A fundraising event this month for Henderson County Habitat for Humanity is designed to build more than the organization’s bank account. It’s not uncommon for director of development Angie Hunter to hear county residents say: “Yes, I’ve heard of Habitat.” But the organization would like to hear: “Hey, you’re doing great work, and we want to help.”
“We want to get more exposure in the community, because a lot of people aren’t familiar with Habitat for Humanity and what our mission is, our impact … how we provide affordable homes to the community,” Hunter says.
Hunter came on board last January to expand the affiliate’s money-raising capabilities. She’s intent on doing it the grassroots way — by shaking hands. “It’s getting out and meeting as many people as I can and sharing our mission and asking for support,” she says. “It’s gone extremely well.”
Nationally, the mission of Habitat focuses on “bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope.” One way local staff are making inroads is by defining what Habitat is not. “We sell the homes that we build,” Henderson County Habitat CEO Ron Laughter says. “We don’t give them away.”
Laughter is the local nonprofit’s chief myth-buster. No, Habitat doesn’t hand out keys gratis in Henderson County, he emphasizes. A qualifying Habitat constituent must meet an income threshold (about $44,000 for a family of four) and contribute 400 hours of sweat equity. Once the house is built, a process that can take seven months and involve 60 community volunteers, the homebuyer pays about $435/month for 30 years. The affordable sticker price accrues no interest.
Laughter, who came to the affiliate from big-university philanthropy, says results are concrete. He’s not sprinkling fairy dust. Donations directly improve local people’s quality of life. County government partnered with the affiliate several years ago, the consensus being that affordable housing ranked in the area’s top three priorities. Only healthcare and child welfare topped housing. “There is lots and lots of substandard housing in Henderson County,” he says.
But make no mistake, Henderson County Habitat is doing just fine among its peers in North Carolina, Laughter says. Based on the number of homes built per 100,000 residents, the Henderson affiliate builds at a rate much greater than some larger urban chapters. Twelve Habitat homes go up a year in Henderson County, mainly in new neighborhoods in East Flat Rock and Edneyville.
“We’re doing an awful lot in a very small market,” he says, and commends any affiliate’s success. In 2012, the Asheville-area chapter doubled the number of families it served to 30, and the city’s enormous resale store, ReStore, ranked third nationally in gross sales, behind Houston and Des Moines.
In Hendersonville, there are two ReStores — one that sells interior furnishings and one with home-improvement materials, with proceeds benefiting new building in the area.
And the results of extended outreach into Henderson County are promising. The affiliate has increased corporate sponsorships, started planned giving, and is creating a home-repairs program, scheduled to begin in early 2016. “We can repair a home for maybe $5,000, where it costs $75,000 to build a new house,” explains Laughter. “Frankly, that is a way to reach far more families, at a significantly lower cost.”
“Celebration of Home,” a dinner and auction fundraiser benefiting Henderson County Habitat for Humanity, happens on Thursday, September 17, 5:30pm at Blue Ridge Community College. $45. Tickets are available online at www.celebrationofhome.eventbrite.com. To buy tickets in person or for more information, call 828-694-0340 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.