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Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Carollo

Volunteering is part of the Habitat homeownership process, with all future homeowners contributing at least 400 “sweat equity” hours toward the purchase of their new home. So it is not uncommon for homeowners to get the service bug and keep volunteering long after they move in.

But homeowner Mike Carollo started out as volunteer five years ago, then later partnered with Habitat to build his own home—after some encouragement from Our Towns construction staff.
Mike began volunteering as a way to stay busy. He enjoyed working with Our Towns Habitat because the construction team worked with Mike to adapt different tasks to his physical disability.

“You guys let me do things my way, in a way that worked for me,” Mike explains.

Growing up with a disability, Mike often thought he wouldn’t be able to have a lot of the “normal” things in life. Owning a home seemed out of reach, and building his own home seemed impossible—Mike wasn’t able to walk until the age of 15 due to his disability.

But Mike had not been volunteering with Our Towns Habitat long before Construction Manager Manny Rosado realized that, not only was Mike a great volunteer, but he was also a great fit for the Habitat homeownership program. He convinced Mike to apply, and he and his wife Pattie were accepted into the program in 2012. Two years and a phenomenal 680 sweat equity hours later, and the couple were moving into their new home.

And now, just like before they became Habitat homeowners, Mike can still be found working hard to help build houses for other future homeowners. Many Saturdays, Mike teams up with Site Supervisor Dave Chapman to help with cabinet installation. He also spends about 8-10 hours a week working with Dave on managing inventory of electrical supplies and ordering more supplies when needed.

“Mike never complains—on hot days, cold days, no matter what, he has a positive attitude,” Dave said. “He can think four steps ahead of me. Once he is in the process of doing a task, he owns it.

Two New Faces at Our Towns Habitat May Seem Familiar

There are two new faces in the Our Towns Habitat office, but neither is new to Habitat or its mission.

Tiffani IrwinTiffani Irwin, our new Director of Construction, has been involved with Habitat for 25 years. She supervised home construction for Our Towns for a dozen years, before leaving to take a position with Habitat for Humanity International. She served there for eight years before returning to Our Towns last month.

In the course of her association with Habitat, Tiffani has supervised construction of more than 100 homes, both domestically and internationally. She has used her training in building science and home performance to lead to insure many of these homes were certified under sustainable building programs. Tiffani will work closely with Construction Manager Manny Rosado to plan and oversee all Our Towns Habitat builds, as well as critical repair projects.

Lisa DixonWe also welcomed Lisa Dixon to the team as our database administrator. Lisa has worked previously for several other local Habitat affiliates, including Habitat Charlotte and Habitat Statesville, which merged with Our Towns Habitat two years ago. She has also worked with Habitat North Carolina, the state level support organization for Our Towns. While most of her past experience has been working with families, Lisa will manage the donor database and provide administrative support for all of our fundraising efforts.

Avoid Sticker Shock on Your Heating Bill

‘Tis the season for cozying up with a cup of hot cocoa under a big, warm afghan. With the colder weather, though, comes higher heating bills. But, with a few savvy energy-saving tips, you can help avoid sticker shock when you open your next utility bill.

Keep the heat inside. As kids, we all got that warning when we stood in the open doorway during the middle of winter—“Close that door! I’m not paying to heat the outdoors!” As adults who understand having bills to pay, we get it now! Why pay to fuel your heating system, then let all that warm air escape? Make sure you consider all the ways heat may be making its getaway from your home. If you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the flue is closed. Don’t run the ventilation fans in your bathroom or kitchen when they aren’t needed—they’ll suck are that warm, toasty air right out of the room. And be sure you have proper insulation in your attic.

Keep the cold outside. Not only do you have to worry about warm air escaping, you need to be aware of cold air invading! Check your house for drafts by holding a lit candle near windows and doors and observing the flame—if it moves horizontally, outside air may be sneaking in. Seal up leaks with low-cost caulking or weather-stripping.

