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Crosland partners with Our Towns Habitat to present Builder’s Bash

Charlotte-based real estate company Crosland is helping create affordable housing solutions in the greater Lake Norman area by partnering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity to present the inaugural Builder’s Bash gala fundraiser Saturday, September 8.

The Builder’s Bash, “the only party that builds a home,” seeks to raise enough money to fully fund at least one new Habitat home. Tickets are on sale now at buildersbash.com, at $100 per person. Those unable to attend may make a donation or register to bid through a mobile platform on the event website.

Presenting sponsor, Crosland, is uniquely tied to Habitat for Humanity and its mission, having supported Habitat’s affordable housing efforts in the Charlotte area since 1983. The company’s former president and current board chairman, Paul Leonard, will be recognized along with his wife Judy during the event for their more than 30-year commitment to Habitat. The Leonards will be honored with Our Towns Habitat’s “Founder’s Award” at the Bash.

Paul and Judy Leonard have both served in various leadership roles at the Our Towns Habitat and Charlotte Habitat affiliates and have volunteered on Habitat builds across the globe. Paul has served on the Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) board of directors, U.S. Council and as interim HFHI CEO from 2004 to 2005.

The Builder’s Bash offers a festive cocktail party event, with a live and silent auction to raise money for new home construction. Guests will have the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts about the power of homeownership from Habitat homeowners.

“We believe that a house is more than four walls and a roof,” said Our Towns Habitat CEO Chris Ahearn. “It is a foundation that helps families build a stable financial future in a safe, decent home. The result is often more educational and economic opportunities and better health. We are committed to increasing our impact by helping more families realize their dream of homeownership.”

Within Our Towns’ service area of northern Mecklenburg and Iredell counties, three of every 10 households are living in housing they cannot afford, forcing families to make hard choices between rent and transportation, food and health care.

Through Our Towns Habitat’s homeownership program, greater Lake Norman area residents partner with Habitat to build their own home alongside volunteers, then pay a mortgage they can afford. Homeowners also invest 400 or more “sweat equity” hours working on their own home and other Habitat homes, completing homeowner education courses, and volunteering in Habitat ReStores.

Built on a model of partnership, Our Towns Habitat hopes that the Builder’s Bash will be an opportunity for community members to come together to support affordable housing.

Sponsorship opportunities for the Builder’s Bash are still available. For more information, visit buildersbash.com or contact Director of Development Sarah Gray at 704-896-8957, ext. 103.

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.

Home for single dad Melech marks completion of a neighborhood

Composed entirely of Habitat homes, Poole Place is a unique neighborhood that illustrates the power of partnerships between non-profits, local organizations and local government. In 2005, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity began construction on the development, its largest affordable housing community to date, and today, more than a decade later, it dedicated its final house in the 61-home neighborhood.

In order to complete the large project, Our Towns Habitat joined with the Town of Cornelius to purchase and develop the land in two phases. Phase one focused on the development of a 15-lot subdivision. That purchase included an option to buy an additional 46-lot property on Baily Road, which eventually became phase two of Poole Place.

Named after Winton Poole, the former Cornelius commissioner who was the driving force behind the project, Poole Place exemplifies Habitat for Humanity’s partnership model. Over the last 13 years, Our Towns Habitat worked with countless volunteers, organizations and government officials to build the neighborhood one house at a time. It now provides shelter for 61 families, and many of them still attend the dedications of the community’s newest homes.

The completion of the neighborhood was marked today by the dedication of the last home, for single dad Melech and his 6-year-old daughter Yahmina. Melech has spent his entire life living in apartments, so this home, sponsored by Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Wells Fargo and Mecklenburg Girl Scout Troop 2383,  will be his first.

At the subsidized apartment where he and his daughter currently reside, Melech does not feel safe and has struggled with constant maintenance issues. Recently, he bought Yahmina a toy electric car, but she doesn’t get to use it much now because Melech worries about her safety when she drives it outside of their apartment.

