Putting together our Annual Report is a great privilege: We are asked to take a break from the day to day hustle of deadlines, meetings and emails, take a deep breath, and look back instead of forward.
More than a reminder of the growth Habitat experienced in the past year, it is always a reminder of the amazing community we have, and the incredible people who give so much of themselves to building a place someone else will call home.
We are connected not by ideology, religion, or politics, but by the belief that housing is a human right, and that we have everything we need to make sure everyone has a decent, safe, affordable place to live.
Because of that community — our donors, volunteers, staff, homebuyers and partners — we were able to dedicate 8 homes this past year at our Telegraph Townhome Project, and are close to completing four more units there, as well as another single-family home in Sudden Valley.
Because of that community, we are able to set our sights even higher, and, with each passing month, our dream of a permanently-affordable community inches closer to reality. Matteo Meadows will allow us to go beyond homeownership, and provide affordable rentals, both commercial and residential, and provide the type of sustainable development we not only want, but that our planet desperately needs.
This report is also an opportunity to look back on those we’ve lost and honor their legacy. A reminder that our time here is short, and that one day this ship of Theseus will have all new parts, but the ship sails on.
Thank you for being part of our family. We hope you’ll enjoy what you find in the pages ahead, and that you feel our gratitude in every word.
The Habitat Team
We continue to accomplish so much because of your support! This year we dedicated 8 homes at our Telegraph Townhome Community. Eight families now have a safe, affordable, and highly energy-efficient place to call home. On behalf or our staff, our volunteers, and our partner families, thank you to everyone who made this possible. And of course, a huge shout out to our partners at the Kulshan Community Land Trust and the Whatcom Community Foundation.
We are so fortunate to have so many volunteers come to us and donate their time and talents to our mission. Our volunteers work at the Habitat Store, help out in the office, organize events, lead committees and build homes.
Ken Andres has been volunteering with Habitat for 6 years. When he retired, he knew he wanted to take on a new activity. Habitat was a great fit because it offered a steady schedule with new challenges each day.
Ken volunteers with the Habitat construction crew where he enjoys building homes. He is motivated to keep volunteering with Habitat because he believes in the mission and enjoys spending time with the other volunteers.
“I believe in what we are doing,” he said, “and I believe we are making a difference. For me, that is rewarding.”
Ken arrives in the morning ready with a joke and a smile. He has spent almost 3,000 hours volunteering with Habitat. Carpentry is where Ken excels and his kindness and patience make him a great teacher for new volunteers.
We are so happy that Ken decided to start volunteering with us 6 years ago and we are thankful he has continued working with us. A huge thank you to Ken for his outstanding contribution to Habitat, and thank you to all of the volunteers who are part of the Habitat family!
Habitat Home Inspections & Habitat for Humanity
Founded in 2017 by Brian and Kacia Mattioli, the home inspection company is dedicated to providing customers with the best possible understanding of the house they are buying, caring for, or thinking about selling.
Brian has a background in real estate, flooring, property maintenance, renovations, and construction, so starting a home inspections company seemed a natural choice. The idea came to life shortly after the couple settled down in Blaine and fell in love with Whatcom County.
The Mattioli’s wanted their company to be different from the beginning. Along with providing the best possible service for his customers (reflected by 58 5-star reviews on Google), they wanted to make an impact, and made the decision that HHI would be about giving back. “I read a really great book called Putting People Over Profit,” Brian said, “Right before starting HHI. This book inspired me to make a commitment to give back to the community.”
From day one, Brian and Kacia have donated 10% of their business income to Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, supporting us in our efforts to make sure everyone in Whatcom has a safe, affordable place to call home. “I believe in Habitat for Humanity,” Brian said, “And support it because of lasting changes for families that get an opportunity to own an affordable house… it changes a family’s trajectory and ultimately the community.”
Brian is also a regular at our construction sites, often donating his expertise as an inspector as well as donating his time and experience in construction. Recently, he installed carpeting in all four of the latest Telegraph Townhome units.
