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Amy Freeze Works to Build Faith & Community Relations

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. In Amy Freeze’s case, the grass might be the same, but the view is certainly different.

Amy has joined Our Towns Habitat as the new Manager of Community & Faith Partnerships. Before joining Our Towns, Amy served 12 years in ministry as a pastor with the United Methodist Church. In her new role, instead of leading congregations, she will work with them and their pastors as they serve in the ministry of Habitat.

“It helps to understand the dynamics of the church, how decisions are made, and the challenges pastors face,” Amy said. “Pastors are always looking for ways to get people out of the church building and into the mission field, to grow as disciples. Habitat offers a very accessible way for congregations to fulfill that Biblical mandate of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

Amy most recently served as pastor of Christ United Methodist in Drexel. Prior to that, she was pastor of Broad Street United Methodist in Mooresville and an associate pastor at First United Methodist in Newton. During her time in the ministry, she focused heavily on serving those in need and vulnerable populations.

At Christ United Methodist, she led the church’s Habitat team of 25 volunteers and partnered with the local elementary school to help provide food and clothing for children in need. At First United Methodist, she organized two mission trips to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

One specific experience from Amy’s time at Broad Street United Methodist really stuck with her, and was one reason she wanted to work with Habitat. While volunteering at the local soup kitchen, she met a single mom of two children, whose home was in horrible disrepair. The family did not even have a fully-functional bathroom. Amy led the church to partner with two other churches to help renovate the woman’s home.

“It really stuck with me, to see how happy those kids were in their home, and how thankful that mom was, that people she didn’t even know came together to love her, give her a life and give her hope,” Amy said. She sees the mission of Habitat in the same way.

And clearly the propensity to serve runs in the family. Amy’s daughter Molly, 7, is already an active philanthropist. One Sunday morning, while getting ready for church, Molly saw a commercial for the organization No Kid Hungry that moved her to tears. Feeling led to help hungry kids, Molly and Amy researched the organization after church and created a donation sign-up form and collection envelope. Then Molly went to work fundraising, asking “anybody who breathed” to support her cause. Soon, she had raised $268—enough for 2,680 meals—to donate to the charity.

For Molly’s next charitable endeavor, she plans to open a Habitat ReStore in the Freeze family’s new home to help support Our Towns Habitat.

Staff, Board Members Get Their Hands Dirty

It took a lot of sweat – and only a little blood – for Habitat for Humanity staff and board members to experience what building a home is like on Thursday. They joined some of Habitat’s weekday crew of volunteers in framing and roof sheathing at 152 Burke Circle in Mooresville.
Our Towns Habitat team members agree that it’s important for them to have the same kind of hands-on experience that regular volunteers get on build sites.

“It allows us to see what our efforts in the office are for,” Grant Project Administrator Sabrina Pinkston said. “Later, you can point to a [finished] house and say that you helped build it.”

Board Vice President Maxine Hargus appreciates that this experience allows staff to play a new role – one that doesn’t involve sitting in meetings. And she encourages everyone not only to be present, but to actively participate in the building process.

“It’s not just about showing your face,” Hargus said. “It’s all about hands-on.”

Taking the morning off to work on a build site benefits Habitat employees for other reasons, too. Volunteer Program Manager Cathy Petriano notes that it’s both an eye-opening and good team-building experience.

“It’s good for staff to see the process of what it takes to build a home,” Petriano said. “And you can get to know your co-workers.”

When staff members get a chance to build together, they better understand the work that goes into building a home and can further appreciate what volunteers do for our organization–especially once the soreness sets in!

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 Supports Affordable Housing Abroad

A group of Our Towns Habitat supporters are giving up the comforts of home this week to help Guatemalans have the comfort and security of their own home. This past Saturday, a team of 11 left for an 8-day mission trip to Antigua, where they are building a home for one Guatemalan family, as well as building latrines and smokeless stoves to improve housing conditions for other families.
At the core of Habitat for Humanity’s mission is the belief that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to live. We work to meet that need through our local affiliates, such as Our Towns, who serve the neighborhoods where we live.

Even at the local level, though, we still work to fulfill the global mission. Our tithe program directs a percentage of unrestricted revenues to our partner affiliate in Guatemala. In addition to that financial support, Our Towns tackles the need for affordable housing in a hands-on way through Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village program, sending a team of staff and volunteers to Guatemala every year to work on build projects.

Director of Operations Denise Copeland and Director of Family Services Lareka Knox are representing the Our Towns Habitat staff for this year’s trip. They are joined by other Our Towns volunteers and board members.

Both Copeland and Knox have been on Global Village trips to Guatemala before, and they say it helps reinforce to them the mission of their daily work with Our Towns Habitat.

“It’s a tangible experience for me, as I can see the immediate impact we are having in their lives,” Copeland said. She points out that Guatemalans do not have access to the same government support services and programs as are available here in the United States, which makes their work vitally important. “I always go there to be God’s hands and feet, but I always come back feeling like I was the one most blessed.”

