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Positive Long-Term Impact of Homeownership


Davidson College Survey Reveals Benefits From Financial Stability to Better Health


CORNELIUS, NC—From Huntersville to Statesville, families who live in homes built by Our Towns Habitat for Humanity say they’re better off than before moving into their home, according to a recent study by Davidson College. The study shows the benefits of an affordable home go beyond shelter. Habitat Homes bring improvements in financial stability, employment, education and health.

The survey, conducted last spring, reached out to nearly 300 Habitat homeowners to see how their lives had changed as a result of living in a decent home with a mortgage they could afford.

According to the survey:

  • 80% believe they are in better financial shape with an affordable mortgage
    • 5% reported being able to meet expenses
    • 9% could meet expenses with a little left over while 31.6% live comfortably
  • 5% believe employment is more stable
  • 9% feel their children performed better in school
  • 8% believe they are in better health


“National studies have indicated a positive correlation between stable housing and financial security,” said Gayle Kaufman, PhD, Nancy and Erwin Maddrey Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, whose students designed and coordinated the study as part of her community-based learning course called Survey Research Methods (Soc 391). “The students set out to determine whether local homeowners experienced similar outcomes. The students’ results support the idea that Habitat for Humanity relieves financial burdens for most of their clients and improves overall financial stability.”

Based on 61 completed surveys, the response rate was 21%. Homeowners resided in Huntersville (1%), Cornelius (34 %), Davidson (11%), Mooresville (30%), Troutman (less than 1%) and Statesville (13%). Respondents had lived in their homes for 10.1 years, on average. The survey results were shared today with town managers and planning directors in Our Towns Habitat’s service area.

“Thanks to the generosity of volunteers and donors, Our Towns Habitat has been serving low-income, working families in this area for 31 years. We’ve seen the joy on homeowners’ faces as they unlock the door to their very own home for the first time,” said Chris Ahearn, Our Towns Habitat CEO. “As our teams raise the walls on the next new home, it’s gratifying to confirm what we’ve believed all along—that a safe, decent home with a mortgage people can afford is more than a roof over a family’s head—it’s the foundation for a sustainable future.”

Since its founding in 1989, Our Towns Habitat has constructed more than 350 homes across its operating area. This fiscal year, Our Towns Habitat plans to build nine new homes and complete 27 critical repairs to help low-income senior citizens and others preserve homes they own.

Thanks to Davidson College students who conducted the research: Daniel Bunson, Dusan Kovacevic, Isabella McElrath, Jessica Moo Young, and Margaret Reliford.


About Davidson College:

The Davidson College Center for Civic Engagement connects students, faculty and staff with opportunities to impact positive community driven change. On average, 25 community-based learning courses are offered each year providing students the opportunity to learn about social issues while building community capacity.

Davidson College is a premier liberal arts college for 1,920 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.


About Our Towns Habitat for Humanity

Founded in 1989, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is a 501(c)(3) organization that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope in North Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties. Habitat homeowners build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. In addition to new home construction, Our Towns Habitat performs critical home repair services to alleviate serious health, life and safety issues. Sales at the organization’s ReStores in Cornelius, Mooresville and Statesville help fund the mission, including nearly five houses last year. To learn more, visit You can also follow Our Towns Habitat on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Women Build as we start our 10th Habitat home

The Women Build team is excited to kick off our 10th house this month! We’re honored to partner with Luz, our future homeowner, to build her house.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, Women Build volunteers will raise the walls for Luz’s home. Raising the walls of a home is an INSPIRING experience for volunteers, the homeowner and the community! Please join us in this monumental moment!

We need you and 19 other women for our kickoff. You can register to build through our volunteer registration portal

After Oct. 27, there are 10 additional Saturday Women Build opportunities through early February to help Luz complete her home. Registration is open for all days, and the schedule of tasks is available on the Women Build page. It is very important to to sign up in advance, even if you’ve volunteered many times in the past–this helps ensure we have the right amount of volunteers for the job!

