You often hear about people who volunteer for Habitat for Humanity projects in far-away places like Uganda, Argentina, Romania or Sri Lanka, but perhaps less frequently about Habitat's work in nearby communities. The Christian nonprofit currently has over 1,500 local affiliates in the US that are helping local communities solve the issue of poverty housing.
I recently learned about one of the affiliates in Massachusetts, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth, and had the chance to connect with its PR Chair Teresa Dollfuss. She shared some pretty neat info about what the organization does plus three newsworthy items: the group's new Veteran Build status, its discount ReStore and a recent collaboration with Habitat Homebuilt. Please keep reading to find out what Teresa had to say and some of the different opportunities to get involved.
Habitat of Greater Plymouth was recognized as an official Habitat affiliate in 1997. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth (HFHGP) helps those families in need of simple, affordable housing in the Plymouth area. The towns that they support are Plymouth, Plympton, Middleboro, Carver, Lakeville and Kingston. In addition to building homes, HFHGP also does critical home repairs, which involves fixing up a home that is deemed unsafe or unhealthy that a family is currently living in.
The affiliate has built nine homes to date. However, it has also done countless Brush with Kindness projects. Brush with Kindness is the name of the program that helps with things such as minor repairs, handicap accessibility and exterior home preservation. Homeowners are selected for the Brush with Kindness program based on income, need and their ability to repay the cost of materials. Additionally, HFHGP has recently done three critical home repair projects that involved more extensive repairs - essentially rehabilitating the home.
A lot of people think of Habitat as a handout, but all Habitat families pay a mortgage on their home, plus property taxes and insurance. The families' mortgage loans are at 0% interest. Habitat likes to refer to it as a "hand-up," not a "hand-out." Habitat families also contribute during the building process. They are required to contribute 250 "sweat equity" hours during the construction of their home, and they are required to attend first-time homebuyer classes.
One example of a memorable recent project is when Habitat was approached to install a ramp on a home in Carver, Mass. The family living there has a son, David, who has MELAS syndrome, a condition that keeps him confined to his bed or wheelchair. After an investigation, it was determined that a residential lift (elevator) and other repairs would greatly benefit the family. To help raise the funds to install a residential lift, Habitat used a new crowdfunding website called Share.Habitat.org. Through that site, we raised $6,000 toward the project and various others donations were made to the cause as well; the Town of Carver Redevelopment Authority graciously donated $8,000 toward the project. Habitat for Humanity volunteers have helped install new flooring and painting, clean-up the exterior of the home, and finish a bedroom for David's sister. Finishing this extra bedroom allows David's parents to sleep in their own room because they had been sleeping on their living room couch for several years to be closer to him.
HFHGP Receives Veterans Build Status
Habitat International saw how many affiliates were helping veterans in their communities, as well as how many Habitat volunteers are veterans. They saw an opportunity to honor those who have served and created a dedicated Veterans Build program. Its goal is to provide housing, as well as volunteer and employment opportunities to veterans and their families. The mission of the Veterans Build is broken up into five pillars: build, mobilize, employ, educate and honor. (You can read more about the five pillars here.) HFHGP is actively seeking Veterans Build project opportunities in the community, as well as veterans interested in volunteering their time.
Discount Materials at Habitat's ReStore in Plymouth
The ReStore sells new and gently used materials to the public at deeply discounted prices. Donations come from homeowners and businesses wishing to recycle discontinued stock. All proceeds from the ReStore are used toward building Habitat homes. Additionally, we have been able to use some materials in our build projects. For example, thanks to a huge donation of kitchen cabinets, the kitchens in our last two builds were furnished with full kitchens.
Items that people often donate to the ReStore include furniture (couches, chairs, kitchen tables/chairs, etc.), kitchen cabinets, appliances (washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, etc.) and flooring (tile, hardwood, area rugs, etc.). The ReStore also receives donations of windows and doors, and has recently started selling recycled paint in various colors. As long as they are deemed to be in good, working condition, all of these items are accepted by the ReStore and sold for 50%-90% off retail value. The store also sells basic hardware items such as small tools and energy-efficient lightbulbs.
The ReStore accepts donations of new and slightly used materials listed above, including furniture, plumbing, electrical, kitchen cabinets, flooring and windows. It is open Wednesdays from 10 am to 3 pm; Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm; Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm; and Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm. Please contact the store for more details or check out their website here.
Habitat Homebuilt Collaboration in New York City
In September, a team of Habitat volunteers traveled to New York city to build a prototype shed at the Maker Faire, in conjunction with Homebuilt. During the Maker Faire, the volunteers built this shed to demonstrate the unique, pioneering concept of using state-of-the-art design and technology to build affordable housing. It is hopeful that the technology used to build the shed can later be applied to building homes faster and more efficiently. The technology involves using robotic manufacturing to produce a kit of extremely precise parts from a 3D computer model. Using this kit, volunteers of any experience level are able to participate in all aspects of the construction. The shed that was built at the Maker Faire was donated to a Habitat family in need.
Opportunities to Volunteer with Habitat in Plymouth
Habitat is always looking for more volunteers, so please visit our website if you are interested. Habitat is also in the process of planning its Annual Gala to be held on May 1, 2015 at the Radisson Plymouth Waterfront and details will be coming out in the next few months.
One of the most popular volunteer opportunities is working on the build sites. Many of our volunteers come to Habitat to work on site, and they love every minute of it. Other ways people can help are by volunteering on one of these committees: Construction, Finance, Major Events, Public Relations and ReStore. No experience is necessary, just a desire to help!
It's also fairly common for youth to volunteer at build sites, provided they are over the age of 18, or are 16 with parental permission. We find that when we have builds in progress, colleges send groups of students to help build for a day. There is also a section on our website that explains how kids under the age of 16 can help with Habitat's mission.