Brian’s relationship with Habitat for Humanity started long before the move to Whatcom County. “I was a college student and I was on a trip to Hawaii,” Brian said of his first build with Habitat, “and I thought – this is awesome!… it was just something that kind of lit a spark…, being able to work alongside other people, and we’re all working together to help someone that is in a pretty rough place.” Working with other Habitat affiliates, Brian and Kacia have helped build homes in New Orleans, Las Vegas, California, and Washington.
“I have experienced the joy of giving my time on work sites and money from Habitat Home Inspections to such a great organization.
So it kind of made sense to me to go that route and actually also helped me name my business, because if I am going to donate to Habitat for Humanity, I might as well call it Habitat Home Inspections, and it all ties in together.”
Shannon, our newest partner homebuyer, crashed a party while visiting her brother in Blaine a few years ago. Her brother’s neighbors were just about to move into their brand new home — the neighbors were Habitat for Humanity homebuyers and the party was a dedication.
“I just happened to be there that day,” Shannon said, and she remembered thinking two things: “Wow, I can’t believe those people got a house for free,’ which is what I thought. And the other thing was that this large and diverse group of people were emanating a notable sense of family. Even I, a party crashing stranger, felt really welcomed. The vibe was just fantastic!”
Shannon was in need of a safe, affordable place to live, but assumed preference would go to helping families with children. (These are two misconceptions about Habitat: that we give homes away, and that we only serve families)
Thinking she wasn’t a right fit for the program, Shannon went on researching other options, navigating that uncertain sea many in need of affordable housing are forced to embark on. That path would eventually lead her back to Habitat.
Through the age of 14, Shannon grew up in Custer, in the same property where her home will be built. Most of her life, however, was spent in Seattle, where she dedicated nearly 20 years to helping people experiencing homelessness access safe, affordable and permanent housing. As a mental health worker, services coordinator and clinical programs supervisor, Shannon held positions in emergency shelters and various clinical settings. This also included a psychiatric unit, and both drop in and overnight centers, where she provided mental health support and medication management. Helping others to overcome barriers to affordable safe housing was a constant theme in her professional life, in almost every setting.
In those days, Shannon owned her own home, and was working towards a master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from Seattle University, which she would go on to complete.
Two months before finishing her master’s, however, “I woke up and I couldn’t see right,” Shannon said. “I was a full time student with an 800 hour clinical counseling practicum to complete, and still a full time mental health worker, so I was very busy. I went in to have my eyes looked at because everything looked like I was in a tunnel.”
After many exams, she was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is a progressive, unpredictable disease that causes damage to the central nervous system, often leading to disability. To date, there is no cure for MS.
Within five years of the diagnosis, Shannon lost her house and her career, and went from having a life that revolved around helping others, to one of needing help.
She had remained close to her stepmother, Rose, after her father’s death (which happened a year before her diagnosis). Rose invited Shannon to stay with her, and, following through with her late husband’s wish, is giving Shannon a portion of the land to build a house. Shannon has to build this home on a very limited income — a task she felt was impossible.
Shannon considered either a mobile or a tiny home. She contemplated what it would mean to climb up to a loft bed, or up stairs without the use of her legs, or squeeze into a narrow door with a wheelchair. Some are so much kinder to others than they are to themselves, and recognizing that, Shannon said, “If somebody else had told that story to me about crawling up the steps with their arms, I would’ve been angry that we have somebody in our country, in our world speaking like that!”
It’s impossible to know how her illness will progress, so it is crucial for Shannon not only to have an affordable place to live, but that it’d be fully accessible. “I just kept thinking,” she said, “if I just work at it and if I just try, there’s nothing I can’t do…I’ve done everything that I’ve tried to do…I’ll find a way.”
She learned that the USDA provides zero interest loans for low-income people to build on developing rural areas, “It was a perfect match for me. I spent 18 months applying for this loan…And it was a really, really complicated process.” But even with the loan, Shannon was lost when it came to converting that money into a house, so she called Habitat hoping for some clarity. She learned quickly that she would be a good fit for our program, and was encouraged to apply.
Shannon is now part of the Habitat program. “[Her home] wil be fully accessible.” said Chris vanStaalduinen, our Construction Manager, “Zero entry, and all on one level, with the standard Habitat accessibility with wider doors.” And on hearing of her plans to crawl up to a loft bed if she happens to lose the use of her legs, “She’s very determined,” he said, “But that won’t be necessary.”