Knox experienced a health scare on last year’s trip, but she is returning this year despite that, because she believes God has called her to be there, and will give the health and energy she needs to do the work. She says the trip helps her open her heart to people of all cultures.

“This trip reminds me that we are all different, not just in the way we look, but we have different ways of seeing and doing things,” she said. “Observing the culture in Guatemala expands my mind to consider ways I’ve never had to consider before. Even though we are all so different, we all have the same feelings, hopes and desires.”

The Global Village team will return to the United States this Sunday, exhausted but knowing they have helped build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. The team members appreciate prayer from other Our Towns supporters while they are abroad. We also invite you to support affordable housing here and abroad through a donation to Our Towns, which can be made in just a few minutes online.

Our Towns Welcomes Patrice Reynolds as Development Director

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is welcoming Patrice Reynolds to its leadership team as the new Director of Development.

Reynolds brings 30 years of nonprofit experience to the affiliate, working with both international agencies and small, local organizations. Her breadth of experience includes fundraising, board development, event planning, programming and volunteer coordination.

Most recently, Reynolds served six years as executive director for Friends of the Animals in Mooresville, where she led a four-year, $2.6 million capital campaign to build a pet education and adoption center. She has also previously worked for Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County, the Children’s Museum of Iredell County and the international humanitarian agency CARE, based in her native Atlanta.

A West Georgia College graduate, Reynolds’ early career was in education, with her first teaching job in Guatemala, which also happens to be Our Towns Habitat’s global tithe partner. Reynolds finds herself drawn to work with organizations that allow her to make a difference, and she sees that in Habitat.

“Habitat for Humanity is changing the world—it’s a worthwhile, credible organization with a life-altering mission,” Reynolds said.

She has seen the life-altering power of Habitat at work while volunteering on builds in Atlanta and Statesville. “It is truly moving to work alongside future homeowners and experience their profound joy and gratitude as they build their own home,” she said. “It’s sincerely humbling to know that my small volunteer effort has made such a difference in the life of that family and in the life of the community.”

In her new role with Our Towns, Reynolds will be charged with cultivating donor relationships, working with corporate sponsors and faith partners, planning special events and board development.

“We are fortunate to have someone with Patrice’s wealth of experience and passion for nonprofits to join our team,” said Executive Director Jeff Porter. “I’m confident that her work here at Our Towns will strengthen our organization and help us to continue to build strength, stability and self-reliance in our community, through decent, affordable shelter.”

Two New Faces at Our Towns Habitat May Seem Familiar

There are two new faces in the Our Towns Habitat office, but neither is new to Habitat or its mission.

Tiffani IrwinTiffani Irwin, our new Director of Construction, has been involved with Habitat for 25 years. She supervised home construction for Our Towns for a dozen years, before leaving to take a position with Habitat for Humanity International. She served there for eight years before returning to Our Towns last month.

In the course of her association with Habitat, Tiffani has supervised construction of more than 100 homes, both domestically and internationally. She has used her training in building science and home performance to lead to insure many of these homes were certified under sustainable building programs. Tiffani will work closely with Construction Manager Manny Rosado to plan and oversee all Our Towns Habitat builds, as well as critical repair projects.

Lisa DixonWe also welcomed Lisa Dixon to the team as our database administrator. Lisa has worked previously for several other local Habitat affiliates, including Habitat Charlotte and Habitat Statesville, which merged with Our Towns Habitat two years ago. She has also worked with Habitat North Carolina, the state level support organization for Our Towns. While most of her past experience has been working with families, Lisa will manage the donor database and provide administrative support for all of our fundraising efforts.

Our Towns Welcomes Two New Team Members

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is excited to welcome two new team members in our main office. Tatum Pottenger, a Davidson alum, will serve as our Community Outreach Director, and Belinda Gonzalez, joins as our new Family Support Specialist.

Tatum will serve as a liaison with our churches and faith community, helping coordinate faith-based volunteer groups and home sponsorships. She will also be responsible for donor relationships and represent Our Towns Habitat at various community events. Tatum recently completed a term of service for Teach for America and has served as a volunteer fundraiser for Davidson College. She enjoys building relationships and is looking forward to using that strength to further the work of Our Towns.

Belinda will provide support to families applying for homeownership as well as families that have been accepted into our program and are working toward buying their home. This includes leading homeowner information sessions, teaching homeowner education classes and tracking sweat equity hours. Belinda, who is bilingual, has volunteered for our Family Services over the past two years, providing translation services for information sessions and informational materials.

As we welcome Tatum and Belinda, we are also saying goodbye to the two team members they are replacing—Courtney Beck and Vicki Smith. Courtney is taking on a new challenge as Walk Manager for the Lupus Foundation of America, while Vicki will be enjoying a new role with Novant Health.

