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Habitat for Humanity of Springfield celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
Established locally in 1988, Habitat for Humanity of Springfield has served over 1,200 households through home buying, home repairs and preservation, and neighborhood revitalization, according to Daniel Schekorra, director of marketing and communication.
Executive Director Chris Tuckness puts it simply: “We’ve been doing a lot of really good stuff,” he says.
Through the homebuying program, individuals or families can build or renovate and buy a home with a 0% interest rate and a 30- to 40-year mortgage. Tuckness added that buyers must complete classes that will help with aspects of homeownership, and they must also perform sweat equity by working on Habitat sites. The process takes up to two years, he says.
“The Habitat model allows future homeowners to work side by side with volunteers,” Tuckness says. “Someone that can understand what it’s like to put time and effort into something will value that even more.”
The home preservation program allows people to stay in their homes with volunteers completing repairs, from simple fixes to major renovations.
“If we can get in there before that home becomes unlivable, we can keep the homeowner in their home,” he says. “A leaky roof can spiral into mold in the walls or decaying wood, until ultimately it becomes a house that they can’t live in.”
Habitat’s neighborhood revitalization efforts are focused on Woodland Heights. The Habitat website states the neighborhood’s population of 4,100 includes 39% living below the poverty level. Only 44% of homes are occupied by owners.
Becky Volz, president of the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association, says being Habitat’s neighborhood revitalization partner since 2015 has been a game-changer, with Habitat offering workshops, grants and playground equipment.
“Habitat has been an encourager all along the way,” she says. “They have inspired our neighbors to come together and work for the betterment of our neighborhood and to have fun while doing it.”
In the 2022 program year, the organization served 113 people with 65 projects through its Rock the Block cleanup and repair efforts.
Habitat’s programs are supported by sales in its ReStore, which sells new and used home products, such as appliances, furniture and trim. ReStore proceeds make up 61% of the organization’s annual revenue.
Though many products are preowned, Tuckness says ReStore is far from a garage sale; instead, many Springfield retailers contribute to the store with scratch-and-dent items, returns and overstocks. Donations are accepted from individuals as well.
“Every dime we make in there, my goal is to put it back into building those homes,” he says.
Tuckness says his enthusiasm for the work comes from standing beside homeowners as they peer through their window and visualize a backyard for their dog and their kids, or as they stand in a room and wonder where to put the TV or kitchen table.
Habitat’s mission states that everyone deserves a safe, stable place to live, Tuckness says. For every dollar invested by Habitat for Humanity of Springfield, he says $1.66 is injected into the local economy, with value added to homes and ultimately to the city’s tax base. In 2022, Habitat had a $4.8 million impact on Greene County, he says.
Volunteer and Neighborhood Engagement Manager Michael Brittain noted that volunteers joined forces to contribute 15,393 volunteer hours to the organization in 2022, with 2,525 helping out in ReStore and 690 working on construction projects.
A hidden benefit Habitat provides is the education it provides to volunteers and future homeowners alike, Tuckness notes. Those who show up to work on sites might get a lesson from the construction crew on laying floors, installing plasterboard, putting up trusses, painting, adding trim or installing lighting.
Corporate sponsors are also key to the organization’s efforts, Tuckness says. With financial and material donations, companies show their support for Habitat’s mission. They, along with volunteers, also keep the bottom line in check.
In some projects, plumbing, roofing, concrete or framing are donated, saving Habitat money on the front end, Tuckness says. In the past year, for example, Habitat has received roofing service and supplies from Dale’s Roofing Inc. and heating, ventilation and air conditioning parts and labor from SS&B Heating & Cooling Inc. Northside Christian Church has performed framing, and Franco American Plumbing Services LLC has provided service and supplies. With the organization’s construction costs increasing by 31% in 2022, according to Tuckness, that’s vital.
Tuckness says the work of Habitat is life-changing for many who would not have a chance at the dream of homeownership otherwise.
“These are truly amazing families, and they make so many sacrifices,” he says. “It’s so amazing to see the community come together to make it all happen.”
The Springfield chapter is part of a global network that works in all 50 states and 70 countries, according to Habitat for Humanity International. Founded in 1976, the organization is involved in both providing and advocating for safe housing worldwide.
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