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Our Towns Welcomes Two New Team Members

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is excited to welcome two new team members in our main office. Tatum Pottenger, a Davidson alum, will serve as our Community Outreach Director, and Belinda Gonzalez, joins as our new Family Support Specialist.

Tatum will serve as a liaison with our churches and faith community, helping coordinate faith-based volunteer groups and home sponsorships. She will also be responsible for donor relationships and represent Our Towns Habitat at various community events. Tatum recently completed a term of service for Teach for America and has served as a volunteer fundraiser for Davidson College. She enjoys building relationships and is looking forward to using that strength to further the work of Our Towns.

Belinda will provide support to families applying for homeownership as well as families that have been accepted into our program and are working toward buying their home. This includes leading homeowner information sessions, teaching homeowner education classes and tracking sweat equity hours. Belinda, who is bilingual, has volunteered for our Family Services over the past two years, providing translation services for information sessions and informational materials.

As we welcome Tatum and Belinda, we are also saying goodbye to the two team members they are replacing—Courtney Beck and Vicki Smith. Courtney is taking on a new challenge as Walk Manager for the Lupus Foundation of America, while Vicki will be enjoying a new role with Novant Health.

Join Us in Marking World Habitat Day

What began in 1986 when the United Nations General Assembly set aside the first Monday of October to celebrate “World Habitat Day,” has grown into a month long international emphasis on the advancement of affordable housing. The month is called “Urban October” and its theme, “31 days of promoting better urban life,” is being celebrated around the world right now.

I encourage you to take a moment and visit the Urban October website, and witness how other countries press the development of affordable housing. For 30 years, world leaders have set aside time to champion the cause to which we have dedicated ourselves in our shared mission with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

“On World Habitat Day, I urge all involved to work in partnership to manage one of the key challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century.”
–Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

“The ‘Habitat Agenda’ is a vision of the common future. The world is united in the awareness that human settlements will be central to growth and sustainable development. Policies must reflect this.
–Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali

These world leaders echo the vision of Habitat, “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” We can make that a vision a reality, but it will require us to become more knowledgeable about our cause, more diligent in providing our means, and more vocal in calling others to action.

You can help now. During the month of October make time to expand the mission of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity:

• Learn more about Habitat’s “Solid Ground” campaign.
• Join us for a virtual prayer event at noon on Monday (consider Habitat’s Prayer for Shelteras inspiration)
• Follow us on social media and share our World Habitat Day posts with your friends to raise awareness.
• Change your Facebook profile picture temporarily to mark the day (we’ll have an image you can use on our Facebook page Monday morning).
• Make an online gift.
• Sign up for a volunteer opportunity.

I am grateful that 30 years ago the leaders of the world saw the wisdom of setting aside time to promote the cause of affordable housing, and I am honored to be a part of that same mission with you today. In the words of Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, “Through shelter, we empower.”

Thank you for making a difference,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

Fall Maintenance Prepares Your Home for Colder Weather

The weather might not be “cool” yet, but compared to this summer’s brutal heat, it sure feels that way! Take advantage of these more moderate temps to check out some fall maintenance items and ensure your house is ready for the colder weather ahead.

Start outside, with your lawn and garden:

  • Drain fuel from gas-operated lawn equipment. Clean and stow all lawn equipment and summer gardening/landscaping tools.
  • Fertilize your lawn, reseed patchy areas and plant spring flowering bulbs.

Next, address your porch, deck and driveway:

  • Inspect porch and deck for any repair needs. Clean deck and apply sealer.
  • Cover and store patio furniture, grills, etc.
  • Empty dirt from flower pots.
  • Inspect driveway for cracks and repair with filler if needed. Apply commercial driveway sealer.

Also consider these items for your home’s exterior:

  • After leaves have fallen, clean gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters are a primary cause of ice dams and related damage.
  • Inspect roof for missing or loose shingles. Inspect paint for peeling or blistering.
  • Drain hoses and shut off outdoor water sources to prevent freezing and damage over the winter.
  • Caulk windows and weather strip doors to help keep heating bills down.
  • Check foundation for cracks.

And don’t forget these items inside your home:

  • Have heating system inspected. Change air filters and vacuum air ducts.
  • Insulate any pipes in unheated basement/crawl space or garage.
  • If you have an outdoor A/C-only unit (not a heat pump), cover the unit for winter. Remove and store any window A/C units.
  • Inspect and clean any fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.
  • Check windows for drafts or cracked panes.
  • Inspect attic and basement for signs of squirrels, mice, bats, etc. Seal any possible entrance holes. As the temperatures drop, these unwanted guests may try to come inside looking for a warm place to hang out.
  • Change smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries.

