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Our Towns, Thrivent Financial & Local Faith Community Team Up to Build 3 Homes

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is partnering with Thrivent Financial to build homes for three families in our service area, through the Thrivent Builds Homes program. Thrivent Builds Homes is one of three Thrivent Builds programs which partners the financial, volunteer and advocacy resources of Thrivent Financial together with the affordable housing construction leadership of Habitat.
These three builds will all be in partnership with churches and other houses of worship in the communities where the homes will be built. Thrivent members and volunteers from the faith community will work side-by-side with the future homeowners to build their new homes.

Thrivent awarded $75,000 to support construction of these three new Habitat for Humanity homes, and this funding will be matched by donations from the faith community. Our Towns will build one home in each of our current active build neighborhoods—Poole Place in Cornelius, Burke Crossings in Mooresville and Partnership Way in Statesville.

Construction began for Fabiola’s home in Cornelius home in early May. Building and purchasing this new home with an affordable mortgage allows Fabiola to move her family out of overcrowded conditions—she and her four sons currently share a two-bedroom apartment—and into a decent home. Fabiola has already earned many of her sweat equity hours helping in the Our Towns Habitat office, and has quickly become a familiar and friendly face for all the staff.

Volunteers will frame the walls of a Statesville home for Rafael and Elvira on June 3. Rafael and Elvira also face overcrowding, living in a two-bedroom apartment with their two sons and daughter. Their daughter is confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, so she faces great difficulty navigating their tiny, non-accessible apartment. Rafael and Elvira have already earned more than 600 sweat equity hours—50% more than the 400 required hours—before construction even begins on their own home.

In late August, we begin building a home in Mooresville for Larry, a single dad with five children, ranging in age from 2 to 16. Larry has been on disability since 2008, but has faced physical challenges for quite a bit longer than that. In 1994, he broke his left femur and six bones in his left foot in a car accident and had to re-learn to walk. Larry and his children currently live in a mobile home that is overcrowded and in need of serious repairs.

Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity is an ongoing partnership between Thrivent Financial and Habitat for Humanity International. Thrivent Builds Homes focuses on building new homes alongside future Habitat homeowners who will pay an affordable mortgage for their home and will contribute hundreds of sweat equity hours in the construction process or complete other tasks. Thrivent Builds Repairs is a program that focuses on helping complete external repairs on existing homes, and Thrivent Builds Worldwide sends teams of volunteers across the country or across the globe to build homes with Habitat families.

Gary Samuelson, a financial associate with Thrivent Financial said “The Thrivent Builds program provides us with more options to serve our area. The support we receive from the local community for projects like this is incredible and we look forward to working together in 2017 to make a difference.”

“We are so grateful for Thrivent’s support of our efforts to build homes in partnership with families working toward strength, stability and self-reliance” said Jeff Porter, Our Towns Habitat Executive Director. “Together, we are helping a family and strengthening the community.”

From the national partnership’s inception in 2005, Thrivent Financial and its members have now committed more than $226 million and more than 5 million volunteer hours. This has resulted in thousands of families and individuals living in safe, decent and affordable housing, as well as hundreds of communities banding together to make a positive impact. In 2017, Thrivent has committed nearly $14 million to support the Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity partnership, along with thousands of Thrivent members and other volunteers who will provide their hands and their hearts for construction.

Faith partners sponsoring and/or volunteering on the Cornelius build include Davidson College Presbyterian, Life Fellowship, Grace Covenant, Mt. Zion United Methodist, Bethel Presbyterian, Community in Christ, Hopewell Presbyterian and St. Alban’s Episcopal.

Sponsoring and/or volunteering on the Statesville build are First Presbyterian, Fairview Baptist, Grace Baptist, Western Avenue Baptist, Diamond Hill Baptist, Broad Street United Methodist, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Mountain Road Baptist, First Baptist, Pisgah Trinity United Methodist and Congregation Emanuel.

In Mooresville, Central United Methodist, Williamson’s Chapel United Methodist, St. Mark’s Lutheran, Prospect Presbyterian, Christ Community and First Presbyterian are all providing sponsorship and/or volunteer support.