We’re very excited to have Shannon in our program, and to build her a place she can call home no matter what the future holds.
“Having a safe home that nobody can take away means everything to me,” Shannon said, “I know I have so much more to offer my community if I am just given the chance and a place where I can take care of myself at the end of the day.” In telling her story, she hopes to encourage others to reach out to see what’s available for them.
“I’ve been doing this a lot of years,” said our volunteer Donna Barker, “I’ve had my eyes open to poverty in Whatcom County. I’ve seen places where you can walk into a home and see the bare dirt through the kitchen floor underneath. I’ve seen homes with no heat. I’ve seen homes with blankets for walls, exposed light fixtures, just one light bulb hanging from a cord.”
For those that serve in Homebuyer Selection Committees here in Whatcom, and across the country, these scenes are commonplace. Through reading interest forms, applications, or doing home visits with prospective homebuyers, Donna has seen a lot of inadequate, and unacceptable living conditions. This crucial work by the selection committee is the beginning of the journey into a Habitat home, and it all starts when someone in need of a place to live fills out our Preliminary Interest Form.
The interest form is the first contact we have with homebuyers. In it, they let us know their basic circumstances, such as family size, debt to income ratio, and most importantly, their current living conditions. Based on that form, our Program Coordinator, Betty Miller, is able to quickly discern whether they qualify for our program.
Families who qualify are introduced to the Homebuyer Selection Committee. “It comes to us,” said Donna, “we look at them, go over each one, discuss them and then ask questions, then Betty goes back to the family, and gets our questions answered.”
Applicants are asked to join us for an orientation, “They’re presented with all the information about Habitat, the way it works and the requirements, made familiar with the Habitat model, partnership and that kinda thing. Then we sit down with them and help them fill out the long form.” Background checks are done, credit reports are processed, and a home visit is scheduled.
“We take two or three of our members and go to their home,” said Donna, “sit down with them, repeat again the Habitat model, and answer any questions that they have. We talk about timing, if they should be selected, and how long it’s gonna take to build a home. Then we go through their current living conditions… ‘Does the furnace work? Is there exposed wiring? Is the foundation cracked?’ Then after that, we write a report, take it back to the group, and then present it to the board of directors.”
Once the board decides, the chosen families are invited to join our program. At this point, our Homebuyer Selection Committee’s work is done, and our Family Support Committee helps our homebuyers through fulfilling the Sweat Equity hours, homeownership education, and finally the home purchase.
We are incredibly grateful for volunteers like Donna Barker, and everyone else on our committees, for doing this crucial work to get our homebuyers through our program, and into a home.
Donna Barker has been volunteering with us for over 20 years. She and her husband started working with Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County when a member of their church joined the Habitat program. “Our whole church got involved and we were out there building every week,” she said, “We just really enjoyed it. I ended up on the board of directors, and was on the board for several years, then I ended up being president for several years.”
About her work in the selection committee, she added, “It can be really depressing. But when you see a family get in it’s really a blessing, you know. To see the way things work out and to see families getting homes, is pretty amazing.”
The following quotations are taken from our Preliminary Interest Form, which is the first step our homebuyers take to get a Habitat home. They provide a glimpse into the conditions our homebuyers are living in when they reach out for a hand
up. Although it is impossible to not feel a great deal of empathy for their situation, seeing how much work and dedication they put into making their dream of homeownership a reality, that empathy turns into respect and admiration.
Active House Builds
Homes Sold through Habitat/KCLT Partnership
What a year of growth! The store may have downsized in the last year but our community continues to make up for it in terms of donations. Sales and recycling proceeds have grown so much as we continue to keep more and more out of the landfill. Our staff and volunteers are to thank for this, caring for each donation that comes through the store.
We would like to thank our community businesses who continually keep our store full of amazing products. Great Floors and Millwork Supply have helped keep our home improvement section full throughout the year; this has been great for us in terms of sales, and great for customers who are able to remodel at an incredible bargain. Village Books donates to our store every week, and because of their donations (and the fact our library is maintained by a single volunteer), we have been able to keep the cost of books down compared to everyone else in the area, while maintaining an organized, wonderful library.
