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A working blueprint; How Habitat for Humanity gets the job done in Nevada

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bank of America Banking Center manager Carmen Williams presents a check from the Bank of America Foundation for $5,000 to the Nevada Area Habitat for Humanity, to chapter treasurer Darryl Wright, center, and board member Jerry Janes.(Lynn A. Wade/Herald-Tribune)
Having just completed its 13th home, the Nevada Area Habitat for Humanity is already looking forward to its 14th abode.

A family hasn't been selected yet; so the type of home isn't known, but it'll be constructed in the 500 block of Lee Street, because three lots in a row -- one of which is the site of the 13th home -- were donated to the charity.

Each home is a unique challenge, but all have some things in common.

For example, each residence goes to a local family that currently lives in substandard housing -- meaning, among other things, the home is in poor condition, it's too small for the family, or its utilities are too expensive. The family must be willing to put in the required 200 hours of sweat equity, be unable to get their own financing for a home but have sufficient income to make the $250-400 monthly mortgage payment once the house is turned over to them.

"Selecting the families is one of the hardest things we do," Board Treasurer Darryl Wright said. The board has the daunting and sometimes emotional task of choosing which of the five to eight families who apply will be the next home's owner.

"Some of them self-eliminate (from the list) because they find out it's not free, or because they find out they have to work on the house," Wright said.

But in other cases, it's a difficult decision. "It can be heartwrenching."

Recently, the board had to choose one family over another that seemed to have greater need, because the more needy family did not have the income to maintain the payments. "We don't want to put people in a spot," that could lead to foreclosure. "We want to help people, not create a new problem for them," Board President Bob Beaver said.

Recently, another issue has surfaced. Insurance companies often use credit scores to determine insurability.

The local Habitat chapter carries the mortgages and has never foreclosed. "Our first house should be paid off in another four or five years," Beaver said.

Wright said the habitat board members meet with homeowners every year, and "that's usually what they want to know -- how long 'til it's paid off," Wright said.

The cost of building the houses has gone up over the years, as the cost of materials fluctuates. "It's changed a lot. ... It never seems to go back down," Wright said, "and the choices you make affect it."

The two most recent Habitat homes have had garages, and the group is including tornado shelters in each home it builds from now on. Although the company that constructs the safe rooms delivers them at cost to the charity, it still adds to the expense. So do garages, and Beaver said the board will have to evaluate whether garages will be included in future homes.

Funding Habitat homes

Monetary and in-kind donations, volunteer hours and the mortgages paid by Habitat homeowners all help make it happen.

Carmen Williams, Bank of America banking center manager in Nevada, represents one of the many donors to the local group and said she believes Habitat to be a worthy cause, and hopes the company foundation's recent grant of $5,000 will help.

"I'm passionate about community development. Nothing in my work excites me more than helping someone purchase their first home or helping a family find a way to better their current residence. I am proud to work for a company that shares that passion and creates partnerships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. When we work together, we can make a huge impact, locally," Williams said.

The bank was approached in the spring as part of the Schowe and Shine car show and fundraiser coordinated by Ron and Linda Schowengerdt in May, through which the Schowengerdts raised $8,000. "It's an amazing thing they do for the community," Williams said.

She wanted to help, but sometimes corporate wheels turn slowly; nevertheless, through that communication, Habitat secured a grant from the company. Bank of America, she said, has partnered with Habitat for Humanity chapters throughout the nation for 25 years and has "helped thousands of individuals acquire homes for their families; and will be donating 2,500 homes over the next two years, through Habitat for Humanity, many of which will go to tornado victims or to veterans.

Other companies help out, too; 3M's volunteer match program provides a monetary donation to charities in recognition of volunteer hours logged by their employees.

"Not all of them make that donation to Habitat, but some do. It's a nice reward for doing something you were going to do anyway," Wright said.

Local churches also support the effort, as do many local individuals and businesses. Monthly potato luncheons also help with the group's finances.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, call (417) 321-1116 or (417) 684-2666.

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I have known Darryl Wright about as long as dirt has been around. So proud to be able to call him a friend. He's one of those that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Kudos to you, my friend.

-- Posted by dalelipe on Sat, Oct 13, 2012, at 1:02 PM

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