Additional support is being provided by the Leon Levine Foundation, Wastequip, Kewaunee Scientific Corporation and the Mooresville Rotary Club. We anticipate even more partners will join us in these efforts as the three home builds progress.

Volunteer Profile: Steve Stupek

From saving lives at risk to supporting Habitat for Humanity in its mission to rebuild the lives of those in need, Steve Supek has always been a hardworking man who gives back to his community. A former New York City firefighter, Steve is now a “construction connoisseur” and weekday crew member for Our Towns Habitat.

In New York, Steve served his community in many ways as a firefighter. His tasks included just about everything there is to do on the job, which meant more than just extinguishing fires. He responded to myriad other emergency calls, including medical emergencies. He was also on the job during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

No part of Steve’s former career was easy. He suffered a great amount of loss in such a dangerous line of work.

“Watching people you know die, and going to their funerals—that was the hardest part,” Steve said. “[And knowing that] it could’ve been you.”

Steve moved down to North Carolina after retirement to be closer to his family. The state had also been a familiar vacation spot for him and his family. He’s lived in North Carolina for about five years now.

Steve started volunteering with Our Towns Habitat a couple years ago. Carpentry was already a hobby and he was hoping to use his skills to help in his community.

“It was a good fit,” he said.

Steve is currently a weekday crew member, spending most Tuesdays through Thursdays working on a build site. He is the kind of worker who seldom takes breaks and doesn’t stop working until the job gets done. Our Towns Habitat is so grateful that strong, hardworking people like Steve invest their time and skills into this organization, helping to improve the lives of each Habitat family.

Our volunteers allow us to build stable, safe and healthy communities around the world and here at home. Visit the our volunteer page to learn about how you can help make a difference too.

About The Author: Madison Seals is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site.

Amy Freeze Works to Build Faith & Community Relations

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. In Amy Freeze’s case, the grass might be the same, but the view is certainly different.

Amy has joined Our Towns Habitat as the new Manager of Community & Faith Partnerships. Before joining Our Towns, Amy served 12 years in ministry as a pastor with the United Methodist Church. In her new role, instead of leading congregations, she will work with them and their pastors as they serve in the ministry of Habitat.

“It helps to understand the dynamics of the church, how decisions are made, and the challenges pastors face,” Amy said. “Pastors are always looking for ways to get people out of the church building and into the mission field, to grow as disciples. Habitat offers a very accessible way for congregations to fulfill that Biblical mandate of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Amy most recently served as pastor of Christ United Methodist in Drexel. Prior to that, she was pastor of Broad Street United Methodist in Mooresville and an associate pastor at First United Methodist in Newton. During her time in the ministry, she focused heavily on serving those in need and vulnerable populations.

At Christ United Methodist, she led the church’s Habitat team of 25 volunteers and partnered with the local elementary school to help provide food and clothing for children in need. At First United Methodist, she organized two mission trips to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

One specific experience from Amy’s time at Broad Street United Methodist really stuck with her, and was one reason she wanted to work with Habitat. While volunteering at the local soup kitchen, she met a single mom of two children, whose home was in horrible disrepair. The family did not even have a fully-functional bathroom. Amy led the church to partner with two other churches to help renovate the woman’s home.

“It really stuck with me, to see how happy those kids were in their home, and how thankful that mom was, that people she didn’t even know came together to love her, give her a life and give her hope,” Amy said. She sees the mission of Habitat in the same way.

And clearly the propensity to serve runs in the family. Amy’s daughter Molly, 7, is already an active philanthropist. One Sunday morning, while getting ready for church, Molly saw a commercial for the organization No Kid Hungry that moved her to tears. Feeling led to help hungry kids, Molly and Amy researched the organization after church and created a donation sign-up form and collection envelope. Then Molly went to work fundraising, asking “anybody who breathed” to support her cause. Soon, she had raised $268—enough for 2,680 meals—to donate to the charity.

For Molly’s next charitable endeavor, she plans to open a Habitat ReStore in the Freeze family’s new home to help support Our Towns Habitat.

