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“It is the unique and remarkable synthesis of partner families, donors, and volunteers that builds homes … and a world of hope for all of us.”

Amy Powell shared these words last night at her going-away after a 13 year tenure as the first employee and executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County.  Chatham Habitat has done remarkable work in their small, rural county, providing homeownership for over 100 families (over 90 during Amy’s 13 year tenure).  I’ll definitely miss Amy as a colleague, but was so pleased to celebrate with her and Chatham Habitat the great legacy of advocacy for those in need that Amy has provided.

Unique and remarkable.  Habitat is, at its core, a partnership—a working together to fill a need in the community and specifically in the life of a family.  It is a unique way to build homes—with mostly unskilled volunteers and upon the generosity of others.  It is remarkable when you think about it—how many pieces must come together—from the construction, to the family selection, to the funding and financing.

As screenwriter, Randall Wallace has said—it you want to remain complacent and uninspired, stay away from Habitat!


This past Sunday was our 11th annual Holiday Home Tour fund-raiser and the crowd gathered was not only treated to some good food and music, but also to hearing from our current homebuyers in Garner, Michael and Waldrena Robinson and their experience with Habitat Wake.  As we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful and blessed to be a part of an organization that can make such a huge difference in people’s lives in such a simple, but profound way.

Waldrena read a poem that she had written for the occasion.  Perhaps from her words, you can understand how much her new home in Garner means to her and her family.  Enjoy!

Written By: Waldrena Thomas-Robinson
November 2011

In all things I’m reminded to be patient.
However, we all have been in a place to want something so bad you could taste it.
Taste of a better life and all that it brings.Yet you’re blinded by the pouring of rain.

Holding on to the dream to someday receive all God has in store for you and your family.
Just a little glimpse of hope is what I ask of thee.
In an instant a light shined down from heaven and rested on me.
God had been working before I could finish my plea.
Setting in the minds of others on how things would be.
While I was left with my thoughts of heaviness:
Something that once caged me in has now set me free.
Free from worry
Free from Despair
From the feeling “I’ll never get there”
All because of what you’ve given me.
If a price tag could be attached it’ll read:

A gift wrapped for my love ones and I.
A gift of stability
A place to call home
A safe haven that protects us from harm.
Thank you God for Sponsors and Volunteers who have become our friends.
Thank you for this new chapter we are to begin.
A place where you Lord will always abide.
Grateful for you not allowing my dream to die.
My dream of happily ever after not a fantasy but my reality.
How you took a vessel of people filled with love that formed Habitat for Humanity.


We enjoyed a visit this week from Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford here in the Triangle.  Jonathan’s position enables him to visit Habitat for Humanity work throughout the world.  In one of our local meetings, Jonathan shared the story of Dorcas Phiri, a Habitat homeowner in Zambia.

Dorcas and her three siblings were left orphaned when their father died of HIV/AIDS.  Their housing, if you can even call it that, was severely substandard and insecure.  Take a few minutes to watch this video of Dorcas sharing the story of her family:


The story has a good ending.  Thank God for Habitat and our work in Zambia—able to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable and needy.


Last week, I attended a Habitat conference in Atlanta and had the opportunity to listen to some of God’s wisdom coming through the mouth of Clive Rainey, Habitat’s first volunteer back in 1977.

Clive’s meditation focused on the prophet Nehemiah.  Clive said that Nehemiah saw the walls around Jerusalem in ruins and, in disgust, proclaimed, “This is a disgrace!  We don’t have to live like this!”

Nehemiah then mobilized the City and in 52 days the City Wall was totally rebuilt by an entire community effort that involved courage (there were enemies out there) and sacrifice.

When you get a chance, read the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.  It reads just like a story to be told of a Habitat build project, just on a much grander scale.

Raleigh and Wake County are often listed as the #1 place to live in the United States.  Sometimes I think that the raters must have overlooked some neighborhoods where I’m sure the residents would wonder, “if this is #1, I’d hate to see….”

Habitat’s founder Millard Fuller would often say that, “The opposite of grace is disgrace”.  Do you want to live in a graceful community or a disgraceful one?”  Here’s to a graceful Raleigh and Wake County, where everyone has a simple, decent, affordable place to call home.


Last Saturday was the long-anticipated opening of our second ReStore, located at 181 High House Road in Cary.  It was a great occasion with speeches, ribbon cutting, balloons, and lots of eager customers.

For us, ReStore has a three fold mission:  1)  Assist families in securing low-cost products to upgrade their own dwellings   2)  Raise funds for Habitat for Humanity’s mission to provide simple, decent, affordable housing for those in need  and 3) to promote re-use of products rather than discarding them to landfills.

Our ReStore sales could generate close to $500,000 for our mission this year.  Biblically speaking, the ReStore is a “tent-making” ministry for Habitat Wake.  The Apostle Paul supported himself and his evangelical, itinerant ministry by making tents and selling them.  We happily continue in the oldest of Christian traditions to extend our reach and serve more families.

Drop off your donations at the new Cary ReStore, 10 AM – 6 PM Monday through Friday and 8AM – 4PM Saturdays.  We can pick up your large donations as well.  Call 919.744.2420 to schedule a pick up.

4 OCTOBER 2011

Rightly, there is much political discussion these days about government deficits and the bond ratings of these governments.

