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Collegiate Challenge Groups Use Spring Break for Service

Twenty students from two New England colleges decided to give up a week at the beach and instead spend their spring break building affordable homes with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, as part of Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge program.

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences sent a team of 12 students from March 6-10 to work on building a home in our Partnership Way neighborhood in Statesville. The group worked on painting, installing laminate flooring and tile, and installing vinyl siding on the home’s exterior.

A second group of eight women from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut spent the week of March 13-17 building sub-assemblies in our Cornelius Poole Place neighborhood, completing interior work on the Partnership Way home, and building saw horses for use in future builds.

In both groups, many of the students had previous experience building with Habitat—either with their local Habitat affiliate or on a previous Collegiate Challenge trip.

“We are blessed to have these students with a heart for service, who are willing to sacrifice their spring break period and build with us,” said Executive Director Dr. Jeff Porter. “Every hand can help build a home. We are energized by their passion to do God’s work with us, as we partner with future homeowners to build a strong foundation for the future.”

The work of both teams was supported by many other supporters and volunteers behind the scenes. Students were housed by local churches during their stay (First Presbyterian Church of Statesville and Davidson College Presbyterian Church) and fed by Our Towns Habitat homeowners, board members and volunteers, by numerous local churches, by Davidson College and even the Mayor of Statesville, Costi Kutteh, provided dinner one evening. The Statesville and Lake Norman YMCAs also pitched in by providing shower facilities.

Thrivent Teams Up with Our Towns, Faith Community

Our Towns Habitat is partnering with Thrivent Financial Services and the local faith community to build three new homes before the end of the year. Thrivent is awarding a grant of $75,000 to co-sponsor construction of new homes in Cornelius, Mooresville and Statesville.

As a faith-based financial planning company, Thrivent has a strong focus on service and a long partnership with Habitat. Thrivent is partnering with Habitat affiliates nationwide through the Thrivent Builds program. Thrivent’s grant will be matched with funds pledged by local congregations representing diverse denominations and faiths.

Thrivent members and church members will also volunteer on construction of these three homes, working side-by-side with future homeowners as they build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

Construction on the first Thrivent home will begin this May. Construction on the final home is expected to be completed this fall.

“We are so grateful for Thrivent’s support of decent, affordable housing,” said Executive Director Jeff Porter. “The Thrivent Build homes are a wonderful opportunity for us to bring people from different faiths and backgrounds together to work alongside a future homeowner building a better life. These builds are a chance to focus on what unites us more than what divides us.”

Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity started in 2005 with a mission of providing affordable housing to families–a cornerstone of becoming financially secure. It also gives Thrivent members meaningful opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in their local communities. Together, Thrivent and Habitat for Humanity have partnered in communities across the US and across the globe to make a real difference for families and individuals.

“The Thrivent Builds program provides us with more options to serve our area,” said Gary Samuelson of Thrivent Financial. “The support we receive from the local community for projects like this is overwhelming, and we look forward to working together.”

Affordable Housing Builds Stronger Families, Communities

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity values the work by leaders from across the political spectrum to provide high quality affordable housing in our area. The diversity of our organization is our strength.

I have recently received many questions about current political changes and the impact on our organization. For example, people have asked me, “What impact would the cuts in the proposed federal budget have our affiliate?”

The Administration’s budget blueprint identifies several proposed funding cuts that would substantially reduce the number of local households served by our organization and Habitat for Humanity affliliates throughout the country. Proposed cuts include eliminating aid to SHOP (Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program), CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), and CNCS (Corporation for National Service).

We benefit from each of these programs. The financial loss to our local affiliate budget could be $450,000 from SHOP, $250,000 from CDBG and the elimination of AmeriCorps workers next year. That is a total estimated loss of $700,000, or 21% of the money we need to help our families and our community.