Global Village Offers Opportunity to Build Affordable Housing in Guatemala

Did you know that you can be part of Our Towns Habitat’s global reach by joining our team for a Global Village trip to Guatemala? Next year’s trip, set for April 21-29, will celebrate Guatemala’s 100,000th housing solution.

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, helping low–income families improve their living conditions by building new homes, establishing housing communities, stabilizing and improving existing homes, and offering other affordable housing solutions such as smokeless stoves, water filters and sanitation services.

Habitat’s Global Village program provides local Habitat affiliates an avenue to support the worldwide need for affordable housing in a hands-on way. Each year, Our Towns Habitat sends a team of staff and volunteers to Guatemala to build affordable housing solutions.

Habitat Guatemala partners with families by offering homeowners affordable mortgages, thus providing families with the opportunity to improve their overall quality of life. Our goal is to have all Guatemalan families inhabiting safe and adequate homes. Since 1979, Habitat Guatemala has provided nearly 100,000 housing solutions for more than 350,000 people.

Our Towns Habitat also consistently supports the global vision of a world where everyone has a decent, affordable place to live by tithing a percent of our revenue to Habitat Guatemala each year.

Historically, the average cost of the Global Village Trip has ranged from $1,200–$1,600 per person, not including air fare. If you are interested in this trip, please email Director of Operations Denise Copeland or Director of Homeowner Services Lareka Knox for additional information.

About The Author: Madison Seals is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site. 

You’re Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty

Because of your support, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity dedicated three new homes last month. Thanks to you, Shameca and her two children have a new home in Statesville; Gregoria and her three children have a new home in Cornelius; and Nicky and her two sons have a new home in Mooresville.

One of those homes belongs to the family of a 6-year-old girl named Persia. When I asked Persia, “Which room is yours?” Persia answered, “The BIGGEST one!”

Compared to the average bedroom built in America today, Persia’s room is a smaller than most. However, the impact Persia’s room will have on her life is tremendous.

According to a recent study, children growing up in overcrowded housing have lower math and reading scores, complete fewer years of school, are more likely to fall behind in school, and are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.1

Persia’s future is bright. Because her mother owns an affordable home, in a safe neighborhood, Persia can make big plans, and she is more likely to experience more out of life than children who are still trapped in poverty housing.

According to a report funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on the impact of affordable housing on upward mobility, 70 percent of people born at the bottom of the income ladder never reach the middle rung; 43 percent remain at the bottom.2

Without your support, children like Persia could feel doomed to becoming a statistic. The hopelessness of being stuck in poverty can overwhelm anyone, especially children.

Thank you for making a difference in Persia’s life and in the lives of those whose home construction you are supporting. We plan to build 15 homes this year. Each home will have a different mixture of ages, backgrounds and dreams, but there is one thing that all our homeowners share in common. All of them can have hope because of you.

Thank you,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

1 http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/19cfbe_c1919d4c2bdf40929852291a57e5246f.pdf
2 http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000428-Housing-Policy-Levers-to-Promote-Economic-Mobility.pdf

Thousands Build Homes, Relationships Through Habitat Women Build

Early this May, more than 20 women stood together atop a foundation of concrete block, bricks and plywood with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity homebuyer Alexandria and raised the walls of her new home in Mooresville. They worked together with the help of 15 students from Christ the King High School. By the end of the day, strangers became friends and a permanent solution to breaking the cycle of poverty was established.

They were not alone.

On that same day, “thousands of women built communities and each other with Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s”1 across the country in celebration of the anniversary of Women Build.

Women Build began in Charlotte, in 1991, when a group of women raised the money and built a home as a challenge to each other and as a gift to the city. In 1997, “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter adopted an all women build as the President’s work project for that year, and the idea for Habitat’s annual Women Build was born.”2

Last week, an estimated 17,000 women built homes across America. Women Build is the most popular Habitat program for engaging new volunteers. Women invite other women to suspend their busy schedules, join them on a Saturday morning, and build until the job is done.