Volunteer Spotlight: Amico Colaianni

Volunteers can be motivated by many different things. For Amico Colaianni, being able to see the fruit of his labor and know he did something to make a difference spurs him on.

Amico, who had the most service hours of any volunteer last year, has been a volunteer with Our Towns since 2008. On his first day volunteering, he witnessed a transformation and has kept coming back ever since.

“The first job I did, long-time volunteer Henry Eddy grabbed me and said, ‘You’re going to be my rope man and help me put up the trusses,’” Amico remembered. “At the end of the day, there was a roof on that house. I said to myself, ‘I helped do that.’ And I was proud of that.”

Amico, 81, had to ‘retire’ from active construction work a few years ago, after having his left hip replaced, but he has found new ways to have an impact, by assisting with accounting functions in the construction office. Amico’s background is in accounting and he has previously worked as a construction office manager, so the role is a perfect fit for him.

He now handles coding all of the construction department’s invoices to submit for payment by our accounting department. Since transitioning to office work, Amico has helped streamline this expense coding process to create a clearer picture of costs. His prior experience working on builds helps him understand the accounting needs and to be able to accurately code expenses to the correct category.

“He’s made my life a lot easier,” Construction Manager Manny Rosado said. “Because it’s what he did for a living, he looks at it like an accountant, and it benefits our department tremendously.”

Amico also helps develop budgets for upcoming builds, based on historical expense data and the features of each home. He explains that there are many variables that determine how much a house costs to build, even if two houses are built from the same floor plan. The different communities Our Towns builds in have varying building code requirements, which can make it more or less expensive to build, and unknown site conditions can lead to unforeseen costs.

Additionally, Amico performs cost analysis on home construction projects to help identify potential savings, and compares budgeted expenses for a build to the actual expenses to help understand differences in the two amounts.

Amico and his wife Daisy, married 52 years, have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. The couple have lived in Mooresville, where their youngest daughter lives, since 2005, and previously lived in Charlotte for more than 30 years.

Volunteers, Homeowners, Staff Celebrate with Picnic

Our Towns Family Picnic, held on September 18 at the Lake Norman YMCA’s waterfront pavilion, brought together families, old and new friends, food and fun!
Picnic attendees, including volunteers, current and future homeowners, staff and board members of Our Towns Habitat, enjoyed fried chicken, side salads, chips, homemade goodies, fruit and LOTS of yummy ice cream. There was also a chili cook off, in which Our Towns Habitat’s own executive director, Jeff Porter, took home the top prize and was named this year’s Hot Tamale!

Other door prize winners took home custom made baskets put together by Cornelius ReStore Manager Pam Clavijo. Kids were entertained with face painting, temporary tattoos, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and games. Showing yet another of his talents, Jeff even dazzled everyone with his balloon creations!

Homeowners Insurance Protects Your Biggest Investment

Insurance is a product we all purchase hoping to never need it, but are grateful to have when an emergency hits. For homeowners, maintaining adequate property insurance is an important way to protect one of the biggest investments most of us will ever make, so it is critical to understand your coverage needs and options.

Homeowners insurance is classified as a multiple-line insurance policy, meaning that it protects a person’s home and belongings against damages, but also includes liability coverage, which covers your legal responsibility for injuries and property damage caused by you or members of your family (including pets) to others.

Remember, most mortgage lenders require proof of homeowners insurance, so you can’t buy a house without it! Before we dive in further, here are some general terms you need to know:

Deductible—The amount of money a policyholder pays before the insurance company will pay a claim.
Premium—The price you pay for your insurance, usually charged on an annual basis for this kind of insurance. For homeowners with a mortgage, this is generally paid through your escrow account.
Escrow account—An account your bank maintains to ensure payment of property tax and homeowners insurance while you are re-paying your mortgage. Your monthly mortgage payment includes a portion that goes into escrow to pay these annual bills.
Replacement cost—Refers to the full cost of replacing your personal property or your home, versus the actual value, which may not be sufficient to replace an older item or home.
Riders—Policy “add-ons” that can be included in your overall insurance policy to cover specific items in your home.
Named perils—Sources of damage that are specifically named as covered in an insurance plan.

Understanding these terms should help in searching for and selecting a good home insurance policy for you and your situation. These terms should also help when reading through your policy, which is vital, as with any legal contract. It will tell you exactly what is and isn’t covered.

So what do normal packages cover (and not cover)? Typical packages pay for damages in the event of storms, fire, theft or vandalism. These are your “named perils.” A policy also often covers your belongings even when outside of the home, such as if they are stolen from your car. If you are temporarily displaced from your home due to disaster, most policies will cover your hotel bill as a “shelter cost.”

