This has become a tradition for me at Thanksgiving: writing an article about one of my favorite charities, Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity is a charity that “gets it.” It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up.
Here’s a little history about how Habitat was started:
The concept that grew into Humanity International was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial, Christian community outside of Americus,GA. Millard and Linda Fuller went to Koinonia Farms in 1965. They had left behind a successful business and an affluent lifestyle to begin a new life of purpose and Christian service. The Fuller’s, along with the founder of Koinonia Farms, Biblical scholar and farmer, Clarence Jordan developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, simple homes.
The homes are built at no profit and interest is not charged on loans. Building costs are financed by a revolving fund called “The Fund for Humanity.” The fund’s money comes from the new homeowner’s house payments, no interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising activities.
Habitat for Humanity has built over 500,000 homes around the world, providing more than 2.5 million people with a decent, affordable home in a safe community. Habitat for Humanity now operates in 90 countries and in all 50 states of the United States. Its board is made up of many impressive individuals.
What is a typical Habitat house like?
Around the world houses are built according to the same guiding principles:
- Simple –Habitat houses are modestly-sized. They are large enough for the homeowner’s family’s needs, but small enough to keep construction and maintenance cost to a minimum.
- Decent – Habitat for Humanity uses quality, locally-available building materials. Habitat houses are designed to reflect the local climate and culture.
- Affordable – The labor of volunteers and partner families, efficient building methods, modest house sizes and no-profit loans make it affordable for low-income families to purchase Habitat houses.
A couple of misconceptions about Habitat:
Habitat houses reduce a neighborhood’s property values.
Housing studies show affordable housing has no adverse effect on neighborhood property values. In fact, Habitat houses have proven to increase property values and local government tax income.
Habitat for Humanity gives houses away to poor people.
Habitat for Humanity offers homeownership opportunities to families who are unable to obtain conventional house financing. Generally, this includes those whose income is 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median income. In most cases, prospective Habitat homeowner families make a $500 down payment. Additionally, they contribute 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” on the construction of their home or someone else’s home. Because Habitat houses are built using donations of land, material and labor, mortgage payments are kept affordable.
That Habitat for Humanity was founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Former President Carter and his wife Rosalynn (whose home is eight miles from Habitat’s headquarters and where it was founded) have been longtime Habitat supporters and volunteers who help bring national attention to the organization’s house-building work.
You can support Habitat for Humanity in several ways – through donations, advocacy, volunteering or by doing business with one of its corporate sponsors. For example ReStore. This is great for rehabbers to find home improvement materials at a fraction of the retail price. ReStore resale outlets provide an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the waste stream while providing funding for Habitat’s community improvement work.
I enjoy Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Parade, Football, TIME with Family and Friends. But it’s more than that. It’s about gratitude – which is one of the pillars of my life. In this season, I encourage you all to find a way to give back. There is no better feeling.