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An Exciting Step Forward

The Boards of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte and Our Towns Habitat for Humanity announced today plans to combine the two affiliates to serve more low-income, working families with decent housing they can afford. The new service area will encompass communities from Pineville to Statesville. After consolidation, the affiliate will become the third largest new home builder in Habitat for Humanity’s network of over 1,000 affiliates.

By combining resources and looking for ways to operate more efficiently, the combined affiliate expects to save approximately $6 million over the next decade, which can be used to fund more affordable housing and critical repairs, serving more than 250 families per year. The merger will be effective February 28.

The new organization combines the strengths and resources of both affiliates, with:

  • Assets of $55 million
  • Revenues of $30 million annually
  • Nearly 1,100 mortgages
  • Seven Habitat ReStores
  • More than 10,000 volunteers per year, contributing nearly 146,000 hours of service
  • More than 175 employees

“We experience the challenge of affordable housing in the greater Charlotte area every day as we work with people struggling to afford safe, stable housing for their families,” explained Habitat Charlotte CEO Laura Belcher. “By bringing together two strong Habitat affiliates as one organization with a common mission, we will be able to make a real impact in our community for generations of residents—built upon a foundation of stable housing with a mortgage they can afford.”

Habitat Charlotte and Our Towns Habitat have long track records of helping local families obtain decent housing they can afford for 36 and 31 years, respectively. Since its founding, Habitat Charlotte has served more than 2,000 families, and Our Towns Habitat has served nearly 700 families with new homes, critical home repairs and financial education.

“While we see a community of plenty in the greater Lake Norman area, many of our neighbors cannot afford to live in the towns in which they work, and the challenge of affordable land upon which to build is real,” Our Towns Habitat CEO Chris Ahearn said. “The ability to combine resources and two talented staffs creates one strong affiliate, with the potential to serve more families together than either of us could serve on our own.”

The new affiliate will operate under a new name which will represent its expanded service area. The name is expected to be announced as of the February 28 merger date.

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For questions or more information:

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte
Peter Brown
704.716.7071
pbrown@habitatcharlotte.org

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity
Brooke Moose
704.896.8957 ext. 103
brooke@ourtownshabitat.org

Home for the Holidays

In mid-December, Our Towns Habitat dedicated four homes for our newest Habitat homeowners. These families join a dozen other families who celebrated their first Christmases in their Habitat homes this year.

Guadalupe Flores

As a single mother supporting two children, Guadalupe Flores relies on her resourcefulness to find every opportunity to provide happiness and stability for her family. This resourcefulness is the reason Guadalupe is about to become a homeowner through Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

One day Guadalupe was chatting with the manager of the apartment complex where she lives with her daughter Brenda, 18, and son Noah, 4. She thought to ask the manager if she knew of any homeownership programs for single mothers like her, who were supporting families with one income. The manager connected her to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, and although English is her second language and her housekeeping job made many demands on her time, Guadalupe persisted until she was accepted.

And then she continued to persist. She ended up with 720 sweat equity hours, 670 of which were spent on construction sites for her own and others’ Habitat homes. Not only that—she enjoyed the construction work so much that she enrolled in the Forklift/OSHA and construction skills Training program offered by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont in partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.

“Building homes as a volunteer for almost three years with the Habitat program was something I enjoyed doing because I am a strong woman,” says Guadalupe.

That strength is something she’s honed as she has overcome the many challenges of supporting her family on her own. “Being a single mom has turned me into an independent person who knows how to look for opportunities and solve problems.”

D’Nai Heaggans

D’Nai applied to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity because she wanted a better life for her children. The single mother of two has been living in the same apartment for 11 years, in a neighborhood where safety is becoming a concern.

Encouraged to look into the Habitat application by her cousin and a friend who are both Habitat homeowners, D’Nai took the leap and could not be more excited now that her journey to homeownership is nearly complete.

“It was time for a change,” says D’Nai, whose ten-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son have spent their entire lives in the same apartment. “My kids are so tired of being in this apartment.”

While her children are most excited to have a yard to play in, D’Nai is looking forward to family cookouts. “I’m already thinking about what I’m going to make,” laughs D’Nai, whose bubbly personality infuses everything she says with enthusiasm.

Erika Davis

“If there’s a solution, it’s not a problem.” That’s Erika’s motto, and it’s kept her persevering as she overcomes the continual challenges of being a working single mother.

Erika has been living with her mother and her five children, ages 20, 17, 15, 13 and 11, in a three-bedroom apartment. Her two daughters have never had their own room, and have had to share a bed with Erika for years.

The fear of rejection initially kept Erika from applying to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. “Eventually I knew I owed it to my children and myself to at least apply,” says Erika. After worrying and praying over the results, Erika received an acceptance letter. “As always, God came on his time and on time.”