As with most things, however, there are exceptions as to what is covered in a typical home insurance package. Standard policies exclude landslides, earthquakes, sinkholes, power failure, war, nuclear hazard, government action, faulty zoning, bad repair/defective maintenance, and flooding. Tornado and hurricane damage is usually covered, unless you are in a high-risk area.

According to Statesville State Farm Agent Andrew Whitaker, for specific items such as a collection, firearms or jewelry, additional protections may be added to increase the coverage on those items beyone the basic policy. Separate policies can also be purchased to cover mortgage payments in the event of death or disability of the homeowner, which is not typically covered, or to provide additional liability coverage

Whitaker recommends considering flood coverage, as very few areas have been proven to be completely immune to flooding. A flood quote is free and the price is the same wherever you go because the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program), which determines pricing, is federally governed.
Customers should also remember, said Whitaker, that homeowner’s insurance is not a maintenance policy. It is meant to cover “sudden and unexpected losses,” not a worn out A/C unit or damage from long-term leakage.

Owning an older home may also cause specific exclusions to be included in a policy. The age of the house puts it at a higher risk for damage, and according to Whitaker, this may cause exclusions for damage you would expect to be covered, such as damage from pipes.
Pricing is very dependent on the kind of policy you need and where you look for it. Factors that influence the price of your policy include location and age of the home, coverage and the amount of insurance. Often you can find deals such as multiple policy discounts, which gives a discount for having several policies (home, auto, health) with the same company.

To lower the premium, customers could consider a higher deductible, says Whitaker. Be sure that if you opt for a higher deductible you have enough in savings to cover that deductible, should the need arise. The premium can also be reduced by doing things such as installing a burglar alarm to lower your risk.
While the lowest price policy may be appealing, you should compare more than just price when looking for homeowners insurance. Coverage and deductibles as well as the ratings, financial strength, claims handling capabilities and accessibility of the company should also be taken into consideration.

“When [customers] purchase homeowners insurance, they are buying a promise to be there when needed and to pay what is owed,” says Whitaker. He suggests AM best, JD Powers, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau for ratings and more information about companies. He also recommends that customers get at least three quotes from different companies and then compare. Doing this kind of research and evaluation will help in making an informed decision on which company to use.

Potts Family Builds Homes While Building Family Ties

Families are stronger when you build them together.

That was the theme of this year’s 30th Annual Potts Family Reunion. This was also the third time that the Potts family gathered on a Habitat construction site as part of their reunion celebration.

What is becoming a favored tradition of the Potts family began in 2012, spearheaded by Ron Potts. At the time, Ron was a member of the Smithville Community Coalition in Cornelius, which had an established partnership with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. For Ron’s family, which has roots in Cornelius going back more than a century, helping the community is in their blood – Ron’s father being part of team that brought water and street lights to Smithville.

Since their first family reunion in 1987, the range of activities the Potts family has participated in as part of their reunions is as impressive as the family itself – attending seminars on everything from health and wellness to going green, starting their own investment club, visiting theme parks and museums, and traveling anywhere from Tybee Island in Georgia to Washington, D.C.

In 2012, as part of their theme of “Building the Way for Future Generations,” the Potts family hung interior doors and cut and laid floor molding in a home affectionately named “The Philadelphia House of Brotherly Love” in the Smithville community. Ron laughed when describing that, despite their lack of construction prowess, “We divided into two shifts. There was some competition between the two shifts on which group did the best.”

This year, the Potts family was back in action building the interior and exterior walls at a new Habitat home in Mooresville. While the day was extremely hot, Ron said that working alongside future homeowner Pebbles made this year’s experience especially heartwarming and rewarding.

Ron also explained that his particular contribution to the cause — running out to pick up lunch for the family volunteers – resulted in good-natured ribbing from the family!

For next year’s reunion, the family has plans to travel to Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. However, Ron, who passionately believes that building a home is building a family, is looking forward to returning to the Habitat construction site in 2018.

Mission Moment: A Volunteer Perspective

This “mission moment” observation was brought to us by one of our volunteers, who wished to share a special encounter with a Habitat homeowner:

Over the past three years, I have been slowly spending more and more time volunteering with Our Towns Habitat. As I have become more and more involved, I have met many happy homeowners in process. Billy is one such homeowner.

While I was doing some “punch work” a couple days before Our Towns Habitat dedicated the home to him and his wife, Billy came by to help with some of the final cleaning.

I guess he didn’t think anyone was watching him as he wandered through his new home. But I noticed that he was walking around just touching different things, like the cabinets, and the doorknobs, and the thermostat.

And as he walked, he kept repeating very softly, “I can’t believe this is mine. It’s finally going to happen.”

I don’t know Billy’s history or what he may have gone through before he became a Habitat homeowner. But I do know that I saw the true impact that this ministry has on our community that day. And I know now that it’s all about building dignity, one beautiful home at a time.