Volunteers, Homeowners, Staff Celebrate with Picnic

Our Towns Family Picnic, held on September 18 at the Lake Norman YMCA’s waterfront pavilion, brought together families, old and new friends, food and fun!
Picnic attendees, including volunteers, current and future homeowners, staff and board members of Our Towns Habitat, enjoyed fried chicken, side salads, chips, homemade goodies, fruit and LOTS of yummy ice cream. There was also a chili cook off, in which Our Towns Habitat’s own executive director, Jeff Porter, took home the top prize and was named this year’s Hot Tamale!

Other door prize winners took home custom made baskets put together by Cornelius ReStore Manager Pam Clavijo. Kids were entertained with face painting, temporary tattoos, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and games. Showing yet another of his talents, Jeff even dazzled everyone with his balloon creations!

Our Towns Names New Director of Operations

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is welcoming Denise Copeland to its leadership team as the organization’s new director of operations.

While new to Our Towns’ staff, Copeland is certainly not new to the organization. She has been a volunteer since 2002, when she got involved through her then-employer and strong partner of Habitat for Humanity, Lowe’s Home Improvement.

“I became hooked for the cause and have remained an ever more active participant year after year,” Copeland said of her passion for Habitat.
Copeland was a volunteer for Our Towns’ first Women Build and has been involved in every Women Build since. She has also served on the Finance and ReStore committees, as a board member for the past year, and led the past two affiliate mission trips to Guatemala.

Copeland will provide comprehensive oversight of the organization’s daily administrative, financial and operational functions, including enhancing internal processes and communication. Specifically, she will oversee the construction, family services, finance, human resources and ReStore divisions. In her new position, Copeland will also work with board members and staff leadership to develop a five-year strategic plan for Our Towns Habitat.

Copeland comes to Our Towns Habitat from Morton Salt Company, where she served as national account manager for Lowe’s, Orchard Supply Company and Menards. She brings experience in project and operations management, budgeting and forecasting, contract negotiations and new business development.

“We are thrilled to have someone with Denise’s skill set and passion for the Habitat for Humanity mission joining our leadership team,” said Executive Director Jeff Porter. “We are looking forward to having a fresh perspective on our operations as we work toward our mission of putting God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

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.

For more information, visit ourtownshabitat.org. You can also follow Our Towns Habitat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Class of 2016: Plan for your Future after High School or College Graduation

If you are looking for an opportunity to make an impact in this community, consider serving with Our Towns Habitat and AmeriCorps as a construction crew leader.

Participation in the AmeriCorps program provides benefits to both the construction crew leaders and to families and communities. AmeriCorps members help families by building and renovating houses alongside those in need of decent, affordable housing. They strengthen communities by enabling local Habitat offices to use volunteers more effectively and bring diverse groups together in a common cause.

Tom, a current construction crew leader with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, described the program by saying, “We’re providing families in need not only with decent housing but also an opportunity to take ownership of and care for their homes and communities.”

For the AmeriCorps members, the program allows them to develop skills in construction and leadership, which will prove invaluable in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue after completing the program. It also promotes a sense of citizenship in the AmeriCorps members, as they are inspired by the hundreds of volunteers with whom they will partner.

Construction crew leaders commit to 10 ½ months of full-time service starting in September. As compensation, they are provided with housing, a living stipend and an education award to be used within seven years to pay for education costs at qualified educational institutions, or repay qualified student loans already incurred.

For additional information or to apply for a construction crew leader position, please click here.

Reflections on my Trip to Guatemala

By Lareka Knox, Director of Family Services

Often, stories about mission trips focus on the physical aspects of the trip, like the work that the team did. Having recently returned from my second Global Village trip to Guatemala, I’d like to instead share how the trip affected me and why it was truly a life-changing experience.

Last year, during my first trip to Guatemala, I experienced first shock, then sadness, then even anger that people actually lived in such poverty. Because of this, I wasn’t able to fully engage in the experience. This time, while the pervasive poverty was still heartbreaking, it instead made me feel determined and resolved to do more. This transformation, in turn, gave me the space to be present, live in the moment, and absorb everything the Guatemalan culture had to offer.

Similarly, I returned with renewed appreciation for all my many blessings. Some Guatemalans do not have things we just take for granted, like hot water and indoor plumbing, and the trip served as a reminder to be grateful for all the advantages I have been given.

The trip also pushed me beyond my comfort zone and made me realize that I am stronger, both physically and mentally, than I ever imagined. In this, the Guatemalan people set a powerful example; they persevere despite adversity. So not only did I help build latrines, carry cement blocks up a steep hill, and dig trenches, I faced and overcame a personal health crisis that arose on the trip.

Finally, I have built lasting relationships that span geographic, economic, social, and cultural borders. In fact, since my return, I have been in communication with the family with whom we worked during the trip. Through social media, she said, “The doors to the house are always open for all of you. May God bless you.”

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