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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.

Building Hope

Building HOPE Video showcases the work of Our Towns Habitat and talks with the families we serve, volunteers, staff and the many partners that make our mission possible!