Now, as they prepare to move into their new home, the two will be able to enjoy a yard, a greenway and a safe community where Yahmina can enjoy being a kid in.

“I can’t wait to just open up the door, put her car out, and let her go without worrying,” Melech said.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help families like Yanelly’s, visit our volunteer and donation pages for more information.

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.

Celebrating DUMC’s 20th Build

Yanelly’s Habitat house is ‘first step’ to building a future

Sitting in the middle of her nearly finished kitchen surrounded by her not-yet-installed cooking and washing appliances, Yanelly smiled calmly and gestured out the window.

“My kids and I come here every day,” she said. “We water the grass in the yard every afternoon and it’s really beautiful now.”

Dressed in a soft, flowered skirt and lounging in a green folding chair — one of three that she had pulled from her car so that everyone in the room would have somewhere to sit — she was the definition of relaxed.

But her life has been anything but relaxing.

A single mother of three boys, Yanelly has lived, worked and struggled to support her family for the past 11 years in Davidson, N.C.

Before learning about Our Towns Habitat, the family experienced overcrowding and safety issues in previous homes and neighborhoods. Now, with a July 7 dedication date quickly approaching, Yanelly is looking forward to feeling settled and secure in her new home.

“I’m really excited about everything that comes with owning and living in this home,” she said. “I love that the area is so calm, and when it snows I think my sons and I will have fun sledding down the hill behind the house.”

Yanelly is enthusiastic about having the peace and stability that comes with being a homeowner, but she is also grateful to have been a part of the long hours and difficult days that went into building the home.

“It’s something where you learn about everything,” she said. “They teach you how to save money, how to start from the bottom, how to make goals for your life, and, most importantly, you learn how to build a house from the bottom to the top.”

Yanelly completed her sweat equity hours with after-school help from her sons — Jose, 18, Eric, 16, and Daniel, 13 — but during the process, she had to hurdle another challenge when Eric began having seizures. Later that year, doctors found several benign tumors in his brain and diagnosed him with epilepsy.

Despite working full-time and adjusting to her son’s new diagnosis, Yanelly completed her 400 sweat equity hours—it was “difficult but not impossible” she said—before construction of her home began early this year.

On site during the first day of construction, Yanelly said that she couldn’t control her tears. “It was a feeling of happiness and of overwhelming emotion as the walls went up,” she explained. “Each day, you see the volunteers that are working here, and each nail that they put in the house is full of love.”

Like Yanelly, her sons are eager to move into their first home. Her oldest son, Jose, will graduate high school next year, and hopes to go to college to study computers.

“I’m going to help him,” Yanelly said determinedly, “and with this house I can help him more because now we are paying so much less.”

With her sweat equity hours complete and the date of her dedication getting closer, Yanelly is putting herself to work once again.

“I’m thinking of what we’re going to be doing, about how many people are going to show up and about what they’re going to have to eat.” A baker in her free time, she plans to have a spread of desserts ranging from tiramisu to tres leches cake for all to enjoy on her dedication day.

“I can’t wait for that day,” Yanelly said. “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time, and it’s going to be beautiful because when you have a house it starts to shape your future. It’s the first step in building more for your life and your family.”

Yanelly’s home was funded by Davidson United Methodist Church, with church members providing the volunteer support to build the home. Watch our blog for more about Our Towns Habitat’s partnership with DUMC.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help families like Yanelly’s, visit our volunteer and donation pages for more information.

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.

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!

Habitat home means safety, stability for Perryrease’s children

New homeowner Perryrease is now able to provide her children a safe, secure place to live, thanks to partnering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and the State Employees Credit Union (SECU).  SECU Foundation is investing up to $10 million to finance a Habitat home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties through its Habitat Mountains to the Sea Challenge. SECU officials joined Our Towns Habitat volunteers and supporters today to celebrate with Perryrease, as she accepted the keys to her new home.