Looking forward to building with you,




Ashley Hudler
Chairwoman, Women Build Committee

Mooresville attorney takes Habitat service from office to build site

A group of volunteers huddled around a trailer full of tools and listened to a man standing in the back as he explained safety guidelines and details about the day’s construction project. At a glance, it was the normal setting of a weekend build day with Habitat for Humanity, but closer up, one could see that there was something a little bit different about the project.

As the volunteers began to disperse, they rolled up the sleeves of bright orange t-shirts, the backs of which read “Thomas, Godley and Grimes.” As they hammered their first nail, a man with a video camera circled around them, and as they took turns grabbing tools from the trailer, they were greeted by Ben Thomas, a Mooresville attorney who has been volunteering with Habitat for almost 30 years.

“Owning a home is part of the American Dream, and it provides stability to a family like nothing else does. It gives families roots, and most of all, it gives them a future.” –Ben Thomas

Fitting comfortably into the familiar setting, Thomas grabbed his own tools and joked with the site supervisor before starting work alongside the rest of the volunteers.

Thomas has been involved with Our Towns Habitat since its foundation, and his law firm is sponsoring its first Habitat home this summer.

He moved to North Carolina in 1989 to establish his practice after finishing law school at Louisiana State University. The following year, he ended up at a meeting with a group from St. Therese Catholic Church that wanted to start a local Habitat affiliate in Mooresville.

“I really don’t remember how I ended up at that meeting,” Thomas said. “I knew a little bit about Habitat, but basically no more than the average person.”

The Mooresville affiliate built its first house on McLelland Avenue, and continued building for a few years before finally merging with the Davidson affiliate to form what is now Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

“I’ve always stayed involved and have been fortunate enough to do some of the closings for the homes,” Thomas said. “Habitat has been very good to me; I actually met my wife through this organization.”

At another Habitat meeting – this time in 1993 – Thomas walked in to a room full of regulars and noticed someone new. Her name was Angela. He asked her to dinner after the next meeting and she said yes. Twenty years later, she admitted that she had already eaten that night.

The two now have a daughter and a son, who both attend LSU.

“Since my wife and I met, Habitat has been a huge part of our lives,” Thomas said. “We worked on a house for our 20th anniversary, and we always dreamed about having the ability to sponsor a Habitat home as a family.”

With the help of his law partners and Habitat, that dream is becoming a reality this summer, as the Thomas Godley & Grimes nears completion at the end of August. Not only did Thomas find a way to fund the project, but he is also dedicated to providing enough volunteers for the Saturday builds.

One Saturday, Our Towns even had to redirect a few volunteers to surrounding build sites because so many showed up at the Thomas, Godley & Grimes home.

“We get a lot of our business from lenders and realtors,” Godley explained, “so we’re going to them with this opportunity to do a team-building, volunteer day.  Everyone that we have talked to has been all for it.”

The firm also gives out special t-shirts at the site and puts together a promotional video after every build day that each of the participating companies can use.

“It’s a situation where everyone wins, and it has kind of turned into a marketing model for us,” Thomas said, “We love volunteering here and we’re excited about the possibility of making this a model that other businesses can use to help generate more funds and volunteers for Habitat.”

Though Thomas has a long history with Our Towns, he usually contributes his time by doing pro-bono closings for the homes, so he is valuing the opportunity to be on the build site almost every Saturday this summer.

The sponsored home provides a path out of poverty housing for Elena, Luis and their four children, who Thomas has met on multiple occasions at the site.

“When you’re on the site, you see that you’re not giving anybody anything,” Thomas said. “They’re earning it and they put so much time and energy into it. Watching Elena work is absolutely amazing. She can drive a nail faster than most of us, and she never slows down.”

Habitat operates on a partnership model, with homeowners serving 400 “sweat equity” hours while they are in the homeownership program. When their home is complete, the purchase the home with an affordable mortgage. Sweat equity hours are earned by attending homeowner education classes, volunteering in the ReStores, helping building other Habitat homes and, finally, building their own home.

Having volunteered on multiple Habitat homes, Thomas understands how powerful it is to work alongside the homeowners, and he said that his most memorable experiences revolve around the families.

