Looking for a fun evening that will also contribute to an amazingly worthy cause? Look no further than the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna on April 8, starting at 5:30 p.m. “Destination Design” is an auction experience of furnishings and design hosted by Wood County Habitat and all proceeds will be used to fund the organization’s work assuring that all in the Mid-Ohio Valley have decent, affordable housing. The cost is $35, which includes a light dinner. There will be both a live and silent auction of items donated by local companies. All elements of the evening have been sponsored, so 100% of the proceeds will go to build houses.
Wood County Habitat, which is about to merge with Washington County Habitat in Ohio to become Habitat for Humanity of the Mid-Ohio Valley or Habitat MOV, was founded in 1991, and since then has spearheaded the construction of 69 homes. Executive Director Alvin Phillips has provided stellar leadership for a large portion of that time. He was Executive Director of Wood County Habitat for four years before moving on to work with the international organization for seven and then came back to fill the Executive Director position here once again, this time for the past ten years.
According to Mr. Phillips, Wood County Habitat completes four to six houses per year while their Washington County counterpart has averaged a house every one-and-a-half years. While those numbers are impressive for a relatively small area, the idea was brought forth that the two organizations could come together to better serve families, reduce duplication of efforts, and be more effective in raising awareness of the organization’s mission.
Now that the merger is all but final, new office space and a new, much larger, Habitat ReStore facility are officially opening on April 30, though the offices are already occupied. ReStore sells new and used home improvement and home supply materials, such as cabinets, paint, appliances, and tools. They also carry office supplies and equipment. The expansive new facility covers 11,000 square feet, including a large staging area and covered drive-through donation lane. Their previous facility on 7th Street was only 6800 square feet. Most of their inventory is donated by individuals, though some is donated by companies. For instance, when a local paint store had to quickly liquidate their inventory, they donated much of the paint they had on hand. All proceeds go back to the Habitat mission of enabling as many people as possible to achieve decent housing.
Habitat MOV has a small number of paid staff, but the vast majority of the work on the houses is done by volunteers. Mr. Phillips said that they twelve to fifteen faithful, talented folks (most retirees) who are there pretty much every day that construction is going on. Work on the houses takes place on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, weather permitting. There was a big push before the holidays to get two homes under roof so work could continue through the winter months. Mr. Phillips was quite extravagant in his praise for this core group of volunteers. He made it clear that Habitat MOV’s impressive record for house completions could never have happened if not for this tireless group.
Some of the work is also provided by the future homeowners themselves. Once selected by Habitat, the family, assuming there are two adults in the household, will be required to put in 350 hours of what is called “sweat equity,” 75 of which must be completed before their house is even started. The hours are put in primarily on their house, but most also contribute to the completion of other future homeowners’ houses. This is encouraged, being seen as a way to pay it forward to the next family. And once their house is complete, Habitat sells it to the owners below market value, financing an interest-free loan. The sweat equity and affordable loan allow the recipients to take ownership of the home in every sense of the word and helps them to see the benefits of financial accountability. The sweat equity has the added bonus of teaching the homeowners basic maintenance skills as well.
But even with the regular volunteers and the future owners, the houses won’t be completed without the help of the community. Mr. Phillips said they welcome any groups, such as churches, civic organizations, and businesses, but they are also happy when individuals want to help. He said that right now, groups or individuals who contact Habitat about volunteering will probably be put to work immediately, but he hopes someday soon that they’ll need to start scheduling ahead in order to meet all of their requests. Volunteers age 16 and older are welcome, though anyone under 18 must have a permission form signed by their parents and there will be some limits as to what they will be allowed to do.
Habitat is a Christian organization, but their philosophy is inclusiveness. They welcome donations and time from people of all walks of life. The mission of the organization is to work toward a world where all people, no matter who they are or what they believe, have a decent place to live at a cost they can afford. So if you’re interested in helping out with a donation or by volunteering some time on a construction site or you would be interested in participating in “Destination Design,” simply call 304-422-7907 or go to www.woodcountyhabitat.org for more information. You can also find the event on Facebook by searching for Destination Design.