Calling All Volunteers!

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Calling All Volunteers!

By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director

I know I have said it before but it bears repeating…Volunteers are the life-blood of our organization. Without them, we would not be able to work throughout the county, serving hundreds of low-income families through homeownership, repairs, revitalization and financial literacy. In fact, last year, volunteers provided more than 6,000 hours of help to our organization.

Six thousand hours is a tremendous amount of hammering and wall-raising! It is also so much more than just being a part of our construction crew. We need volunteers in every aspect of our organization. In fact, let me share some ways that volunteers support Habitat:

In our family services department, volunteers help our families move through the home-buying process. From those who serve on the family selection committee, to the coaches who help the families achieve their sweat equity hours and beyond, volunteers are essential to the homeowner process. They even help set up dedications and provide the goodies served during those wonderful events too. They also help with our financial empowerment class, Almost Home serving as financial counselors, preparing meals for each class, providing child care, and instructing various sessions. Some of our interns (who are volunteering for a semester or a year!) are at the front line of the work we are doing in the neighborhood revitalization areas, creating and compiling survey information and then canvassing each neighborhood so that we can serve these communities better. These interns are also taking their field of study and applying it by streamlining the ways that we process critical repairs, homeowner applications and more.

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Volunteers of Women Build Week

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

We have many hardworking volunteers and partners participate in our Volunteer Program at Habitat Montco each year, however one team that has stood out for their leadership and construction skill especially is Avalon Flooring. During Women Build Week, Avalon volunteers went above and beyond to complete each project they were assigned. Led by the delightful Betsey Kloss, they cleared out brush, laid pavers, and even put up a fence at our home located at 430 Walnut Street in Pottstown!

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A Journal Entry from an Intern

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Saroj Chettri joined Habitat Montco in August after learning about the Montgomery County affiliate from his landlord in Norristown. The new Family Service intern is, however, no stranger to the vision of the organization. Before moving to the United States, Saroj worked with World Vision Nepal. Through it's partnership with Habitat for Humanity Nepal, Saroj had the opportunity to support the construction of over 40 homes built in his home country.

While Family Services may be a bit of a shift from his initial involvement with Habitat construction, ten years of experience in the development sector have prepared Saroj well for his new role. At Habitat Montco, Saroj works closely with the program director to administer both the Neighborhood Revitalization and Critical Home Repair Programs. 

Last week, Saroj was kind enough to open up to Montco staff members by sharing a moving recount of his experiences working in Family Services. At his request, we share his journal entry with our Habitat community:

By Saroj Chettri, Family Services Intern

 

I completed one month in Habitat for Humanity this week. I am enjoying working with the organization. The team has been very good, encouraging and supportive. People around me really care about me and are always ready to help whenever required.  God has been very good in providing a good team and supervisor wherever I go. My experience with World Vision as a development practitioner is an added advantage for me to provide my input whenever necessary. However, I have left some of my approach behind that is not suitable in this context and am trying to learn how I can be most effective.

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It's Not Just One Family...

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As I have said before, my favorite days at Habitat are the ones where we hand over the keys to a home for a family in need, just as we are about to do for Helen and her family at 52 W. Basin Street in Norristown. For me, the moment this happens, I know this family’s life will be changed forever. I’ve seen it more than 25 times – that feeling of security that comes with a permanent home…the idea that the kids will do their homework around the same kitchen table for years to come or that they will sleep in the same bed and in the same room as they grow up. For the family getting the home, it has the greatest positive impact on their lives thus far.

It also has a tremendous positive impact for the community where the home is built or rehabbed as well. At Habitat, we talk less often about how one home impacts the community, but it is every bit as important as the impact to the new homeowner. When Habitat rehabs a home in Norristown, Pottstown, or another community, several things are triggered that not only help one family but the community at large.

First, since we typically take on the homes in the most need of rehab, they often have tax issues, physical and structural issues and have often housed too many families for their size. Habitat corrects these issues by investing in the structure, bringing it back to productive use and getting it on the tax rolls in a way that supports the community’s vital services. We are less interested in making a profit than in stabilizing a family and a community, so we often choose the homes that would be left to rot because aren’t economically feasible for an investor to repair. When complete, the added revenue of an owned home (especially when the property was previously blighted or abandoned) helps the community pay consistently for things like fire police, schools and other vital services.

Second, because it is a home for one family, rather than an apartment for many, the balance of services to the population density in the area is tipped in the municipality’s favor. Rather than four families having four sets of children enter the school district, find parking, or have trash removal, one family is using these resources and providing the appropriate tax revenue for them in return.

Third, Habitat homes improve the property values in communities that are sometimes lopsided in the real estate market. Not many people know this, but each home is appraised and registered with the county at its fair market value. Although our families pay less due to our mortgage structure, the community benefits from the higher market value.  Other homes in the area are helped in their value as well because now there is a rehabbed, energy-efficient home where a blighted or abandoned unit once stood. This investment benefits the entire neighborhood, not just the family who purchases the home.

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Having Someone's Back

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director

Last week, our affiliate had a visit from Mark, a representative of Habitat for Humanity International. Mark helps us achieve the goals we’ve set through the Capacity Building grant we received a few months ago through HUD and Habitat International. He helps our organization become the best that it can be - he has our back so that we can make as much impact as possible.

