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Archive for October, 2010

DIGNITY | 27 OCT 2010

27 Oct , 2010

Recently, I had an opportunity to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountains with some Habitat executive director colleagues discussing our various operations and ways to improve upon what we are doing.

One of those directors is Neil Hetherington from Toronto.  Neil, at age 36, is a seasoned executive director with 12 years leading Toronto Habitat.  Last year they served 75 families.  Neil is a gifted speaker and I wanted to share with you his speech delivered at the TED conference in Toronto in late September.  I found it to be one of the most inspirational Habitat speeches I have heard in a while.  He speaks about the dignity inherent in the design of Habitat’s model.

Here’s the link:


NRI | 20 OCT 2010

20 Oct , 2010

Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) seeks to apply a holistic, asset-based redevelopment approach for challenged neighborhoods.  In Wake County, we are pleased to be one of 55 local Habitat efforts across the U.S. selected to be in the initial working group to pioneer this new strategy.

Our NRI effort is centered in the SE Raleigh neighborhoods of Long Acres/Apollo Heights.  These neighborhoods, once thriving subdivisions, have experienced significant decline in recent years, with deteriorating housing and increasing levels of street crime.  Looking deeper, we have found the neighborhoods to be still full of long-time, caring residents eager for a revitalization.  Habitat Wake has current plans to build 9 new homes in the community and we’ll pilot our A Brush With Kindness exterior home repair program by partnering with 10 additional homeowners to spruce up their homes.

The ultimate strategy of NRI is to establish a neighborhood-led task force that works holistically with agencies and other partners to address the challenges faced in the neighborhood.  On October 15, the first such meeting was held with numerous City departments and non-profit agencies present to hear about the plan and to consider their role in working with neighborhood residents to revitalize their community.  The holistic approach is well underway.

The meeting was chaired by Myrtle Strickland-Shepard, resident of the neighborhood since 1972.  I went up to thank Mrs. Strickland-Shepard after the meeting and she commented to me that her husband was skeptical about this group bringing change to the neighborhood, as other past efforts had failed.  She said, “but this group is different.  This time the change will come.  I really believe that.”

What a compelling comment for those of us seeking to work for change!  Habitat has some history and reputation.  But Mrs. Strickland-Shepard is speaking out on pure faith.  NRI is a new strategy and we are all finding our way, but she believes this effort will be different.  What more noble and important thing could we do than to prove her right?  Neighborhoods such as Long Acres and Apollo Heights deserve the investment of our time, talents, and resources.  Once you meet the neighbors, writing these neighborhoods off is just not an option.

Read more about NRI and see our partners on our website.

Mission or Business? | 11 OCTOBER 2010

11 Oct , 2010

In my long career with Habitat for Humanity, the dichotomy of ministry vs. business often comes up in conversations, sometimes very passionate conversations.

Habitat is a faith-based Christian ministry, founded to show God’s love by providing an opportunity for homeownership to those for whom that is out of reach.  We do that inclusively, selling homes to partner families without regard to their faith status and inviting volunteers and donors regardless of that factor as well.  For me, that is Christianity as it is intended, working to build bridges with those of other faiths and no religious faith to come together and make a difference in a family’s life.  I love the quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

But there is no hiding the fact that we are a land development business, home-building business, a mortgage lending business, and also a retail operation through our ReStore.  To be the best stewards we can be of the funds entrusted to our use, we need to operate to the highest and most effective business standards.  We strive for that and are continually improving.  That is true ministry to me as well—being effective stewards of God’s resources—getting the most out of the dollars we have to allocate.

The article in the October 10 News & Observer, “Habitat Builds a Sustainable Model for Social Change” treats well this ministry/business dichotomy.

When you consider it—ministry vs. business—you see it is a “both-and” and not an “either-or”.  To be an effective ministry, is to be an efficient and well-planned business. Over 87% of our funds go toward direct ministry (program) support.  That is a statistic of which we are very proud.

World Habitat Day is October 4th

1 Oct , 2010

World Habitat Day will be celebrated on Monday, October 4.  This annual event is an effort to call attention to the substantial housing needs that exist around the world and to highlight the great efforts that are underway that make a difference in correcting the pervasive problem of inadequate housing across the planet.  This event is organized globally by UN Habitat, a programmatic arm of the United Nations and supported by many organizations worldwide, including Habitat for Humanity.

Around the globe, one billion people live in slums, without access to water, sanitation, and safe electricity.  Twice that many people are living in housing that doesn’t have access to safe water.

Habitat for Humanity is a global housing ministry.  A friend of mine, Frank Reed, from Habitat Charlotte and now with Habitat for Humanity International always says that “our mission does not stop at our county line.”  Frank backs this up with frequent trips to work with Habitat in El Salvador and with his always generous response to other Habitat affiliates in the U.S. seeking assistance.

Since Habitat’s inception in 1976, all United States affiliates of Habitat International have been asked to tithe (cheerfully give at least 10%) of their undesignated donations to support Habitat work in the developing world.  Over the years, Habitat Wake has supported various global projects by sending over $600,000 as part of our tithe program.  “Tithing” is a spiritual discipline that keeps us mindful that all the resources entrusted to us are God’s resources entrusted to our faithful stewardship.

We just learned that nearly 500 individuals from Wake County have travelled to Habitat projects outside the United States in the past five years through the Global Village short-term missions program.  Many of our neighbors have taken time out of their lives and funds out of their personal budgets to go and build directly with their brothers and sisters in the developing world.  The personal connection is very crucial.

I’ve had the opportunity to build in Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Haiti, and even California J over the years and have always left those trips humbled by the grace I see in those living in unimaginable (by U.S. standards) conditions and the generosity, openness, and gratitude they display.  I remember hosting a Habitat family from Nepal at a global event in Indianapolis that I organized for Habitat International in 2001.  They were making their first trip outside of Nepal and, when on a tour of new Habitat homes in Indianapolis, they remarked that the Habitat houses in Indy were larger and more beautiful than any home in their home village.  Humbling, huh?

Our neighbors at Habitat in Durham have been deeply engaged with Habitat Honduras over the last several years.  At Habitat Wake, we are planning to join our friends and colleagues at Habitat Durham in supporting Habitat’s work with families in need in Honduras.  Keep an eye on our website as we further develop our partnership with Habitat Honduras and offer opportunities to be involved.  At an average cost of $6980.00 per house, we plan to serve at least 11 families annually in Honduras in addition to the great local work done by our volunteers and donors in Wake County.

On this World Habitat Day, October 4, let’s pray for the over 1 billion people in the world who live in substandard housing.  Pray that they endure their current living situation, even thrive despite of it, but pray mostly that people of faith around the world make the commitment to ending this terrible situation across the globe–once and for all.

Habitat for Humanity of Wake County
2420 Raleigh Boulevard
Raleigh, NC 27604-2235
Phone 919.833.1999
Fax 919.833.8256
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County ReStore

Store hours:

  • Tuesday - Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Closed Sundays and Mondays