Today we received the very sad news that our Office Manager and Bookkeeper, Becca Bell, passed away from a very short and unexpected illness.
Becca’s was not the loudest voice at staff meetings but it was one of the most influential in helping shape decisions about knotty problems. She was a quiet but powerful force. Her commitment to Habitat, to common sense, and to her unerring compass always helped us decide on what was the right thing to do. Becca remembered everyone’s birthday and employment anniversary and made sure we celebrated in the most caring way. Whether your favorite treat was Ben and Jerry’s ice cream or locally sourced, organic vegetables, she had you covered on your special day.
For the last five years we have come to take excellence in our accounting and internal controls for granted. No one could have done a better job.
She will be missed, not only as a co-worker, but as a decent human being whose ethics and compassion we should all emulate.
Our condolences and deepest sympathy goes out to all who knew her. We were the blessed ones to be in her presence and now feel the emptiness of her leaving this world.
God bless, Becca!
We’re almost there! The Gutierrez family built their fence this past Saturday under Construction Project Manager Paul Stromdahl’s supervision. There was a fence in place, but it was in such substandard condition that we had to replace it. “It was pretty horrible,” says Stromdahl. But the new fence, as you can see, is sturdy and ready for duty!
What’s Left to Do?
Stromdahl’s leading a work party this Saturday, August 27th and is planning to tackle the following:
- Installing bifold doors
- Putting up towel bars
- Installing door knobs, cabinet knobs, and drawer pulls
- Starting on the shed
Want to help? Work starts at 9am (plan to get to Sumas by 8:30 – 8:45 for instructions from Stromdahl), breaks for lunch around Noon, and continues on until 4pm. Bring a sack lunch and wear comfortable clothes/footwear that covers your whole foot (no sandals or open-toed shoes). Call Janet at 360.715.9170 or email email@example.com if you’re planning on coming out. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend for building!
We had a great time at Whatcom County Association of Realtors‘ (WCAR) annual golf tournament! Each year, WCAR hosts a tournament at one of Bellingham’s beautiful courses to benefit a local non-profit organization. It’s a lot of work and we’re grateful that WCAR chose to make Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County the beneficiary of that work this year.
A Good Day for Golf
Janet, our Volunteer Coordinator, and Fred, our Resource Development Manager, spent the afternoon at hole #3, enjoying the sun and meeting the golfers as they passed through. The competitors were in good spirits and everyone seemed to have fun.
A Good Day for Giving
All said, about 75 golfers showed up to play. In doing so, each one gave of their time and their pocketbooks to help build safe, decent, affordable shelter for Whatcom County residents. We got to do a little giving of our own with a couple of drawings for $25.00 gift certificates to the Habitat Store. We notified the winners yesterday and hope they’ll find something they love on our sales floor.
Thank you to WCAR and to every golfer who came out for the tournament … we’re so grateful!
We’re in the preliminary stages of planning an international build trip! Soon we’ll be putting together a team of up to 13 volunteers who will travel to Costa Rica in mid-March, 2017 to build decent, affordable shelter alongside members of the local community. Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County has long been a supporter of Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica through our tithe program and we’re looking forward to doing some hands-on work. We’ll spend most of our days building, but we’re also planning to squeeze in some cultural activities. The weather will be dry and hot (83 to 91 degrees) … pretty consistent with most sunny vacation spots.
Sign Up to Learn More
Interested in going with us? Get us your contact information and we’ll update you as more details become available. So far what we know:
- Dates – March 16th through 28th, 2017
- Cost – $1900.00 plus airfare per person
Call 360.715.9170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like us to keep you informed as we move forward!
Construction Project Manager Paul Stromdahl is burning the candle at both ends to get the Gutierrez family in their home before the kids are due back in school. We’d hate for the children to have to transfer after the school year has already begun. But to accomplish our goal, Paul needs all the help he can possibly get. If you’re available this Saturday, August 6th and willing to help out, we’d be grateful to have you. Paul plans to tackle flooring, counter tops, painting, and some yard work.
Call Janet at 360.715.9170 or email email@example.com to sign up. Plan to get to Sumas by 8:30 to 8:45 AM. We’ll take a lunch break around Noon and work until 4 to 4:30 PM. If you’re unable to stay for the entire day, please let us know so we can plan accordingly!
Whatcom County Association of Realtors golf tournament to benefit Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County is this coming Thursday, August 4th at North Bellingham Golf Course. Join us for:
- Registration and a pizza lunch starting at 12:30pm
- Shotgun start at 1:30pm
- Cash prizes
- Beer holes
- BBQ afterwards
Register individually or in teams online here, or at the course (at 205 W. Smith Rd in Bellingham) beginning at 12:30pm. What a fun way to support Habitat!
We’re pleased to introduce Hillary, our new Resource Development Coordinator, to the Habitat team! Hillary first came to us in 2014 as a volunteer. “She made a LOT of Auction phone calls,” says Fred Sheppard, Resource Development Manager. That dedication and social skill makes her well suited to working with community members and businesses who want to support Habitat’s mission of building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. We’re thrilled to have her!
