Habitat for Humanity announces major initiative in the Fox Valley
By David Sharos For Sun-Times Media August 26, 2013 12:20PM
Rebuilding Aurora--Bill Allen, project director for Montgomery-based Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity, Wednesday announced a four-year, $1.8 million initiative to build six new homes and rehab 14 others in south Kane and Kendall counties. "Working Families
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:14AM
A $1.8 million initiative to build six new homes and rehabilitate 14 others in south Kane and Kendall counties will be the focus of the Montgomery-based Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity during the next four years.
The announcement was made by Bill Allen, project director for the Fox Valley Habitat group, who said that the “Working Families Rebuilding Neighborhoods” will include partnering with churches, businesses and government agencies. The announcement was made at Rush-Copley Medical Center, which has made a $100,000 commitment to the project.
Allen said he believes the group is having more success with the program thanks to improved communication about what Habitat for Humanity actually does.
“People will tell you they’ve heard of Habitat but many don’t understand how it works,” Allen explained. “The key is being able to talk with groups and getting them to understand what we do and how this fits within the community. About 85 percent of the people you talk with say they know about us, but about 90 percent can’t explain what we do.”
Employers, Allen said, think that because people work for them and have jobs, they don’t qualify for Habitat services.
“These are people with income that doesn’t allow them to have a car or other disposable income which can affect their coming to work and being more productive employees,” Allen said. “Today, we have secured support from about 10 or 11 companies and churches that have never given us a dime before, but now they have made a commitment because they understand what’s in it for them.”
Rev. Jeff Barrett, pastor of Montgomery’s Genesis Community Church and executive director of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity, announced that his congregation has pledged $25,000 to the Working Families project, describing it as “a win all the way around for businesses, the community, civic leaders, as well as the neighborhoods and the people that live in them.”
“We have a number of businesses as well as churches and others who have made a commitment to us and we’ve already had nearly $500,000 pledged for the program,” Barrett said. “We’ve built 50 homes over 20 years with this program, but now we’ve announced a four-year initiative where we’ll be doing 20 homes in just four years.”
Barrett said the boost in program planning is the result of the growth of the Habitat for Humanity board as well as a more consistent revenue stream from sources like its resale store, helping to provide funds.
“We’ve also reached out to employers who have people that are making the $22,000 to $45,000 a year that is required to qualify for one of our homes,” he said. “We’re getting a lot more quality families than we used to, and this helps everyone by adding quality homes to neighborhoods instead of rental properties and people don’t have to pay these $1,200-a-month rents and have more disposable income. It’s a win for everybody.”
The new initiative was particularly satisfying for Naperville resident Rev. Duane Mevis, 79, a retired pastor from Wesley United Methodist Church in Naperville, who gave the invocation before the announcement regarding the new initiative. Mevis said he and his wife started the local branch of Habitat for Humanity after participating in a 100-mile walk in 1988 as part of the recognition of the 12th anniversary of the organization.
“My wife and I walked a 100-mile leg that was part of 1,200-mike walk made to recognize the 12th anniversary of the Habitat, and as we walked through North Carolina we saw all of these homes and the people that had been helped and it was very powerful,” Mevis said. “When we came back, we both said we should have that here, and it was the impetus to start to provide simple, decent homes for people.”
Mevis said to experience where the organization has come today “is something not everyone gets to see in his lifetime.”
“You can’t imagine how it feels to see all of this happening now, and the support we are getting from the corporate community especially is really impressive,” he said. “So many people live in substandard homes, and this is having a tremendous impact on many people’s lives.”