic,” said Rosado. “I’ve always admired the writings of Francis of Assisi — who said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.’

He shared these words from a prayer by Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, known as the “Bishop of the Poor” and assassinated March 24, 1980, at the home dedication:

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Interestingly, just three months later on May 22, 2015, Pope Francis beatified Romero as a martyr.
During the pontiff’s U.S. visit in September 2015, Washington and her children followed the news reports and, once again, were reminded of the significance of their home — a new start built on a foundation of grace and love.

“I am so thankful for each and every person who worked on my house, and the care they showed me and my children,” she said.

God’s light continues to radiate from the sunshine yellow home in Norman Park in Huntersville. The newly married Washington is enrolled in college with plans to earn a four-year degree in human resources. She also is excited to walk alongside a co-worker, who now is a homeowner in process with Our Towns Habitat. Washington vows to return to the Habitat work site when the construction on her friend’s home begins … and bless another as she was so richly blessed.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity Announces it Will Close Statesville ReStore and Relocate Family Services Program to Iredell Christian Ministries

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After extensive market research and careful consideration, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors has decided to close the Statesville ReStore for financial reasons.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity Family Services team, including a HUD certified counselor, will work in the Iredell Christian Ministries office at 752 Old Salisbury Road in Statesville.

The Statesville ReStore manager and the majority of part-time staff will assume positions at the Mooresville ReStore. Free pickup of donations will still be available throughout Iredell County by calling the Donation Coordinator at 704-896-8957 x204.

“Our partnership and office hours at Iredell Christian Ministries will allow us to strengthen our presence in Statesville and serve more families in need,” remarks Jeff Porter, Executive Director, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

“I am excited to work hand in hand to help families in need in our community with housing solutions,” remarks Joy Morrison, Executive Director, Iredell Christian Ministries. “Being able to further educate the hundreds of families we see on a weekly basis about Habitat for Humanity will be impactful.”

Families in Statesville will continue being served:
Shana Summers, lifetime Statesville resident, closed on her Habitat home in December 2015.
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity will break ground on two new Habitat homes on Partnership Way in March 2016.
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity completed 17 critical home repairs in Statesville last year and plans to perform another 20 repairs in 2016.
The Statesville store will close on February 27, 2016. A storewide liquidation sale will start on January 30 and continue throughout the month of February.
Free donation pick-ups throughout Statesville and Iredell County will still be available. “We are grateful for all of the donations. They allow us to build more homes and serve more families,” said Jill Laney, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity Director of ReStores.

The Mooresville ReStore is located 12 miles south of Statesville in Iredell County (121 Norman Station Blvd.).
The Cornelius ReStore is located off exit 28 on I-77, 22 miles south of Statesville (20414 N. Main. Street).
The liquidation sale will begin on 1/30/16 with all merchandise, including fixtures at 60% off. Items will go to 70% off on 2/9/16, 80% off 2/16/16, and 90% off 2/23/16.
Coupons will be distributed to shoppers at the Statesville store for a discount at the Mooresville and Cornelius ReStores.
About Our Towns Habitat for Humanity – Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) ecumenical organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Habitat homes are sold through zero interest, no profit mortgages. Partner families perform 400 hours of ‘sweat equity’ and attend educational classes on homeownership as part of the program. The basic qualifications for a Habitat home are: need for decent affordable housing, ability to pay for the home and a willingness to partner with Habitat.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity also provides critical home repair services, including interior and exterior work, to a home to alleviate critical health, life and safety issues.
ReStore retail operations in Mooresville and Cornelius support the housing ministry and help the local environment.

For more information, to donate or volunteer, please visit our website, www.ourtownshabitat.org or call 704-896-8957.