We pride ourselves on trying to reuse, recycle, and be as efficient as we can. In the last year we’ve acquired a bailer to bundle plastics, cardboard and clothing, and have increased profit from recycling metal. We started accepting clothing to sell and recycle, and have found an amazing partner in Global Neighborhood Thrift; a Spokane-based company that helps refugees adapt to their new home in the United States by providing a caring community and job stability.
Again, the store would like to thank the staff, donors, customers and volunteers who keep the store going everyday. We look forward to more growth as we keep our community involved in building safe, affordable homes. With everyone’s help, we can do our part in helping Whatcom County address our affordable housing crisis.
When home prices rise beyond reach, so does rent, and the entire housing continuum is stressed. Subsidized housing is quickly taken up, and organizations like ours are overwhelmed. Homelessness is the clearest consequence of this imbalance.
We know that the journey from homelessness to home ownership is possible some of our homeowners have made it. We also know that to make that happen, we need to provide housing first. This past year, we partnered with the nonprofit, Homes Now, and the City of Bellingham to build two tiny homes that will be transported to Unity Village, and serve as transitional housing. Building these small, but durable shelters is a great way for Habitat to engage more volunteers and develop ways to build step- ping stones along the housing continuum, all the way to homeownership.
The RV Care-A-Vanner program is designed for recreational travelers who want to travel with a purpose. By adding Habitat Builds to their travels, they’re able to make an impact in hundreds of communities across our continent. Our Care-A-Vanners have come from Vermont, South Dakota, California, Oregon, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, as well as neighbors from around Washington State (some travelers stayed with us twice!).
We had the privilege of hosting 5 groups in 2022, and they helped us by volunteering at the Lynden Fair, our Raise the Roof Auction, as well as the Habitat Store. Beyond the marked increase in productivity at our build site, they offer an opportunity for us to meet incredibly interesting people, and grow our Habitat family. We’re excited to already be on the tour schedule for next year, with new Care-A-Vanners signing up to help us build.
This year, we completed repairs on a Habitat home we built 20 years ago. The home needed reroofing, a new coat of paint, and other minor repairs, but it was in otherwise great shape. It was great to catch up with a homeowner, and to get a Habitat home ready for the next 20 years.
We had a great time working with students from Sehome, Squalicum, and Bellingham High School this year, and teaching them about the energy initiatives that we are building into every unit of our Telegraph Townhome Project. The Youth Philanthropy for the Environment Initiative is organized by the Whatcom Community Foundation.
The concept of “Permanent Affordability” is rapidly becoming one of the most useful tools in Habitat’s homeownership toolbox. Simply put, permanent affordability means that any future low-income homebuyer will be able to afford the purchase price of a Habitat built home when it comes up for resale.
In 2023, Habitat plans to start building a thirty home, mixed-income, permanently affordable community in Everson. Not only will the initial price be affordable to Habitat’s most economically vulnerable client, a combination of deed restrictions and long-term land-lease provisions will mean their children can afford to live there too.
This creates a small ideological conflict in that Habitat’s approach to ending poverty is to increase wealth, stability, and social equity through homeownership. The challenge is finding the sweet spot between the wealth component, where intergenerational poverty is overcome, while creating opportunities for homeownership in a market where the costs of entry are ever-increasing.
The Everson project is designed to resolve this conflict in a way that is fair to all. We envision twenty-five percent of the homes will be made available to the lowest income client earning minimum wage. Another twenty-five percent will be made available to the Missing Middle, those who earn too much to qualify for Habitat’s regular program but too little to purchase a modest starter-home or fixer-upper. The profit from the higher income clients will subsidize the lower income client. In return for the subsidy and the lower-than-market cost of entry, all clients will share their equity appreciation to guarantee permanent affordability.
The end result will be an ever-increasing supply of affordable homes, something our community desperately needs.
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County extends our deepest thanks to everyone who has donated this past year. Thank you to the thousands who made individual contributions through the Annual Appeal, monthly Carpenter’s Club, various fundraisers, or dropped off their gently used items at our donation dock or purchased items from the store. We’d also like to thank the many Foundations and Community Supporters who share our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to call home. We couldn’t do what we do without your support! THANK YOU.