Now that Erika’s dream of homeownership is becoming a reality, she is most excited about the little things that others might take for granted. “I can finally show my boys how to cut the grass. They will be able to go outside and play. I really want my kids to have a chance to be children.”

Amanda and Derek Moore

When it comes to being homeowners, it’s the little things that Derek and Amanda Moore are most excited about. Their children, 13-year-old Darius and 11-year-old Mahala, love to have cookouts, but it’s something they can’t do in their current apartment.

Amanda can’t wait for the family to have a kitchen table where they can eat meals together. That’s also something they haven’t been able to do in their apartment. Mahala’s dream is to paint her walls in her favorite color, teal.

The biggest improvement will be to Darius’ health. Their current apartment has a mold problem, which leads to chronic problems with Darius’ allergies. “We’re excited to have a safe and stable home,” says Derek, who supports his family through his employment at Walmart.

Working toward their 400 sweat equity hours allowed Amanda and Derek to help build homes for at least four other Habitat families. “We worked in the winter months and the summer months. We experienced it all,” says Amanda. “It was a blessing to be able to work on other people’s homes and see their dreams come true.”

Our Towns Habitat would like to thank all donors, volunteers, faith institutions and corporate partners who made homeownership a reality for these four amazing families.

Lahpai and Chang Li’s American Dream

Lahpai and Chang Li are proof the American Dream is alive and well. The keys they hold to their new home is all the evidence that is needed.

Lahpai and Chang recently became new homeowners when they accepted those keys from Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

It ended an American Dream journey that began when they fled Myanmar a decade ago with two small children, leaving behind a nation that has been in political and religious turmoil for generations. Their first stop in America was Jacksonville, Florida, where they found work at Fresh Market. They excelled at their jobs, and were transferred to Cornelius, where they continue to shine for Fresh Market, serving up some of the best sushi around.

Work and comfortable surroundings free of political and religious strife were a life-altering change for Lahpai and Chang Li and their two teenage boys, but like many, they still faced financial difficulties. Affordable housing was difficult to find. Rent ate much of their monthly income, leaving little for other essential family needs.

Enter Our Towns Habitat, providing the final piece for the fulfillment of Lahpai and Chang’s American Dream.

As with everything they have encountered in America, the family attacked the process of gaining eligibility for a new home with an affordable mortgage. Initially there were some credit hurdles, but the couple successfully completed a financial counseling program to eliminate those obstacles.

On May 9, with an informal ribbon cutting and big smiles, the family became homeowners in a Bailey Springs neighborhood of Davidson. Their kids can walk to school. They have a comfortable, functional living space with a bedroom for each of their sons. They have safe and affordable housing, which allows for a much less stressful life.

“This home is a blessing from God,” Lahpai said.

This home is proof that with hard work, perseverance and a little help from others, the American Dream is alive and well.

After crossing an ocean to minister, family can now call Davidson home

Called to serve in ministry in the United States, new Habitat homeowners Binh and Ruto immigrated with their family from Vietnam to the United States five years ago. Now, they have an affordable home for their family while they grow in their ministry.

The couple has been serving with the children and youth ministry for the Vietnamese congregation at Selwyn United Methodist Church in Charlotte. Binh was recently approved to serve as a local pastor, while he continues working toward becoming an ordained minister. Binh and Ruto have just dedicated their new Habitat home in the Davidson neighborhood of Bailey Springs.

Binh calls the family’s new home an answer to prayer. When he and Ruto first came to Our Towns Habitat, Binh prayed that their new home would be in a location where his girls would not have to change schools. Imagine Binh’s delight when he drove to the address of what would soon be his family’s new home—and realized their new neighborhood was right across the street from his daughters’ school.

“I bowed down on my knees in thanks to God for how He has provided—He knew exactly what we needed,” Binh told us.

The Bailey Springs neighborhood Binh and Ruto now call home represents a unique partnership between Our Towns Habitat, the Town of Davidson and home builder JCB Urban. While most Habitat homes are built with volunteer labor, this home, along with four others in the development, was built by JCB Urban at cost for Habitat’s homeownership program. Land for the homes was donated by the Town of Davidson. The town is also providing downpayment assistance for Habitat homeowners.

Disability could not prevent Larry from building his own home

When Larry first came to Our Towns Habitat, the idea of owning his own home was not even a possibility for him. When he first met with our Homeowner Services team, Larry was actually looking for help with needed repairs to the mobile home where he and his four children lived.

Since Larry was renting the mobile home, the property did not qualify for our repair program. But, after reviewing his situation, we realized Larry was a good fit for our homeownership program.

Larry says he had never even considered buying his own home before—he was on a fixed disability income and did not have enough for a down payment. When he realized it was a possibility, he knew it was something he was willing to work for, to have something better for his kids.