Women Build inspires donors to give. This year, the Levine Foundation donated $10,000 to match the gifts raised in honor of Women Build. Half was raised last Saturday morning, on the spur of the moment, as an 8-year-old girl named Maddie bounced from person to person, like a gazelle, carrying an empty paint bucket to collect donations and commitments that would be matched by the foundation.

Maddie lit, for a moment, next to Mariah, the 17-year-old president of the high school group that had come to the worksite to build. Maddie shifted her weight to one foot, and just as she started to make a new move, Mariah stopped her and said, “Wait! We raised over $300 selling pancakes all day last week so we could be out here today and I want YOU to have it!”

We have 15 homes we plan to build this year with 15 families. We are blessed to work with devoted women and men who inspire others like Maddie and Mariah to give everything they have to help others.

I am grateful for you all,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

1 http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2017/05/04/MM78302
2 https://www.habitat.org/volunteer/near-you/women-build/history

Medic EMS Volunteers Exchange Stethoscopes for Hammers

Emergency responders partnered with Our Towns Habitat to give back to the community in a way they never have before. They worked on a build site in the hot sun alongside Women Build members and other volunteers as part of Our Towns Habitat’s 911 Build Days initiative.

Michael Stanford, operations manager for MEDIC 911, a Mecklenburg County EMS agency in Charlotte, was glad to have this opportunity to get involved with Habitat for the first time.
“It’s important to give back to the community,” he said.

MEDIC Deputy Director Jon Studnek, also a newcomer, commented on the importance of affordable housing and how it impacts employment and financial stability.

“It’s a worthwhile mission,” Studnek said. “It gives people a leg up.”

Those who have donated their time and talents to Habitat have seen an improvement in their own quality of life as well.

Mindy Weldon, a regular build site volunteer who secured employment outside of Habitat to be an IT project manager, fell on hard times before she decided to give her time to Habitat. She felt that the organization blessed her just as it has blessed the new homeowners she’s built alongside.

The fellowship on build sites has been both a “lifesaver and a Godsend,” Weldon said.

Locals weren’t the only ones who showed up to help this afternoon. George Wilkerson, a teacher in northern Virginia, had been to Habitat for Humanity builds in other areas before coming here.

Wilkerson volunteers at Habitat builds during his free time over summers because it’s a great opportunity for him to support and give back to communities, he said.

Our Towns Habitat is offering 911 Build Days through September to encourage local first responders to volunteer in support of affordable housing. These special build opportunities are sponsored by the Leon Levine Foundation, Wastequip, Kewaunee Scientific Corporation and the Mooresville Rotary Club. For information about scheduling a volunteer opportunity for your group, please call Volunteer Program Manager Cathy Petriano 704-896-8957, ext. 108.

About The Author: Madison Seals is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site. 

Staff, Board Members Get Their Hands Dirty

It took a lot of sweat – and only a little blood – for Habitat for Humanity staff and board members to experience what building a home is like on Thursday. They joined some of Habitat’s weekday crew of volunteers in framing and roof sheathing at 152 Burke Circle in Mooresville.
Our Towns Habitat team members agree that it’s important for them to have the same kind of hands-on experience that regular volunteers get on build sites.

“It allows us to see what our efforts in the office are for,” Grant Project Administrator Sabrina Pinkston said. “Later, you can point to a [finished] house and say that you helped build it.”

Board Vice President Maxine Hargus appreciates that this experience allows staff to play a new role – one that doesn’t involve sitting in meetings. And she encourages everyone not only to be present, but to actively participate in the building process.

“It’s not just about showing your face,” Hargus said. “It’s all about hands-on.”

Taking the morning off to work on a build site benefits Habitat employees for other reasons, too. Volunteer Program Manager Cathy Petriano notes that it’s both an eye-opening and good team-building experience.

“It’s good for staff to see the process of what it takes to build a home,” Petriano said. “And you can get to know your co-workers.”

When staff members get a chance to build together, they better understand the work that goes into building a home and can further appreciate what volunteers do for our organization–especially once the soreness sets in!

About The Author: Madison Seals is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site. 

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