Habitat for Humanity Gears Up for Gala
Want to change the community and be changed in the process? Then consider joining the local team of supporters and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Moore County and become a part of an organization that produces concrete results.
Moore County Habitat plans to build 14 new homes this year and hopes that funds raised at its annual Spring Gala will build homes for at least six or seven partner families. The Gala will be held Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day, at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst.
In many ways, the work of Habitat for Humanity is as immediate as it gets. With hammers in hand and partners in prayer, volunteers and homeowner families toil side by side to create tangible change and real-time results.
Habitat is a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that works to eliminate poverty housing around the world, to make adequate housing a matter of conscience and actions, and to be an advocate for changing conditions that cause poverty housing. Habitat welcomes to the table partners from any faith -- or from no faith -- who are willing to help improve the lives of families needing decent shelter.
The international organization started in the United States in 1976, but today its work reaches around the world. Currently, more than 2,300 affiliates are at work in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and other countries around the globe. Together, these affiliates have built over 200,000 homes.
Habitat International was one of the respondents to the devastation from the tsunami in Thailand and to the destruction from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in the Gulf Coast. In the past 25 years alone, Habitat International has transformed the lives of more than 12,000 families in India who now enjoy the permanence and potential that adequate housing creates.
Local Habitat for Humanity affiliates build and renovate houses in partnership with people in need, and then sell the houses to the homeowner partners. Homeowners are selected by local affiliates based on their need for housing, ability to repay a no-profit mortgage, and willingness to partner with Habitat. Mortgage payments contribute to a Fund for Humanity, which in turn provides the money to build more houses. Because of Habitat's no-profit loans and because the houses are principally built with volunteer labor, mortgage payments are affordable for low-income partners. All homes are secured with silent second mortgages to protect the difference between the appraised value of the homes and the sales price.
The Moore County Affiliate
Since its inception in 1988, Habitat for Humanity of Moore County has sold 130 homes to low income families. At present, nine homes are in various stages of construction.
It takes six to 10 months to build a Habitat home. Current building sites include Southern Pines, Pinebluff, Robbins, Carthage, and Richmond County. It was a little more than a year ago that the Moore County affiliate extended its service area to Richmond County.
"It broadens our horizons in search of affordable land," says Janet Lowry, chairman of Moore County Habitat's Board of Directors. "A lot of people live in Richmond County but work in Moore County. It's another opportunity to better serve our community."
The average cost to build a Habitat house in Moore County is $66,500. This includes land, infrastructure, and all house costs. Funds are raised separately for staff and administrative expenses.
Families perform 300 hours of "sweat equity" per adult and attend 12 homeownership classes prior to purchasing the home. In the classes, families learn how to prepare a household budget, manage their finances, and take care of their new home.
Habitat builds houses for families between 30 and 60 percent of the annual median income for Moore County, a range that can be as low as $14,700 for a family of three and as high as $39,400 for a family of six. It is clear that Habitat's mission creates more accessible housing choices for a large segment of Moore County's service-oriented workforce. This is something that the community should not take for granted because when people do not have to worry about housing, they are able to contribute more on the job.
Habitat homes are priced between $50,000 and $60,000, depending on the location, lot size, and size of the house. The homeowner pays approximately $325 per month for principal, insurance, and taxes. In 2006, Habitat homeowners paid over $54,000 in property taxes.
The foundations poured on every build site aren't the only ones being laid because Habitat's work affects the lives of homeowners and volunteers. Homeowners frequently point past their immediately improved living conditions to the changes that Habitat so often means for their children and their families. As one homeowner put it, "Now I am part of a big family, with lots of mothers and fathers who try to help me to be a better mother, wife, and friend."
Owning a home is usually the first step in becoming independent and self-sufficient.
For many, the equity in a house is the greatest single item of value that they possess, and the equity can be the boost that a struggling family needs to emerge from poverty.
Homeownership can also lead to the desire to better one's education and overall standing in life. These experiences are demonstrated by the successes and achievements of Habitat homeowners in Moore County.
In the past several years, 17 homeowners have graduated from Sandhills Community College and 16 children have enrolled at local colleges and universities.
"This isn't just a feel-good program; there's a definite mission involved. I think that the Habitat experience has helped me move my life further toward the way I wanted to live it." These are common sentiments expressed by Habitat volunteers and without the generosity of volunteers and supporters at all levels, Habitat would not be able to fulfill its mission.
"The real success of Habitat for Humanity of Moore County," says Executive Director Elizabeth Cox, "is due largely to the strong support of local sponsors, businesses, civic organizations, churches, foundations, and individuals. We of course need builders but as in any business, we also have an abundance of administrative and financial tasks that need to be done. We are always seeking individuals to serve on committees to deal with such issues as marketing and fundraising, recipient selection, family support, volunteer coordination, and financing and land acquisition. People with financial skills, good writers, and even basic office skills, like answering the phones and filing, are always welcome."
Contributing to the Mission
"The success of the gala depends so heavily on the generosity of local retailers, businesses, and individuals who contribute items to our silent and live auctions," says Susan LaGraff, a spokesperson for the gala steering committee. "I know businesses are solicited by a lot of charities and we are so grateful for their contributions. We are planning a fun evening with a new party game, Heads or Tails, and are looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, some friends we haven't seen for awhile, and to meeting new people who want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and support Habitat's mission."
To attend the Habitat Spring Gala, call the Moore County Habitat office at 910-295-1934. Seating at the event is limited.
Paula Montgomery lives in Pinehurst and is a volunteer writer for Habitat.
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