Transportation and housing bond measures on next week’s ballot in Raleigh have raised this issue.  When considering these bonds, we must make a distinction between deficit and debt.  Capital projects benefit a city for multiple years and shouldn’t be expected to be entirely paid for in the year the work is undertaken.  This is the definition of a capital expense.  Debt is the facility by which capital projects are financed.  These bonds create debt, but not deficits as the funding for their repayment is included in the referendum with minimal property tax increases.

Raleigh is often ranked the #1 city in the nation.  Bond financed infrastructure has helped achieve that ranking.  Raleigh city government has been able to maintain a AAA bond rating while keeping property tax rates and general obligation debt per capita among the lowest for North Carolina municipalities.

Political debate is essential, let’s just make sure it is at a meaningful level.   Vote yes for
Raleigh and approve the Transportation and Housing bonds on Tuesday!

15 September 2011 | POVERTY RATE ON THE RISE

The U.S. Census Department reported yesterday that the 2010 poverty rate has risen to 15.1% of the population.  With 2010 U.S. population at 308.4 million this means that over 46.5 million people in the U.S. are living in poverty!  This rate is the highest it has been since 1993.  Just since 2007, the rate has increased by 2.6%.  In this land of great opportunity and resource, I find these numbers horrifying.  Doesn’t it just beg a systemic question of economic justice?

As the economic downturn continues on, we are seeing the impact at Habitat.  More than ever, our work is needed to help families that are seeking suitable, decent places to live and to help build wealth for the future and to rise above the effects that living in poverty brings to all aspects of life.

The families we work alongside in the building of their homes are in a marginal place economically, but their desire for stability for their family makes Habitat a life-changing opportunity for them.

To see the Census Department press release on 2010 poverty statistics, go to: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb11-157.html


I stopped by one of our build sites a couple Saturdays ago and had a chance to chat with our homeowner-to-be.  I wish you all could have been there to just see the joy that Habitat has brought into his life.  It was so evident.  All of our volunteers and donors help make that possible.  It really is precious.

Our homeowner has immigrated to the United States from a former Soviet Republic.  He spoke of how thrilled he was to be in America and how only in America could something like Habitat happen for him.  His family is Christian and they were very involved in church life, which he kept telling us that the Communists didn’t like.

The freedom to practice whatever religion we choose is an internationally recognized human right.  According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”  (See the whole document here.)

I know I take that religious freedom for granted.  The conversation that afternoon reminded me how blessed I am to be able to live out my Christian faith without fear of persecution or even imprisonment.  It also reminds me of the many who don’t have that freedom and my need to pray for them and to help support outreach efforts in those areas.

Once again, Habitat is a blessing, not just for those acquiring homes through our program, but equally for those of us who participate as volunteers, staff, and donors—as we tangibly feel that we are God’s hands and feet sharing God’s love as it is intended to be shared.


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

This weekend is the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic speech at the Lincoln Memorial.  This speech is a lasting reminder to the leadership that this man offered to help our nation move toward its stated vision of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.  A statue memorializing Dr. King was to be unveiled in Washington, DC this weekend, but has been postponed due to the inclement weather expected from Hurricane Irene.

Dr. King is my all-time hero.  He was a man of deep faith who was eloquently able to speak truth to power and, through love, envision a new way of living for our country.

The legacy of slavery and racial discrimination still lingers with us today despite many great strides that our society has made.  Housing is an area that has had its share of issues around race.  It is most evident in the chicken/egg scenario of the need for wealth accumulation in order to become a homeowner that then propels further wealth accumulation.   In an earlier entry on this blog, I shared that the disparity in wealth between white and black Americans was trending negatively.  A Pew Research Center showed that:

The median wealth of white households is 20 times greater than that of black households…These ratios are the largest in the quarter century since the government first published such data.

Much of this disparity is due to disparate homeownership rates and the longevity of homeownership.

My own children, who are of mixed racial background and have dark skin, will tell you that they feel that others draw negative conclusions about them based on their skin color.  They have exponentially more opportunity than they would have had in 1963, but 48 years later there is still much, much more to do.

This weekend, I’m hoping that we look back and remember the man who provided such timely and vital leadership to a movement whose time had come, but additionally we continue to commit our nation to realizing the dream so eloquently stated in our country’s founding documents and again on that day in 1963.

Text and audio of the I Have a Dream speech is available at:

21 AUGUST 2011 | peace and solidarity

On September 11, 2001, I remember being in a conference room at the Indianapolis Convention Center for our daily staff briefing for Habitat’s 25th Anniversary Celebration event that had begun the day before.  We had a TV in the room that was showing live video of what we have now come to know, not as accidents, but as aggressive acts of terrorism.

I’m sure you remember where you were that day as well.  Those events dramatically changed our world and our anniversary “celebration,” but what better place to be than reflecting on the unity and love that Habitat embraces so well?  This September 11, ten years later, I’ll be at 515 Parnell Drive in Raleigh celebrating that peace and solidarity with those from the three Abrahamic faiths gathered together to build a home with a family in need.   What better place to be?   I hope you’ll  join us for a special Sunday morning celebration on that important day – visit our website for more information.

That is Habitat’s “theology of the hammer” in practice—as people of faith we may disagree on many different things, but we can all agree on the hammer as an instrument of God’s love providing simple, decent homes for those in need.  I’m looking forward to our upcoming Abraham Build this fall.

As a Christian, I love how Habitat lives out the best of our Christian tradition, by inviting everyone in regardless of faith background to share the love with those in need.  Join us this fall for the Abraham Build in the Long Acres community, where we will be building a house and much more.

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