Perryrease, her daughter Makhia, 14, and son Michael, 13, had been living in a neighborhood where they didn’t feel safe. With sounds of late night arguments and sometimes even gunshots outside her door, Perryrease kept a close eye on her kids. It was a stressful environment.

The rent and shockingly-high power bills on Perryrease’s drafty mobile home were more than she can afford, which created more stress—especially when she couldn’t buy the things her children need.

“When parents are stressed out, it rolls over to the kids, whether we see it or not,” Perryrease said. “When they have a stable home, it makes a difference. They can relax and be comfortable. They can just go and sit out on the porch and not worry about somebody getting into an argument nearby.”

Perryrease knew she needed to give her kids a more stable home life, and that’s what motivated her to buy a home through Our Towns Habitat. When she was accepted into our homeownership program, it was her third time applying. Previously, her income working part-time was not enough to qualify.

But she knew the homeownership program was the path to a better future for her children, so she kept pushing, eventually getting full-time status at her job. “I didn’t quit, I didn’t stop, I didn’t give up,” Perryrease told us. “I kept going, I kept trying and I kept applying.”

Earning her 400 sweat equity hours as a working single mom was challenging, but Perryrease enjoyed meeting new people and learning new things. After working to help build homes for other Habitat partners, she would go home at the end of the day feeling tired but accomplished.

She is also proud of the example she set for her kids. While they weren’t quite old enough to volunteer on the build site, they helped her earn hours by maintaining good grades. She hopes they will remember the lesson of helping other people.

“Hopefully, they see what I did, and when they are older, they will want to volunteer and help someone else—not to get anything out of it, but just to help someone else,” Perryrease said.

Her hope for her children captures what Habitat is all about—bringing people together to help each other and show God’s love.

SECU is partnering with Habitat for Humanity affiliates across North Carolina

Mooresville attorney cooking up a storm for Habitat

Mooresville attorney Ben Thomas will don his apron and chef’s hat this Sunday to support affordable housing in the Lake Norman area. Thomas is competing in the “Lake Norman Men That Cook” event to raise funds for Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

He will be cooking up his signature crawfish étouffée—a dish he perfected during his law school days at Louisiana State University. Thomas and his sous chef, Mike Godley, will compete with more than a dozen other teams, all vying to be named King of the Grill.

This fundraising event is organized by the Huntersville Happy Hour Rotary Club to benefit more than 30 different nonprofit organizations. Event attendees vote for the dish of their choice with their ticket, and proceeds from that ticket benefit the team’s chosen nonprofit.

Thomas chose Our Towns Habitat because it is a cause near and dear to his family—he and his wife Angela actually met through a Habitat volunteer meeting. Watching families open the doors to a new home they helped build is an unforgettable experience, Thomas says.

Thomas and his law partners at Thomas, Godley & Grimes are thrilled to be sponsoring their first Habitat home this summer. Construction for the home begins in Mooresville this June.

The event will take place noon-3 p.m. March 25 at Langtree Plantation in Mooresville. Advance tickets for Lake Norman Men That Cook are $10. Visit the Lake Norman Men That Cook website for more information.

Lameikia’s Habitat home is her “spring”–a new beginning

Lameikia and her family are escaping overcrowded conditions with their new Habitat home, which they built in partnership with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s.

She has been sharing her late grandmother’s three-bedroom home with five other adults. Now, she and her daughter, Hazel, a senior at Hough High, and her son C.J. will each have their own bedroom in their new Habitat home.

Lameikia’s home is the first Habitat house completed as part of the Charlotte Impact Project, a joint initiative of Lowe’s, Our Towns Habitat and Habitat Charlotte. Last November, Lowe’s announced a pledge of $1 million to complete construction of 10 new homes and 10 critical repair projects, along with three Women Build events and eight home preservation projects.