A few degrees can equal big savings. Turning your thermostat down just a few degrees can shave 5 to 10 percent off your heating bill. Counter the drop by dressing in warm layers. Make sure you keep some nice, warm throws on the sofa and chairs—activity keeps your body warmer, so when you stop moving and sit down, you may feel colder! Tip—feet play a big role in the body’s perception of heat, so warm socks go a long way!

Take advantage of the sun. Open drapes or blinds when the sun is on your windows to take advantage of the natural heat. But make sure to close all coverings when it’s dark to avoid losing heat.

Maintain your heating systems. Electric and oil heaters should have maintenance every year. Gas heaters need serviced every other year. Regular maintenance can keep your systems running more efficiently. And one maintenance item you can easily do on your own—change the filter! Dirty filters equal higher utility bills.

Our Towns Habitat Now Offers Online Tribute Gifts

A donation in honor or memory of a loved one can be a thoughtful alternative to traditional Christmas presents, and carry an impact that lasts long after the wrapping paper has all been cleaned up and decorations tucked back in storage for the year.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is pleased to announce a new online giving option that allows donors to select one of a variety of themed e-cards to send to a recipient of the donor’s choice, alerting them that a donation has been made in his/her name.

Card designs include holiday themes, but also offer options for other special occasions, including birthdays, graduations and memorials.

To make a tribute gift, simply complete the online donation form, select the card design of your choice, then enter your designee’s name, email and any personalized message you wish to send.

Thank You for a Wonderful Year!

Thank you for making 2016 such a huge success. We served 78 families in 2016, compared to the 34 families served in 2015. We plan to serve even more in 2017, but we need your help.

We plan to repair 12 more homes this year than last year, –that is one additional family each month whose home will be made safe and healthy because of your giving. This week, you should find our end of year fundraising letter in your mailbox, which tells the stories of some of the families we’ve helped in the past year. Please take a moment to read more about the people you have helped through Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

In the meantime, thank you for making our first #GivingTuesday a huge success. You gave more than $10,000 in one day to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and contributed to a new #GivingTuesday record!

According to USA Today, #GivingTuesday broke a record this year as consumers turned their attention to helping others following the shopping frenzy of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Giving Tuesday sparked $168 million in charitable donations worldwide, topping last year’s tally by 44%. Meanwhile, volunteers pledged thousands of hours to assist their neighbors and those in need.

I praise God for you and for your devotion to giving. You are the most generous and hardest-working group of people I know. You give of yourselves daily. You work outside on construction sites when the weather is awful and you work inside ReStores where the floors are hard and the merc

handise is heavy. You keep our data updated in our computers and you make important decisions regarding our future.

Thank you for giving and for making a difference in my life and in the lives of those we serve together.

Merry Christmas,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

Family Motivated Regina to Become Habitat Homeowner

Regina joined Habitat’s homeowner program to provide more security and a better future for her family. In the process, she found a new family, as she formed relationships with other future homeowners.

As they attended homeowner education classes and worked to build their homes together, “It was like one big family,” Regina says. It was a disciplined journey, she says, but the process helped her work on everything she needed to be a successful homeowner, from improving her credit to learning how to maintain her home.

And when it came down to it, what seemed like an immense challenge–building a house–really wasn’t that hard, with so many people working together as a team.

“Seeing the walls being raised, the windows put in and the floors laid down was amazing,” she remembers. “A lot of nails go a long way.”

Regina’s two children, Jasmine, 16, and Stacey, 6, were the motivating force for her to partner with Habitat.
“If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about owning a home,” Regina says. “Just to have a simple foundation for your family and be able to afford it means so much. It truly is a blessing.”

Regina never thought she would be able to own a home on her wages as a housekeeper, but now she will have affordable mortgage that is less than she was paying rent. That means she won’t have to work extra hours to make ends meet, and she is looking forward to having time to spend with Jasmine and Stacey, helping with homework, sharing meals and building a strong family foundation.