When can a 25th anniversary be “golden”? As we celebrate our silver anniversary, I look back to the changes I’ve witnessed in the last six years: Building 9 additional homes represents a mortgage portfolio increase of an additional $2.1 million – a 40% growth in just the last five years. And we still don’t charge a dime to homeowners for that service!
Those new families in those new homes have helped turn neighborhoods around. Habitat homeowners contribute approximately $100,000 to the local tax base annually in Danbury, Brookfield, Newtown, and New Milford where we have built homes. Habitat families have placed 16 children into local school systems where they are succeeding. Others have finished K-12, are attending college, or are now in the workforce. A third of our adults has gone back to school or was promoted because they are more secure about their future as homeowners. Each family has built a life where the ratio of what they spend on housing is less than the regional model. They spend less … live in a better home … and can stay in their homes for decades. It’s a model that is simple yet successful.
But it’s not just the families that are winning. During the construction process, we have put more than $2 million back into the local economy through the purchase of land, services and materials. We buy materials locally, hire local trades, and work with local professionals. Not to mention all our “pin” money spent on coffee and donuts!
There is a local pay back to us, too! The value of our volunteer labor and their expertise represents more than $250,000 “savings” to the Housatonic Habitat mission each year. It is a significant “donation” — a million dollar gift since 2010 — that has enabled us to move the affiliate ahead and contributed to better lives for our neighbors. And, we can’t put a price tag on “heart”!
In 2010 when I came to Housatonic Habitat, ReStore was located in a leaky high-ranch styled office that could be described as “quaint”. Today, our 11,000-square-foot warehouse has thousands of customers a year. Sales have tripled over the last two years alone and profit has risen 33% — more than the entire affiliate budget earlier this decade. Better than a treasure hunt … drier than a tag sale … ReStore is also where people go when they need help in affording the materials for their homes or apartments. We are taking materials that can be reused and repurposed and giving them new life.
But not everyone builds or shops. Some wrap. Through outreach programs like our holiday Wrapping for Habitat at Macy*s in the Danbury Fair mall, we transform approximately 300 volunteers into elves who are our greatest representatives of helping others. Our success is gauged in the more than 4,000 gifts from throughout the mall that we wrap each December … thanks, in part, to Macy*s generosity.
Others paint. Our Brush with Kindness program is in its infancy. It is the core of reaching out to people – regardless of their ability to pay – and lending a helping hand to improve the physical conditions in their home and to help others to age in place. In the few years since it was launched, Brush with Kindness has significantly increased the numbers of people we serve and allows us to work with segments of the population – low-income, seniors, and community service groups – that were untapped.
We have many benchmarks – financial as well as personal. We have firm financials and are looking to the people to continue to contribute their talents and resources. Within the last few weeks, we have sold a home on Greenfield Court, purchase land on Stonewall Lane, and welcomed a great family to Hospital Avenue. We are growing. Thanks to support from both individuals and businesses, we completed the Greenfield construction with funds that completed the job!
Our wish list also includes financial literacy for families throughout their relationship with us so that they can learn more about managing their finances. It includes capacity building to add staff which will enable us to scale to the challenges ahead. It includes marketing so that ReStore sales allow us to raise the roof on more and more homes.
I am asking you to share in our vision … to live our mission. Please donate today by writing a check or donating online. We’re at www.housatonichabitat.org and you can use a credit card or Paypal. Become a sustaining partner by making monthly donations from your credit card that you control. I am always available to talk about my favorite subject – Housatonic Habitat and its extraordinary people.