Habitat for Humanity Columbus is tackling two house builds this year for the first time since its 2010 inception.
For the second year, Habitat representatives are partnering with Thrivent Financial and local churches for a Faith Build where Thrivent provides about $55,000 toward the newest project and churches band together – in collaboration with Habitat – to foot the rest of the bill. New this year, though, is a Habitat for Heroes build being made possible by a memorandum of understanding with Habitat for Humanity International. The program aims at helping local veterans and military personnel.
The goal is for two homes to be built annually starting in 2022. However, an opportunity presented itself enabling Habitat officials to increase their build volume specifically for this year. So far, eight total builds have been completed in Columbus - six of them at the New Hope Addition and one in Schuyler.
The plan was to tackle one project in 2020, but then a former Habitat home recipient made the decision to sell her home, Habitat Executive Director Lori Peters said.
Owing money on her home still, the funds from the sale went directly back into Habitat’s pockets. As a result, Peters said the nonprofit’s board of directors faced a tough decision: to put the money toward the recently purchased 18 lots at New Hope Addition 2, or to use it for an additional build.
“We felt like the revenue from the mortgage needed to be reinvested into another home,” Peters said, "because the community has paid for and built these habitat homes, and so we wanted to make sure that we are responsible with that revenue.
“It was a hard decision because we are trying to do the ($500,000) Capital Campaign for that land, but the community wants the houses to continue. So, we needed to reinvest that into another home.”
During July of last year, an initial 15 families were vetted in an effort to find the two that would most benefit from new habitat homes. Habitat’s selection committee soon dropped that number from 15 to four, then finally, two.
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This year’s recipients of the Faith Build house are Tiffany Middleton and her children, 17-year-old Sirkyivah, 14-year-old Santos Jr. and 12-year-old Savieon. The military build is being completed for Army National Guard member Tlali Garcia and her daughter, 10-year-old Astrea, and her son, 6-year-old Julius.
While one project never outweighs the next in significance, Peters noted that there’s a real sense of pride with being able to start helping out Columbus’ military community.
“It’s a new direction for us, because it doesn’t always have to be a new house,” she said, of the services current military members or veterans are eligible to receive. “It can be a repair … It could be something like they need a new ramp or just something replaced.”
The goal, Peters said, is to create a Veterans/Military Committee that will be able to find the best use for dollars locally. In fact, some fundraising has already taken place. Travis Hill, an Army veteran and Nebraska Public Power District employee, helped raise about $1,000 for future military builds/renovations by hosting a fundraiser in the week leading up to this past season’s Army vs. Navy football game.
“Our chief operating officer, Tom Kent, is an ex-Navy officer,” Hill said. “He and I have had a little grudge match over the last couple of years, just a little service rivalry, and it’s become fairly popular at NPPD. And when Lori said they were doing something for Habitat, I thought that this would just be a great way to take that rivalry to the next level and have a barbecue.”
Habitat’s local efforts to become more involved with military members and families is something that means a lot to Hill. It inevitably will mean even more to the people who benefit from the nonprofit’s actions.
“Vets come in all different shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds,” he said. “… Sometimes after service, it’s hard to transition back into society … especially when you saw combat. So being able to afford somebody an opportunity to have a roof over their head at a reasonable price, that’s a great way to help overcome a lot of things that would typically hold someone back.
“That’s the exciting thing, giving somebody an opportunity they might not have had.”
Both houses, being erected side by side in the New Hope Addition, are slated for completion in August.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.