“I need a home for my kids to grow up in and be able to become their own people,” Larry told us. “Seeing how happy my kids are to have their own home makes it all worth it.”

For Larry, earning the required 400 sweat equity hours to buy this home was particularly challenging. A head-on collision in 1994 left him with a lifetime of pain. Larry broke his femur and 10 bones in his foot in the accident. He was unable to return to his job at Cannon Mills, where he’d worked since age 16.

After going through vocational rehab and earning a degree in business management and accounting from Mitchell Community College, Larry returned to work at a bank for eight years. But cartilage damage in his foot and ankle continued to plaque him with chronic pain, and eventually he went on permanent disability.

Even with tasks adapted to Larry’s physical abilities, being on the construction site to work on his home wasn’t easy.

“Some days I dreaded going out there,” he admits. “But I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. The Lord got the ball rolling for me, so I’m going to finish it.”

Larry has documented his home’s construction in photos—428 of them—watching it go from an empty lot, to seeing the foundation poured and the walls go up, until this moment today, when he finally turn the key and open the door to his new home. We hope there will be many more photos from his recent home dedication to add to the collection—and maybe a few will even end up framed and hanging on the walls inside!

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. 

Our Towns Habitat recognized locally, nationally

For more than 30 years, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity has provided affordable housing options in the Lake Norman and Statesville area and
was recently recognized for its commitment by Habitat for Humanity International and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.
For the second year in a row, Our Towns Habitat has been recognized as an Affiliate of Distinction by Habitat for Humanity International. In 2017, out of nearly 1,400 affiliates nationally, only 24 received this recognition.

The Affiliates of Distinction program honors those Habitat affiliates that meet or exceed best-practice standards and uphold their work as best practices within seven criteria: sustainable and green building; overall organizational leadership; community development; financial sustainability; alignment with Habitat for Humanity’s strategic plan; effective use of technology to better communication with the public; and support for Habitat’s global mission.

In addition, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce recently awarded Our Towns the Duke Citizenship and Service Award for the affiliate’s profound impact in North Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties.

The Chamber recognized the organization’s longstanding commitment to proving safe and affordable housing solutions through two programs, new homeownership and critical home repairs to residents in the Lake Norman community.

“Though the majority of our work impacts those in our local communities, our overall mission as a Habitat affiliate to build stronger communities, is global,” said Jeff Porter, executive director of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. “So, it’s a great honor to be recognized for our work by both Habitat for Humanity International and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.”

Within Our Towns Habitat’s service area, more than 5,000 families currently live in substandard housing. New home construction is part of the solution to get families out of overcrowded and unsafe living conditions. In addition, critical home repairs have helped people in urgent need, uplifting lives and revitalizing neighborhoods.

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

Habitat for Humanity Tops BUILDER 100 List for Private U.S. Home Builders

BUILDER magazine has ranked Habitat for Humanity as the No. 1 private home builder on BUILDER 100, its annual listing of the largest U.S. home builders. This is the second year in a row Habitat’s work across the country has been recognized as a top builder of affordable housing in the U.S.

Each year, BUILDER compiles data from U.S. builders and ranks them by the number of closings for BUILDER 100. With 3,237 closings in 2015, Habitat topped the private home builder list and placed No. 16 on the comprehensive list.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is one of nearly 1,400 Habitat organizations in the U.S. and has worked in North Mecklenburg and Iredell County for 31 years, helping families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future for themselves through decent and affordable housing. In calendar year 2015, 34 families partnered with Our Towns Habitat to build or improve places they can call home.

“We are honored to be recognized as the top private home builder on this year’s BUILDER 100,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “This is a wonderful achievement for us and it could not have been accomplished without the support of our donors and volunteers, who help us empower families through shelter in every community we work in throughout the U.S.”

Visit the Ada Jenkins Center for the Health & Financial Wellness Fair

On Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 1pm to 6pm, the Ada Jenkins Center presents its Health & Financial Wellness Fair. Along with Ada Jenkins, the fair is sponsored by Our Towns Habitat, Fifth Third Bank, Carolinas HealthCare System, Davidson College, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

As part of the fair, attendees can get on board the eBus and learn to make more of their money. Services available include a free credit report and credit score, free money management and budgeting information, and free identity theft prevention tactics. Attendees are also invited to take advantage of exclusive Ada Jenkins benefits, such as free financial empowerment seminars, free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in the US, and discounts on loans and mortgages.

Vicki Smith, family resource specialist at Our Towns Habitat, encourages all to attend. Financial education classes are an important part of the homeownership process at Our Towns Habitat, and Vicki believes that sound money management is an essential life skill.

The Ada Jenkins Center is located at 212 Gamble Street in Davidson. For further information, please contact the Ada Jenkins Center at (704) 896-0811.

Our Towns Habitat + Habitat Charlotte

Growing strong together & creating a more powerful force for affordable housing.