Thousands Build Homes, Relationships Through Habitat Women Build

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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

You’re Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty

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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

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.

Thank You for a Wonderful Year!

Thank you for making 2016 such a huge success. We served 78 families in 2016, compared to the 34 families served in 2015. We plan to serve even more in 2017, but we need your help.

We plan to repair 12 more homes this year than last year, –that is one additional family each month whose home will be made safe and healthy because of your giving. This week, you should find our end of year fundraising letter in your mailbox, which tells the stories of some of the families we’ve helped in the past year. Please take a moment to read more about the people you have helped through Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

In the meantime, thank you for making our first #GivingTuesday a huge success. You gave more than $10,000 in one day to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and contributed to a new #GivingTuesday record!

According to USA Today, #GivingTuesday broke a record this year as consumers turned their attention to helping others following the shopping frenzy of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Giving Tuesday sparked $168 million in charitable donations worldwide, topping last year’s tally by 44%. Meanwhile, volunteers pledged thousands of hours to assist their neighbors and those in need.

I praise God for you and for your devotion to giving. You are the most generous and hardest-working group of people I know. You give of yourselves daily. You work outside on construction sites when the weather is awful and you work inside ReStores where the floors are hard and the merc

handise is heavy. You keep our data updated in our computers and you make important decisions regarding our future.

Thank you for giving and for making a difference in my life and in the lives of those we serve together.

Merry Christmas,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

Americans Make Giving a Holiday Tradition

Since the tradition of “Giving Tuesday” was introduced four years ago, Americans have embraced the concept, expanding the celebration of Thanksgiving from football games and family dinners, to a season of donating time, energy and money to help others in need.

According to the book, Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience, “The celebration of the American Thanksgiving with Black Friday and Giving Tuesday has gone global. Retailers and Non-Profits worldwide participate in Black Friday and Giving Tuesday, which are almost as well known in Brazil and Bulgaria as they are in the United States.”

Giving Tuesday has now spread internationally, with more than 71 countries participating last year and raising a total of $116 million dollars in one day. Also, according to the Department of Labor, Thanksgiving is the most popular day of the year for giving of one’s time by most Americans.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is blessed to have supporters who love to give of themselves. Last year you gave enough time, money and energy to build 18 homes and save 40 additional homes through critical repairs. That is a total of 58 families served, or more than 1 family saved every week.

I am constantly in awe of what can be accomplished when we bring people together to put God’s love into action. Thank you for working together with Our Towns Habitat to make sure all of our friends and neighbors can have a decent, affordable place to call home for the holidays.

May you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving that is a celebration of love, gratefulness and giving back.

Jeff Porter

Executive Director

Join Us in Marking World Habitat Day

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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

Volunteers Build Stronger Communities

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Volunteerism heals communities and it also benefits the individuals who practice it. Americans have a heart for volunteerism. Abraham Lincoln knew that well when he addressed those standing at Gettysburg with the famous phrase:

This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Except for “I love you,” the words, “by the people,” are probably the three most powerful words in the English language.

Benjamin Franklin started the first volunteer fire department staffed entirely “by the people” of New England. The men who fought the first fires in America would become the volunteer army that ultimately won our freedom.

Other organizations like The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the YMCA were started shortly after the Civil War “by the people” who wanted to heal the hurts of humanity in tangible ways.

Habitat for Humanity has become the sixth largest homebuilder in America “by the people” who give of their time and money to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Americans still love to volunteer. According to VolunteerMatch.org, “Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours of their time to local and national causes. Today nearly one in four Americans, an estimated 64.3 million people, have served as volunteers.”

Last year, more than 2,550 individuals volunteered over 50,000 hours at Our Towns Habitat for Humanity on construction jobs, in the ReStore and as part of our office staff. In this newsletter, you’ll find a story of one volunteer who helped the best way she knew how—by bringing homemade cookies and brownies to us on a weekly basis for our Saturday volunteers.

You can volunteer anywhere in Habitat. Check out our website at www.ourtownshabitat.orgfor volunteer opportunities or call us at 704-896-8957 and ask for Cathy Petriano at ext. 108 to volunteer on a construction project, or Rosemary Pitts at ext. 202 to volunteer in the ReStore.

Please plan to volunteer at least one time between now and the end of September. Volunteer on something outside of your comfort zone. Come to the ReStore or pick up a hammer and help us build a home.

