Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, an organization whose future pivots on a foundation of volunteerism, will build seven new houses in the second phase of the 43-home Century Village development using the recently announced $400,000 Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant.
Located on 20th Street adjacent to Blythe-Bower Elementary School, Century Village currently hosts eight completed houses. Two were recently dedicated and two more will be dedicated Aug. 26.
Matt Carlson, eight-year executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, praised the partnership with the city of Cleveland that has led to receipt of the federal housing grant, but stressed local residents and volunteers should not perceive this as a new direction for the developer. As has been its practice for the past two decades, the Cleveland affiliate will continue its own fundraisers aimed at Bradley County residents.
The federal grant, administered by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and funneled through city government, is a unique opportunity made possible under Title III of Division B of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008.
Shortly after receiving the grant, Habitat leaders began “crunching the numbers” to determine how many houses the HERA funds can build. Seven is the final determination, Carlson confirmed in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Even as Habitat leaders plan for the additional houses, they are still working to complete all nine homes scheduled this year for Century Village. Four will begin construction this fall, leading to a year-ending build that kicks off Oct. 14. This build will honor Habitat’s 20th anniversary in Cleveland, as well as the 100th birthday of the home construction sponsor, Whirlpool.
Other build sponsors this fall will be Lowe’s, Ocoee Region Builder’s Association (ORBA) and Lee University.
“These will be four pretty big builds for us this fall,” Carlson said. All are important to the families and to the Cleveland community, but the Whirlpool build will be especially significant because of its dual roles — the Habitat anniversary and the Whirlpool centennial celebration. At the Oct. 14 kickoff at Century Village, additional announcements will be made, Carlson said.
As Habitat for Humanity continues its Cleveland and Bradley County area mission, the need for volunteers has never been greater than now. Although the number has tripled since 2002, Carlson said more are always needed.
“Community involvement is critical,” he stressed. “Getting our information out there and helping the community understand our needs are vital. Volunteers are our lifeblood.”
Habitat volunteerism is not always about pounding nails and working weekends on construction sites, Carlson noted. Area residents have several options for assisting the organization — such as serving on committees to recruit new families, interviewing applicants and serving as family advocates in roles in which volunteers help to acclimate Habitat families to the importance of home ownership.
Carlson pointed to other roles. “Often we have needs for expertise or specialty areas that volunteers can provide who aren’t interested in the physical construction,” he noted. Examples might be lawyers, doctors, administrative assistants, certified public accounts, public relations and communications specialists, contractors, service professionals, social workers and others whose expertise can be just as handy as their ability to swing a hammer.
He pinpointed a few individuals — Barry Boatner, Dennis Norman, Ed McCartney and Verrill Norwood, among many, many others — whose professional expertise is invaluable to the local affiliate. Professionals can be active or retired.
“Guys, and ladies like these are a gold mine to nonprofit organizations like Habitat,” Carlson said.
The campaign for more — and diversified — volunteers has received a boost with the hiring of Annie Kinworthy as coordinator of Volunteer Services. Carlson said her role will be to fill construction roles, and other responsibilities, when a home build is lacking adequate numbers. For example, the coming Whirlpool build won’t be an issue because the project will be staffed by three different Whirlpool functions — Whirlpool Cleveland Division (the plant), Whirlpool Cleveland Customer eXperience Center (call center) and Whirlpool Cleveland Cooking Technology Center (engineering, research and development). In some cases, however, sponsoring companies need volunteer support.
In 2010, the local affiliate raised $360,000 for the construction of nine houses. The spring fundraiser is set again for 2011 and will reach out to Cleveland and Bradley County donors. The organization will also host its second annual Bike to Build fundraiser, which this year raised $25,000 thanks to the combined efforts of 250 riders and 150 volunteers. Carlson is hoping for as many as 400 to 500 bike riders next year.
“We were ecstatic over the success of our first Bike to Build,” Carlson said. “In 2011, we think we can hit 400 or 500 riders and raise as much as $40,000 to $50,000. We want to see Bike to Build become our signature event.”
Next year’s Bike to Build has been tabbed for April 2.
Carlson figures Century Village will keep the local affiliate busy through 2013 at which time new property will be needed. Habitat leaders are already looking at possible spots. The preference is multi-structure lots because it allows Habitat core teams and volunteer groups to work in centralized areas. Working in consolidated locations is also less of a drain on Habitat’s resources like tools, equipment, storage units and vehicles.
“If we had any one key message to relay to the community right now, it would be that there are so many different ways that volunteers can get involved with Habitat,” Carlson said. “I would also remind people of this ... what you do now, the decisions you make today, make a difference in your life and in nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity.”
He added, “We can only be successful if people get involved. Habitat for Humanity is a vehicle for helping to change lives, but volunteers are the engine that keeps that vehicle running.”
Want to get involved?
Contact Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland at 476-6947. The organization’s administrative offices, and the Habitat ReStore, are located on Grove Avenue in the remodeled building that formerly housed the Cinema I and II theaters.