For the first time in my life, I will spend Thanksgiving out of the country. Even though I will be off the continent, I will still be thinking about the gifts that I am thankful for everyday back home in the USA, such as innovation, embracing diversity and generosity (just to name a few). That generous spirit leads me to share one way we can give back by supporting a worthy charity.
Several years ago when my company was looking for a charity to support, Habitat for Humanity came to my attention. It was a good strategic choice since housing and real estate were our business. Because of the support we gave Habitat I learned so much about the organization. They do extraordinary work, and there are several misconceptions I’d like to clear up.
Habitat for Humanity is a charity that “gets it.” It is not a handout, it is 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 750,000 homes around the world, 124,946 families benefitted this year, and they are on a quest to build 1 million homes around the world. 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.
Click this link to see a map of where homes have been built: http://app.habitat.org/habitatmap/
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.
I will miss my Thanksgiving traditions such as The Macy’s Parade, American Football and black Friday shopping, but that will not change my celebration of this wonderful holiday. Thanksgiving is about gratitude – plain and simple. In this season I encourage you all to find a way to give back, there is no better feeling.