We have made a lot of progress locally and globally, and it is vital to continue this work. Research shows that affordable housing affects change in all areas of life:

Children of homeowners are more likely to succeed in school and make fewer visits to the emergency room for routine health problems.1
Affordable housing can improve health outcomes by freeing up family resources for nutritious food and healthcare expenditures.2
Increased access to quality housing has economic benefits, including greater tax generation, opportunities for economic development, increased job retention and productivity, and the ability to address inequality.3

Please know that I value the service provided to our country through our elected officials. I can only imagine the burden they bear, and I know that you will join me in prayer for them as they work together to help make our country great for everyone.

I am especially grateful for our local elected officials, all of whom take an active role in supporting the work of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with our elected officials to advance the value and importance of these programs for Habitat’s work and in meeting affordable housing needs in the country.

As our country considers how we will address affordable housing going forward, I ask that you take the opportunity to reach out to your elected leaders and let them know why this issue is important to our community, our state and our nation.

I appreciate being your Executive Director,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

1 “San Francisco Children Living in Redeveloped Public Housing Used Acute Services Less Than Children in Older Public Housing” Health Affairs, Vol. 33 No. 12, 2014.
2 “The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary” National Housing Conference, 2015.
3 “Impacts of Habitat for Humanity ‘Homeownership” Wilder Research, 2015.

Davidson United Methodist Church begins building 19th Habitat home

Davidson United Methodist Church is one of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity’s most loyal partners. This year, the church is sponsoring its 19th home with Our Towns. Through financial support and committed volunteer labor, church members have changed the lives of 19 families, as together they build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter! DUMC volunteers started working on their newest Habitat home this March, on the church’s Day of Caring. About two dozen volunteers came together to frame the walls that will become a home for Jessica, Max and their six children.


Worth Every Drop of Sweat

Tony and Margaret’s new home represents hundreds of hours of hard work, but for them, it was worth every drop of sweat. For the first time, they will have a place to call their own—and their daughter Marilyn, 17, will have a room of her own.
For Tony, who is 10 years older than Margaret, a home of their own represents security, knowing that if something happens to him, his wife and daughter will have a decent, affordable place to live.

Margaret says this house is something she never imagined they would have—she calls it a blessing. And while Tony thinks about what the house means to Margaret, she thinks about how this new house will be better for her husband’s health. Tony is diabetic, and Margaret worries about him navigating the stairs of the townhouse where they live now if his blood sugar were to drop. The townhouse also has mold, and Tony is allergic.

Thanks to their homeowner education classes and the work they did building the house, the couple learned how to care for their new home, including how to protect against moisture and prevent problems like mold in the future.

Earning their sweat equity hours was not easy for the couple. Both Margaret and Tony work at Wal-Mart, but on different shift schedules. Tony was working third shift when they were taking homeowner classes, so he would go to class, then straight to work. Nearly every day they had off from work was spent getting in their hours.

“It was worth all the work, 100%,” Margaret said. “It was worth working for, to get what we’re having.”

Habitat Home Represents Goal Accomplished

Antonishia—or as she is better known, Pebbles—set a goal for herself to buy her own home by the age of 30. On March 7, we had the honor to dedicate her new home, which she helped build and will now buy with affordable mortgage, six months before her 31st birthday. Congratulations, Pebbles, for partnering with Habitat to accomplish this important goal.

In this home, Pebbles can build a strong foundation for her three children—Aubri’anna, Aubra’Lynn and De’Monica. They will have room to grow, no longer crowded into a too expensive two-bedroom apartment or living with extended family as they have been. The stability of a home they can call their own, in a safe neighborhood, will allow this family to thrive.

Pebbles tells us that the Habitat process has helped her learn to be more self-reliant. The financial education program helped her learn to budget better, and working to build her own home gives her confidence that she can make repairs to the home when the need arises—as long as she doesn’t have to go under the house or on the roof!

“I tried to go up on the roof to get a picture,” Pebbles joked. “But I made it about three steps and I was done!”

While Pebbles’ children aren’t quite old enough to help build, the whole family did come out to plant the beautiful flowers you see here today on landscaping day. It’s the extra touches like this that make a house a home, and we look forward to watching Pebbles and her family make this a loving and welcoming home for years to come.