As volunteers lay the foundation for the first of 27 homes on Victory Street, another set of worker bees just a short distance away is constructing a Habitat milestone — the 22-year-old organization’s 100th home in Century Village which neighbors Blythe-Bower Elementary School on 20th Street.
“Volunteers are the life blood, and the heartbeat, of our organization,” Habitat Executive Director Matt Carlson told the Cleveland Daily Banner in an interview the day before last week’s historic groundbreaking at Victory Cove. “That’s been the case since 1990 (the charter year for the local Habitat affiliate), and we have never veered from that partnership.”
Whether at Century Village, Victory Cove or in Habitat’s second subdivision — Southgate Hills which is located just off South Lee Highway — volunteers have served as anchor, unpaid laborers and funding sources for each development, Carlson said.
Launching Victory Cove was a low-profile undertaking; at least, for the final few days prior to the symbolic dirt tossing. By then, the excitement of another Habitat for Humanity development began to sink in and it led to another nonprofit stir of emotions leading up to the groundbreaking ceremony which was brief, informal and to the point. It was even held in between showers as several Habitat staff members came prepared in knee-high rubber boots.
But that was last week in Victory Cove.
Now, much of the organization’s attention returns to its original development where eight financial and construction sponsors are sending volunteer teams to build the Cleveland affiliate’s 100th house, this one coming in the appropriately named Century Village.
A variety of individuals have donated financial gifts to the home’s construction and eight primary corporate sponsors have done the same. Most are fielding teams of weekend, and occasional weekday, volunteers. One of the first was Lee University whose workers raised walls early in the construction. Just this weekend, a team from the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club sent a group to tackle another stage in the home’s rise.
Annie Kinworthy, community development coordinator for HFHOC, said Lee University and Bradley Sunrise Rotary are two of a collection of area companies, organizations and groups that wanted to be a part of the 100th build. Others include the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Whirlpool Corporation, Bank of Cleveland, Knights of Columbus/Queen of Heaven, TVA and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.
All are financial sponsors and most are pulling together construction teams, she said.
Dedication of the 100th home is scheduled for Dec. 5. Its owners, whose family members are putting in several hundred “sweat equity” hours to help build it and who will be paying off the home through a zero-percent mortgage, are Sylvester and Stella Hetiback and their four children: Sylvanna, 15; Veston, 14; Vesrod, 12; and Stelson, 7.
The Hetibacks originally came to the U.S. mainland from Pollap, a small island off the coast of Micronesia. According to past interviews with Carlson and Kinworthy, the Hetibacks came to the U.S. seeking a better life for their children.
Kinworthy said Habitat is thrilled to build its 100th home and pointed to the roles of all the volunteer teams and their respective companies and organizations. Of Lee University, whose growing community outreach is creating the opportunity for historic milestones, Kinworthy said the school is helping to change lives ... and in particular the Hetiback family’s.
“We are very excited to build our 100th home in Bradley County,” Kinworthy said in a Lee University news release written for the school by Kattie Parsons. “I am happy for the Hetiback family and grateful for Lee’s support.”
The Parsons news release pointed to the importance of milestones to the school. Lee University itself has unveiled a long series of expansion milestones over the past 25 years under the leadership of its president, Dr. Paul Conn. Unsurprisingly, Conn and several Lee administrators were members of the recent Lee team that raised the walls of the 100th Habitat home.
In her news release, Parsons explained the Lee focus.
“Milestones are a topic discussed quite often at Lee University,” she wrote. “Becoming an independent college student is a milestone for the incoming freshmen, and graduating is a milestone for the seniors. Lee strives to help others reach important milestones in their lives which is why Lee is excited to partner with Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland to reach one of its milestones ... constructing its 100th home in Bradley County.”
To borrow from a cliche, although Lee is a significant part of the historic build it is not the school’s first rodeo with Habitat for Humanity. For several years, the university has fielded teams comprised of students, faculty and staff to help build Habitat homes in Cleveland and Bradley County.
“Lee University feels it is important to give back to our immediate community, to be good neighbors and to provide opportunities for those who are less fortunate,” according to Chris Conine, vice president for Business and Finance who was quoted in the Parsons news release. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to partner with Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland by sponsoring its 100th home and giving a family a fresh start on life.”
As a Habitat home sponsor, Lee provided funds to help pay for materials and volunteers for construction.
The Hetiback home’s foundation was laid in mid-August. Completion is expected in time for the early-December dedication.
“We’ve had a busy couple of years,” Carlson told the Banner.
Of course, it hasn’t all been about new-home construction as part of Habitat’s traditional mission. The Cleveland affiliate took a leadership role in helping to rebuild a broken community following the series of five tornadoes that assaulted most of Bradley County on April 27, 2011, and again on March 2, 2012, when a lone twister tore a destructive swath across the county from the southwest to the northeast corner. Carlson co-chairs the work of the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization.
LTRO and Habitat volunteers have constructed several replacement homes for families whose dwellings were destroyed by the twisters that took the lives of nine people in Bradley County in the April disaster. The houses have been constructed through support from a Bradley County disaster recovery fund that has been administered by United Way of Bradley County Inc.
As busy as the local Habitat affiliate is staying with three subdivision developments and the doubling in size of the Habitat ReStore, even more announcements await over the construction horizon, Carlson said.
The expansion of the Habitat ReStore is expected to be finished soon with a grand reopening scheduled for early October.