Chris Cashwell, one of our regular construction leaders says of his volunteerism, “I always get more out of a day at Habitat than I give.” That is a lot.

I am grateful for you all,
Jeff Porter

Celebrating a Year of Building Hope

Thank you all for making this year such a great success. Because of your hard work, sacrifice and commitment, we met our goal of getting 18 families into 18 homes in 12 months. We also exceeded our goal of keeping 34 families in their homes through critical repair services by 6 homes, for a total of 40 families served by this program.
One poet writes, “One extends one’s limits only by exceeding them.”

I applaud you, the Our Towns Habitat family, and celebrate for the way you exceeded our limits. You provided permanent housing solutions for 58 families in the past 12 months—that’s more than one family a week.
Because of you, Angela and Robert can provide a safe place for their three girls to live, sleep and play. You made it possible for Dawn to “enjoy the sounds of peace in my own backyard,” for the first time in her life. Patricia, a multiple machine operator at a local plant, who was close to giving up on everything, now spends her evenings and weekends in a home she built with you.

We can do so much more.

We have more than 40 families ready to build a home with us, and countless others whose hope of keeping their home includes Habitat. Staff members push me to reach higher, volunteers inspire me to do more and those in need of a decent place to live make me ashamed of my hesitancy.

Please join me. We have just kicked off a new 12-month campaign to build another 18 homes and to save another 40 houses for families in our area. Materials cost more now than they ever did before, and land prices are climbing every day, but we have a dedicated staff, committed volunteers and brave donors who are ready to meet this challenge.

Please keep reading these articles. Follow our progress; root us on and join us as we make our world a better place for everyone.

I praise God for you,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

Energy-Efficient Homes Support Health & Financial Stability

Summertime harms those lacking safe and affordable housing. Children and the elderly are most at risk during the summertime. Heat amplifies the destructive forces of pollution and stresses the respiratory system. Asthma attacks increase, especially at night when temperatures can stay about 85 degrees.

According to Dr. Paul Epstein at the Harvard School of Public Health, “Heat waves take a disproportionate toll on those living in poor housing lacking air conditioning, and those with inadequate social supports.”

Our Towns Habitat builds safe, energy efficient homes that are affordable to heat and cool for all of our homeowners. Some of our families never had air conditioning until they purchased a Habitat home.

Not only are our homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter, their temperatures are maintained at an affordable price. All of our homes are LEED certified. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.”

“LEED homes reduce energy cost by increasing efficiency standards for heating and air conditioning systems,” Our Towns Construction Manager Manny Rosado said. “By doing this, we are also preserving the environment and leading in home design.”

Please help us keep children and the elderly safe this summer by supporting Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. Your financial gifts make it possible for us to bring joy back into summertime.

Yours in Christ,
Jeff Porter
Executive Director

Our Towns Habitat Team Carries our Mission across an Ocean

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On April 9, a team of 17 people from our local Habitat of Humanity, including four staff members and I, boarded a plane to spend 10 days working to build homes, community and hope in Guatemala. This is our story.

The trip wasn’t easy. Hauling sand and rock up a four-story hill, one bucket at time, tested our muscles and squeezed our lungs. But more painful was the sight of so much poverty. According to one guide, more than two-thirds of the nation’s 17 million people live in poverty.

Six-year-old Natalie and her family, with whom we had the opportunity to work, are just one example of the widespread poverty. Initially, Natalie stayed close to her mother, but during the week, she bravely stood closer to us. She played games and taught us how to say words like “circle” and “sunshine” in Spanish. By the last day, Natalie had made us part of her family.

We came back as family too. Working together to build walls for someone else broke down any walls that stood between us. We laughed together, comforted each other when we hurt and shared a week full of memories that none of us will ever forget.

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity of Guatemala have a deep, long-standing relationship. In 1987, Our Towns Habitat sent a tithe check for $1,139 to build one home in the war-torn country. Now, nearly 30 years later, Our Towns has given a total of $2,217,041 to provide over 623 housing solutions in Guatemala.

On the day we boarded the plane for our return trip to the U.S., I overheard a stranger in the airport ask a member of our team, “How long will you keep going to Guatemala?” The team member replied, “Until everyone in this beautiful country has a decent place to live.”

I pray that others will join us next year as we plan to continue building in Guatemala.

Yours in Christ,
Jeff Porter
Executive Director