From a vision in the Southwest Georgia town of Americus grew a global life-changing organization that helps families own their own homes. And it’s at work here in Hall County through Habitat for Humanity.
“Since we were founded in 1989 here in Hall, we’ve built more than 50 homes, most of them scattered around the county,” says Tim Williams, executive director of Hall County Habitat for Humanity. “Thanks to an anonymous donor we now have a 21-lot subdivision called Copper Glen to help people realize home ownership. This has become especially important in our county where there’s a huge shortage of affordable housing.”
The pace is picking up now that Habitat has access to property. It was also the recipient of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation’s 2016 Golf Tournament that donated $284,000 to the organization. In the past two years, the group has built eight homes.
Tim is clear that Habitat’s mission is not to provide free homes. “We offer no-interest mortgages and sell the homes at no profit to people who qualify,” he says. “And anyone who receives a Habitat home must make a commitment as well: they must take classes to educate them about finances and homeownership, they are required to donate 260 hours of work on builds — 200 hours on other homes and 60 hours on their own homes. And they receive counseling over the life of their mortgage to help with credit issues and how to stretch their budgets.”
Corporate support and sponsorships are key to the continuance of Habitat, but in many ways, it’s the people who volunteer that keep the program thriving. Companies can sponsor building a home both financially and with man-power, setting up team build days. Employees and friends gather at the build site to help with framing, drywall, painting and landscaping during the building process. Licensed contractors do the mechanical work, such as plumbing, heating/air-conditioning and electrical.
The eligibility requirements are stringent and there’s currently a waiting list in Hall of nearly 300 people who must first attend a Habitat orientation program before applying. These usually take place twice a year. Habitat’s next session is scheduled for July 28-29 and interested people can contact Habitat and asked to be invited to attend.
How It Began, Where It’s Going
From humble beginnings in the mid-1970s, Habitat for Humanity was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller, who were associated with an interracial Christian community near Americus called Koinonia. The Fullers and Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan conceived the idea of building homes to sell to families at no profit through no-interest mortgages. They started with 42 half-acre lots. Today, Habitat has helped more than 6.8 million people around the world have affordable housing.
Habitat’s Operations Headquarters is still located in Americus, where it maintains a Global Village and Discovery Center that consists of examples of existing housing around the world and 16 Habitat-built homes to show the variations in housing for people in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe. It is open for tours by visiting www.habitat.org/about/global-village-discovery-center. The organization’s international headquarters in Atlanta manages fund-raising and administrative duties.
Each local affiliate pledges to tithe 10 percent of the funds raised to Habitat International to help with the global commitment. Many, like Hall County, operate a ReStore, a storefront that sells furniture, building supplies and surplus items to the public.
“Our goal here in Hall is to eliminate poverty housing in the county,” Tim says. “So many people deserve a decent and affordable home. It’s awesome to help someone who otherwise might never be able to own their own home.”