Has there ever been a more aptly named organization than Habitat for Humanity? Likely not. For in gathering volunteers and builders and contractors and supply vendors to build homes for those who otherwise would have little chance of owning a home of their own, there is much good humanity in evidence with every Habitat project.
Founded in Georgia in 1976 as a “Christian housing ministry,” Habitat has meant thousands and thousands of homes, nationally and internationally. Former President Jimmy Carter has been the most high-profile Habitat volunteer and surely has stirred interest in the organization. But he would be the first to say that it is local volunteers who make the organization, showing up with no intent on getting credit or satisfaction beyond the simple act of helping their fellow members of humankind.
Helping, and then some. As reported in The News & Observer, Habitat of Wake County has built five houses in 2015 along a row in a Southeast Raleigh neighborhood called Crosstowne. It is part of an annual building “blitz” that now has grown worldwide. The blitz idea actually began with local builder Tom Gipson, who was on a Habitat advisory board in 2002 when he came up with it.
But the blitz won’t be the end of Habitat’s efforts in this neighborhood. The organization has acquired the rest of the land in the Crosstowne area, a development short-circuited by the recession. It is Habitat’s intention to finish the subdivision, which was designed for 79 lots, but only 25 were built up with homes before the economic downturn.
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Doug DeWitt, special projects manager for Savvy Homes, chaired the Raleigh blitz. He enjoys being there when families of limited resources come and see their completed homes for the first time. “I don’t care how tough you think you are,” he said, “it’s going to put a tear in your eye.”
Michelle Wilson of Raleigh probably had a tear in her eye, too, as she and her children toured their completed Habitat house last week. It’s the first they’ll own, and each family member will have a bedroom.
“I feel blessed,” Wilson said. “It’s an awesome experience.”
Home-buyers make their down payments, generally with “sweat equity,” by working on their houses-to-be themselves. Habitat ensures workable mortgages to help new homeowners stay put on their own foundations. Habitat is a nonprofit organization, and it sells its homes at no profit.
The group’s mission statement includes the phrase, “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
Hope is it exactly. A home grounds people, strengthens the family bond and gives children a feeling of pride they maybe have never before experienced. It’s true that families can be happy in many different kinds of living situations, but those who join with Habitat to work on homes that will be theirs have a special connection with and feeling for the wood and brick and mortar and blades of grass they helped create.
Great feelings all the way around. There’s a lot of Humanity out there, it seems.