Lameikia’s path has never been an easy one. The oldest of five, she faced a difficult home life as a child, and eventually was raised by her grandparents. She took on the role of “mom” for her siblings, and then became a mom to her first child, Kita, before she graduated high school.

She moved out on her own at 19, then later ended up in an unhealthy marriage. Her husband never worked, so they struggled financially.

As Lameikia frames it, she jumped directly from childhood into the “real world.” She works as the front desk manager at Days Inn, where she has been for 11 years. Now, she hopes having stable, affordable housing will allow her to focus on going back to school and getting a degree.

“Habitat is not just affordable housing, but a new beginning,” says future homeowner Lameikia. “I feel like my new house is my spring—it’s a re-birth, and it is where I am meant to be.”

To qualify for Our Towns Habitat’s homeownership program, Brice had to meet income requirements, commit to paying an affordable mortgage and serve 400 “sweat equity” hours. She earned her sweat equity hours by completing homeowner education classes, volunteering in the Habitat ReStore, helping build other Habitat homes, and, finally, working on this house behind us.

Lameikia enjoyed this volunteer service, as she got to meet many different people and see the impact of helping her soon-to-be new neighbors have affordable housing. But when she was finally able to work on her own home, everything was different.

Since her children are older, they were also able to help with the home’s construction. C.J. remembers the pride he felt when he conquered his fears to work on the roof. Hazel says helping build her own home has given her a sense of accomplishment.

“It was exciting working on everybody else’s home, but the feeling of working on your own home—watching them pour the foundation and seeing it go from the ground up—it’s special,” Brice said

Max and Jessica’s Home Will Be Full of Love

There is no doubt that Max and Jessica’s Habitat house will be full of love and laughter. We were blessed to have partnered with this couple to build a new home for their SIX children.

Max and Jessica both come from large families, and love parenting their own large crew—Nathaniel, 16, Maximiano, 13, Yahaira, 11, twins Gabriel and Gabriela, 9, and Jeremiah, 7. They work hard to care for their beautiful family—Max as a mechanic and Jessica as a certified nursing assistant.

We all know the challenges of finding affordable housing for working class families. For large families like Max and Jessica’s, the challenge is even greater—rent is higher and landlords can be discriminatory. The largest home they’ve even been able to afford had three bedrooms, which left all four boys sharing one room. Often, they’ve been turned away by landlords simply because of their family size, told their children would “destroy” the home.

In addition to high rent, the family has dealt with landlords who refused to make repairs—including a broken water line that led to a $1,500 water bill and the development of black mold.

Max and Jessica are both originally from Chicago, growing up in the neighborhood of Little Village, which they loved. But as much as they loved the neighborhood they called home, they couldn’t find work to support their family. Eventually, they moved to North Carolina so Max could take a job in Huntersville as a mechanic.

Max and Jessica love being here and feel much safer than they did in Chicago. But even with better jobs here, decent, affordable housing was still out of reach—until a co-worker talked to Jessica about Habitat. Jessica tells us when they received the call from Our Towns Habitat letting them know they had been accepted into our program, “it was like a weight was lifted from our shoulders….we had hope.”

But even after getting accepted, the family had a long road ahead. Because they couldn’t find an affordable place with a short-term lease while they built their home—alongside our partners at Davidson United Methodist Church—the family has been separated. Jessica and the children are staying with one friend, while Max stays with another. With their work schedules, many nights the only way Max gets to see the kids is through video chat on their phones.

On top of that, Max and Jessica have worked hard to earn their 400 sweat equity hours—which is not an easy feat for parents juggling full-time jobs and caring for six children.

But in their new Habitat home, Max and Jessica begin a new leg of their journey. They have worked hard, with the help of many volunteers and donors, to build a more stable future for their beautiful family. They now know that the search for an affordable place to live will no longer be a constant worry, and they can focus on what’s truly important—raising their children to be happy, strong and healthy. Thank you all for helping Max and Jessica build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable housing.

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