“When you see those kids running around and showing you their rooms, you know it’s going to change their lives,” he said. “Owning a home is part of the American Dream, and it provides stability to a family like nothing else does. It gives families roots, and most of all, it gives them a future.”

About the Author: Hannah Bain is a rising junior at N.C. State University, where she is studying public relations, Spanish and nonprofit studies. She is serving as a development and communication intern for Our Towns Habitat, focusing on capturing the stories of new and existing Habitat homeowners.

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Watch the video diaries from the Thomas, Godley & Grimes build on their YouTube channel.

Celebrating DUMC’s 20th Build

Thomas, Godley & Grimes Home: Framing the Walls

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is thrilled to be working with the Thomas, Godley & Grimes law firm to build a new Habitat home for a Mooresville family. This firm handles many real estate closings in the Lake Norman area, and they are partnering with local real estate agents to build this home. It is a unique model that truly exemplifies the Habitat mission of putting God’s love into action, by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope!

The team at Thomas Godley & Grimes is so excited about this special project that they are vlogging (video blogging) it all! Check out this video from Week 1 of their build, when they framed the walls for future homeowners Luis and Elana, who look forward having stable, affordable housing for their four children. Stay tuned to watch the walls go up, the roof go on and the floors go in!

Top 5 Reasons to Volunteer This Winter

Today is the official first day of winter. When the weather is cold and dreary, sometimes all we want to do is curl up under a warm blanket with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

But even when the temperature outside is dropping, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity does not stop building homes. In fact, the winter weather reminds us more than ever of how important affordable housing is.

When families can’t afford their rent, they are not shielded from the possibility of eviction because it’s cold outside. When families sacrifice living in unsuitable conditions so they can afford their rent, they often find themselves cold in the winter, due to poor insulation or furnaces that don’t work.

So while the warm blanket and book are tempting, please consider bundling up and coming out to the work site for a Saturday or two (or three!) this winter. If you need a little more motivation, here are our top five reasons to volunteer in winter.

5. Swinging a hammer really gets the blood flowing and you’ll warm up fast!

4. You’ll have a great excuse for a Starbucks run after you’ve finished your shift.

3. Being outside will give you a chance to soak in a little extra Vitamin D and combat winter depression.

2. You will have a reason to get out of your pajamas and interact with other real, live humans before noon on a weekend.

1. You’ll appreciate your warm home and cozy blanket even more after you’ve helped someone else build their own warm, affordable home!

Now that we’ve talked you into crawling out from under your warm blanket, the next step is to learn more about volunteering on the build site and sign up for a day!

Our Towns Habitat Seeks Proposals for Environmental Review Services

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is seeking proposals from qualified consultants to provide environmental review services on five lots in Bailey Springs, a mixed income development located at the intersection of Robert Walker and Bradford Park Drive in Davidson, N.C. This environmental review is in preparation for the installation of water and sewer taps. Homes will then be built on the lots by a private developer, and Our Towns Habitat for Humanity will sell the homes to qualified low to moderate income families. Firms interested in submitting a proposal may review the Request for Qualifications to learn more.

Let the work begin!

Renovations to the retail space that will house the new Habitat ReStore in Statesville are finally underway!

The new ReStore will be located at 1893 E. Broad Street, next to Planet Fitness in the Bi-Lo shopping plaza. Our Towns Habitat for Humanity staff are already hard at work painting the walls, with more significant renovations to begin next week. Next steps will include installing new floors and overhead lights, installing restroom facilities, constructing new interior walls, assembling merchandise fixtures, and setting up cashier stations and merchandise displays.

Volunteers will be needed throughout the renovation process and once the store opens. We anticipate volunteer opportunities for both individuals and groups. To learn more about volunteering call 704-996-4477.

Donations of new or gently used household items–appliances, furniture, home decor, exercise equipment and more–are already being accepted for the store. Visit our ReStore Donation page to learn what donations we can accept and schedule a pick-up, or visit one of our “Stuff the Truck” events every Sunday in October.

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.