Speaking of shelter, we would like to hand over the Sumas house keys to the Gutierrez family before school starts in late August, but we’ve still got a fair amount of work to finish up. This coming Saturday, July 30th, we plan to lay down vinyl flooring, install cabinets, and paint. We need volunteers every weekend between now and August 20th to finish on time. Please consider joining us down the home stretch by calling Janet Straka at 360.715.9170 to sign up. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Play Golf for Habitat Next Week
Helping out at Habitat can also involve a nine iron, thanks to Whatcom County Association of Realtors. WCAR’s annual golf tournament is next Thursday, August 4th, at North Bellingham Golf Course. Because we’re the beneficiary of this year’s tournament, you can play golf and help Habitat at the same time! Shotgun start is at 1:30 PM and there will be prizes, BBQ, and even a few beer holes. Sign up individually or in teams here.
One of the most persistent myths about Habitat for Humanity is that we give houses away for free. In fact, we sell homes at cost to qualifying individuals/families like the Gutierrez family who demonstrate a willingness to partner with us. These folks are what we call Partner Homebuyers and make no mistake: they don’t just buy their homes, they work for them, too.
Becoming a Partner Homebuyer
Partner Homebuyers are selected based primarily on three things:
- Need for housing. People living in substandard or unsafe conditions are good possible candidates for our program. The Gutierrez family home is severely overcrowded, a problem which often creates health concerns as well, thereby marrying substandard with unsafe – a deleterious combination.
- Willingness to partner. Becoming a Partner Homebuyer means entering into a long-term relationship with Habitat for Humanity. In the first place, building a home takes time and hard work. Then, once the home is built, homeowners remit their mortgage payments to Habitat. All in all, we’re talking about a relationship of up to 30 years or more. And with 250 hours of sweat equity to complete before construction even begins, that relationship begins with labor. Folks like the Gutierrez family have consistently demonstrated their desire to work alongside us toward a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
- Ability to repay the mortgage. Partner Homebuyers like the Gutierrez family have a proven history of prompt bill payments and the documented ability to pay their mortgage each month.
Transitioning to Habitat Homeowner
Soon the Gutierrez family will move into their new home. This transition signifies the culmination of about 16 months of consistent effort. After joining our program in April of 2015, they rolled up their sleeves immediately and got to work, primarily in our store. Within 7 months they’d completed their first 250 hours of sweat equity. Not content to rest on their laurels, the Gutierrez family worked even harder, completing another 250 hours by the end of the year. The home they’ll soon move into is far from free. They’ve paid with their labor and enthusiasm and will continue to pay with their pocketbooks. A true partnership, we’re proud to call the Gutierrez family our next Habitat Homeowners.
We’re getting closer to that house dedication we mentioned last month. The Gutierrez family home is coming along nicely with lots of work being done both inside and outside. Throughout June, volunteers helped to clean up the yard – filling in holes, pulling weeds, laying down planting mix and covering it with a protective layer of straw. Now Construction Manager Paul Stromdahl has his sights on finishing up the interior.
Making Home Affordable
Here at Habitat, we’re as committed to long-term housing affordability as we are to keeping purchase costs down. That’s why we prioritize energy efficiency. To help reduce the family’s energy bills, we received help and guidance from The Opportunity Council. “They demonstrated for us how to make the house more energy efficient,” Stromdahl said. Their Building Performance Center came out and tested the house for air leakage then advised us based on the results of those tests, even going so far as to loan us a cellulose insulation blower – a tool that would cost us approximately $50 per day (plus a $250 deposit) to rent. We couldn’t be more grateful.
Help Out at Sumas
With a goal of welcoming the Gutierrez family into their new home as soon as possible, we could use all the help we can get. If you’re interested in joining a work party, call (360) 715-9170 or email email@example.com to get details and let us know your availability.
Here at Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County we make reference to ‘sweat equity’ quite a bit. What are we talking about? Specifically, folks who become Partner Homebuyers must perform 500 hours of labor – sweat equity – as part of the home buying process. But sweat equity signifies more than just labor. It also represents cost reduction, pride of ownership, and community investment.
Sweat Equity Reduces Costs
In order to offer affordable housing, we must look for ways to keep construction costs down. Sweat equity is one of those ways. Sweat equity allows us to use less paid labor than would normally be necessary, thereby reducing the overall cost of the houses we build. Without sweat equity, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County wouldn’t be able to offer housing so affordably. As it is, a typical mortgage payment (before insurance and taxes) ranges from around $350 to $500 per month. With only $500 down and zero interest to pay, that’s remarkably affordable housing.
Sweat Equity Builds Pride
Justus Kempthorne, a business owner in New York State, says, “When you build something yourself, it has a heartbeat.” We agree. Sweat equity builds pride by creating a personal investment in both home and community. Our Partner Homebuyers literally sweat over their homes and the homes of other Partner Homebuyers. They partner (hence the term Partner Homebuyer) with Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, going to work for us in the store, at build sites, in our office, and/or at events. In doing so, they invest not just in their own home, but in their community as well, thereby creating a sense of pride and belonging that often pays dividends in the form of consistent home maintenance and community participation for years to come.
Sweat equity is a winning strategy that’s good for Habitat, our Partner Homebuyers, and our community.