While here, Mark shared with us that in his almost 40 years with Habitat, he has visited more than 500 affiliates. In his visits, he has seen some remarkable things, like the time the Tulsa, Oklahoma Habitat gave one million dollars to the Joplin, Missouri affiliate in the wake of a devastating tornado that destroyed almost half the town five years ago. Because of Tulsa’s generosity, Joplin was able to start its first 10 homes on the way to building 85 more for their hurting community.  Joplin then paid it forward to another affiliate beset by disaster in its community a few years later.

This story sat with me all weekend - so the first thing I did Monday morning was to reach out to my counterpart, the Habitat Executive Director, in Baton Rouge. I know that Lynn is overwhelmed right now, but I also want her to know that her Habitat family has her back if she needs us, just as Tulsa did with Joplin. We will mobilize volunteers, send supplies, and send funding all at a moment’s notice. (Information on how to help can be found below.) No matter how far apart we are, we still have each other’s back - working together to build stronger communities.

As Rock the Block (RTB) in Norristown approaches (September 17th), I like the idea of having someone’s back to improve the community. I believe this to be the theme of the third year’s RTB in Norristown. Our first and second years, we held this event on Cherry Street, helping to improve the park and doing a few repairs for the residents there; but, as the event has grown, so has its scope.

This year, Habitat volunteers and community members are helping at the Carver Center, the Library, the Christian Network Outreach United Church of Christ, PAL, the Municipality, the OIC, and more. It has become an event to “have each other’s backs.” These organizations need a little help with some of the physical chores in and around their facilities, and in turn, they will better serve the people in the community because of it. They are able to have the back of the people in the community because their buildings are in good repair.  

In essence, Habitat at its heart is an organization that creates tremendous opportunity to have each other’s backs. By volunteering, YOU have the back of every family that walks through the door. By responding to the needs of communities all over the world through our tithe and prayers, Habitat has the backs of people in Nepal, Kenya, Haiti, and more. By being a team committed to making a difference, our staff has each other’s backs as we do this work.

Finally, by expanding the work that Habitat does throughout the community to include repairs, financial empowerment, neighborhood revitalization, and great deals at the ReStore, everyone has the back of the entire Montgomery County community. In addition, we know that you have ours every time you volunteer, make a donation, or give a gently used item to the ReStore. Thanks for that – it is a great feeling to know that you have our back.

   

Women Build: "She Values And Uses All Of Her Gifts"

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

At Habitat Montco, we love the phrase “Build Like A Girl!”  Why?  Because it means one thing: it’s time for Women Build Week!

We are so excited to be hosting our Women Build event this October 12-15th Not sure what Women Build Week is?  Women Build is a fundraiser with emphasis on the fun!  For those four days this fall, we will be focused on having the women of Montgomery County out on site and working hard!  This year’s event will be a truly exciting one, as women will be working on our four brand new construction townhomes in Bridgeport.

No prior construction skills are necessary to participate because you will learn everything you need to know right there on site, guided by our Construction Site Supervisors and Women Build veterans.  Regardless of your skill level, our team will help you along the way, allowing you to gain new knowledge of construction.  Women Build volunteers leave their build day with the rewarding feeling of learning something new and feeling confident about offering hands-on help for families in need. 

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An Experience That I'll Never Forget

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By Corinne Odom, Social Media and Marketing Intern

My name is Corinne, and this summer I’ve been working as Habitat Montco’s Social Media and Marketing Intern. I’ve worked to engage Habitat Montco with its digital community via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. While my role might seem fairly straightforward, my experience has been complex and more rewarding than I could have ever hoped for.

On my first day, Liz, our Director of Development and Communications, asked me to try and get a feel for what Habitat for Humanity (International) and Habitat Montco are all about. I sat in front of the computer, reading articles and scrolling through Twitter feeds – trying to become familiar with the organization and all the amazing work it does. Right away, I was drawn in by the scope of Habitat Montco’s impact.

There is a common misconception that Habitat builds houses and just gives them away. This myth could not be further from the truth. In reality, Habitat Homeowners purchase their homes from Habitat, paying a 0% interest mortgage for the home.  Once approved to purchase a house, future Habitat Homeowners work alongside volunteers to construct the places they will eventually call home. In addition to its Home Buying Program, this organization does so much more. Habitat Montco’s financial literacy program, Almost Home, gives people the skills they need to be successful, financially stable homeowners. Habitat doesn’t just focus on individuals and families – it seeks to improve entire communities. Habitat Montco’s Neighborhood Revitalization program takes the needs and assets of communities into account and works to empower community partners, residents, and leaders.

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7 Ways You Can Help Habitat Montco

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By Liz Hefner, Director of Development and Communications

1. Help a future Habitat homeowner build their home:

  • Would you like to learn how to build a home from the ground up? Do you love working with your hands? We invite you to join us on-site at our Bridgeport construction site. We need help constructing 4 new townhomes for Montco families.
  • Are you a seasoned construction professional? We would love for you to contribute your talents at our Bridgeport site as well.

2. Share your expertise:

We have volunteer opportunities that extend beyond our construction sites and ReStore. 

    • Do you have financial expertise? You can become a financial coach for one of the families enrolled in our Almost Home financial literacy program.
    • Do you enjoy event planning? You could join the Habitat Special Event Committee and help organize our major fundraising event to be held in spring 2017.
    • Do you love children? You can become a childcare volunteer in with our Family Services department. You would be entertaining and educating children whose parents are participating in the Almost Home Program.
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