By DAVID BORAKS
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary this October, and how else to do it than by building a house? To do that, the Lake Norman area Habitat affiliate recently began a campaign to raise $75,000 by Aug. 1.
The fundraiser actually may need slightly less than that, according to Our Towns Habitat interim director Enrique Sanchez. An anonymous donor has offered an additional $25,000 if the group raises $50,000 by Aug. 1.
The latest Our Towns construction project is unique – it has no corporate or organization sponsor. “We can be the sponsor,” Sanchez said the other day.
As local Habitat for Humanity volunteers talked recently about how to mark this fall’s 25-year milestone, they were challenged and inspired by a young Brazilian couple – Josi and Miller – who had come to the Charlotte area. Sanchez met them through a mutual friend, and they came out to work on a Habitat for Humanity home.
“In just a few short months after hearing one story after another and experiencing Habitat for Humanity on the job site as volunteers, they too caught ‘Habit-itis,'” Sanchez said. Although still struggling to get on their feet in their new country, the came by one day and handed Sanchez $200.
Use it to help someone else, the told him.
That got the ball rolling on a 25th-anniversary house. Fred Berta, a longtime volunteer who is leading the special project, calls it “the House that Love Built.”
Added Sanchez: “It’s one of those things, where you get a lesson from somebody you’ve never known before.” That lesson turned into a challenge.
Sanchez knows that since this house has no big sponsor, it will have to be built with donations of $50 or $100 at a time. Already, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity has raised donations from 100 percent of its board.
But can the chapter meet the challenge and raise the rest through small donations?
“I think so and I hope so,” Sanchez said.
He’s urging people to think about it this way – donations in increments of the number of years the local chapter has been around
- $25 for 25 years
- $250 for the number of local families served
- $2,500 of the number of people the local affiliate has helped in Guatemala and Sri Lanka, either through homebuilding or its project to provide smokeless stoves to people in need.
The 25th Anniversary House that Love Built will be built on Titan Avenue in Huntersville, in Our Towns Habitat for Humanity’s Norman Park neighborhood. The group already had dedicated four homes there.
Davidson and Williamson Chapel United Methodist Churches are teaming up in June to build a fifth home, while Davidson College Presbyterian Church will start house No. 6 in August.
“Our goal is to complete fifteen new homes in that neighborhood by the fall of 2015,” Sanchez said.
WANT TO HELP, OR TELL YOUR STORY?
You can help build “The House that Love Built” with a donation to help the team of volunteers, Habitat homeowners, partners and staff who are working on the project. Go to www.ourtownshabitat.org or mail your donation to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 1088, Davidson, NC 28036.
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is also collecting Habitat stories that will be shared on our website and e-newsletters throughout the challenge and home build (through Dec. 31, 2013). If you would like to share a story about how Habitat for Humanity has impacted your life or the life of someone you know please email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE STORY OF JOSI AND MILLER
Enrique Sanchez of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity shares the story of how he met the couple that inspired this 25th anniversary Habitat house.
In 2007 on a mission trip to Brazil I had met Mario, a Brazilian Presbyterian pastor who, at the time, was in charge of global missions. Two years later, while on sabbatical, he and his wife passed through Charlotte and they stayed with us for a few days. The following year, my wife and I on the way to Argentina, stayed with them for a week. A year later he called us and asked us if we could help a young couple from their congregation “adjust to Charlotte” as they had been accepted at CPCC. That’s how we ended up picking up Josi and Miller at the Charlotte airport.
Josi and Miller stayed with us for about four weeks. We helped them adjust to their new host city, find an apartment, learn bus routes, introduced them to different people and groups etc. while they were mumbling and struggling in basic English. Of course, by their second day at our home they realized my passion for Habitat, an organization that they had never been exposed to. By their fourth week here, they joined a crew from the church and experienced their first Habitat build ever.
In their first year of school they did so well in their studies that they qualified for the Phi Betta Kappa Society. With money running tight, however, they started bussing tables to make ends meet and finish their second year. They also joined a church where they felt comfortable. Yet and between four classes a semester and bussing tables, they still found time to volunteer one day a week at the Food Pantry. The hammer calluses caused by their Habitat build were not for them.
Last month, they stopped by our house for a five minute “update visit.” On their way out they gave me a birthday card and an envelope. “Papito”, they said in Portuguese. “We know what it is that you love a lot. So, this is a gift for your Habitat affiliate, so that you can celebrate your birthday by keeping on building what you love.” In Portuguese, the word for birthday is aniversario.
Over the next few days, their words kept ringing in my ears, and my mind started playing tricks in the translation: “So that you can celebrate your anniversary by keeping on building what you love,” I repeated in my head each morning as I drove up I 77 to work.
In October of this year we will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Our Towns Habitat. By that date we will have served 250 families in Our Towns and over 2,500 families globally, including our partners in Guatemala and Sri Lanka. Thousands of people from Our Towns have contributed to this incredible effort – volunteers at all levels (on the construction site, at the ReStores, at the office), staff, participating families, contractors, Americorps, donors and sponsors of all types (individuals, churches, businesses, foundations). So it came to me, why don’t we celebrate our anniversary by keeping on building what we love?