Foundations, Grantors, & Community Supporters
Bank Of America Charitable Foundation
Bank of the Pacific
Barron Heating & Air Conditioning
Belcher Swanson Law Firm PLLC
Bellingham Bay Rotary
Bellingham Coin Shop
Bellingham School District
Cascade Natural Gas
Center for Spiritual Living, Bellingham
Community Boating Center
Community to Community Development
Dr. Lloyd and Kay Chapman Charitable
Ethos West Construction
General Teamsters’ Local 231
Guardian Northwest Title Co.
Gustafson & Associates Appraisal
Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat Home Improvement
Habitat Home Inspections
Industrial Credit Union
James K. Papp Photography
John B. Watts Charitable Fund
Jones Engineers Inc. P.S.
Kulshan Brewing Co
Larson Gross, PLLC
Len Honcoop Gravel Inc.
Lettered Streets Covenant Church
Management Services NW Inc.
MT Shoebox, LLC
Northwest Surveying & GPS
Peace Arch Association
Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery
PTLA Real Estate Group
Rice Insurance, LLC
Sampson Rope Technologies
Sean Sposari and Britta Halverson
Seeking Health LLC
St James Presbyterian Church
Stonewood Construction LLC.
The Eleanor & Henry Jansen Foundation
Thrivent Choice Program
U.S. Bank Foundation
United Rentals Branch 921
Washington Federal Foundation
West Coast Windows
Western Forest Products
Whatcom Educational Credit Union
Whatcom Land Title
YMCA Adventure School
Lifetime friends are important in so many ways. Habitat has been blessed by many, but there are few who have been as steadfast and true as Len Honcoop and family.
Through his company, Honcoop Gravel Inc, the Honcoops have donated countless hours of in-king labor towards the development of our projects, while always looking for new ways to support us.
Len’s passing earlier this year was saddening, but his legacy lives on as over 50 families have escaped the bonds of poverty with a hand-up, not a hand out.
Even more impactful, children numbering in the hundreds, have a pathway to a brighter future, higher education and better health outcomes. Len, you exemplify everything Habitat stands for as a Christian Ministry. Thank you for your faith, wisdom and caring. May you rest in peace and grace.
Board of Directors
Gina Stark, President
Eli Mackiewicz, Vice President
Barry Dikeman, Secretary
Ryan Kinney, Treasurer
Mike Roberts, Director
Marlin Hendricks, Director
Isabel Meaker, Director
Courtney Bartley – Receiving Manager
Troy Buist – Construction Manager
Elizabeth Cissell – Donation Ambassador
Shelley Comstock – Volunteer Coordinator
Jenrri Hough – Donation Ambassador
Cody Hutton – Donation Ambassador
Eleni Karadimas – Truck Scheduler
Brendan Lay – Donation Ambassador
Zachariah Leahrer – Donation Ambassador
Eli Malm – Donation Ambassador
Linda Montoya – Bookkeeper
John Moon – Executive Director
Erika Moore – Volunteer Development Manager
Esau Moreno – Truck Scheduler
Natalie Murphy – Donation Ambassador
Kenoi Napalapalai – Volunteer Crew Lead
Perry Olason – Donor Relations Manager
Marcelo Pratesi – Communications Manager
Hillary Pritchard – Community Outreach Director
Tyla Reyes – Front of House Manager
Lilianne Rosadomay – Donation Ambassador
Josh Russell – Truck Lead
Gus Sales – Truck Driver
Skye Saling – Donation Ambassador
Fred Sheppard – Resource Development Manager
Breanna Simmons – Donation Ambassador
Brady Skewis – Lead Truck Scheduler
Paul Stromdahl – Construction Manager
Mark Thomas – Donation Ambassador
Alic Tung – Training Manager
Chris vanStaalduinen – Construction Manager
Tristen Verdugo – Donation Ambassador
Uriah Wilston – Key holder
Em Waters – Donation Ambassador
Alexis West – Donation Ambassador
Ashley Winter – Social Media Coordinator