Sunday, April 8, 2007


I have said on more than one occasion that we live in an opinion-gifted community. Fortunately, we also live in a community where we have people who just don’t “talk the talk” but they also “walk the walk!”

On Thursday March 29th, I was privileged to be in the presence of just these kind of people when Habitat for Humanity Orange County, NC held its volunteer appreciation dinner at the United Church of Chapel Hill.

In the room were many who have made the local Habitat for Humanity a real success — volunteers, homeowners and staffers. In her welcome, executive director Susan Levy indicated what she considered to be the notable achievements since the 2006 dinner and notable they were.

Our Habitat group has dedicated its 150th home in Orange County. The “Fairview Initiative” in Hillsborough was started and it has helped to revitalize that community. Home construction started on Terrell Road and on Tulip Tree Road in Hillsborough and one of the homes is unique, as student winners of the North Carolina Sustainable Build Design Competition did its design.

Also in 2006, local builders Anderson Homes and Olde South Building Company not only sponsored three homes in Richmond Hills, they built them in a “blitz build” in just one week! This endeavor was part of a nationwide “Builders Blitz” resulting in the construction of more than 400 new homes nationally.

To support projects in Orange and Durham Counties, the two Habitat’s “Hand-Me-Up” resale store sold furniture, appliances, household goods and antiques and was able to give both county groups $35,000 each. Later this year, another store will open and sell construction and building materials as a way to not only recycle perfectly good items but also raise needed funds.

Another accomplishment that should make everyone proud is that Habitat Orange now has build 50 homes over the last four years with sprinklers installed. A volunteer spearheaded the effort and, working in conjunction with local fire officials, the idea came to life and now those 50 homes are some of the safest in Orange County.

Believing in being good stewards with the gifts they receive, our Habitat tithes $4,200 for each house it builds. This is the cost to build a Habitat home internationally. To fund its projects, Habitat, like so many other organizations, depends on the generosity of foundations and local donors. Last year supporters raised over $200,000 to exceed the Stewards Fund Challenge to raise $150,000. The $350,000 is to buy the land to build more homes in Orange County. Funds were also raised at the Southern Village 5K race and a picnic where former senator John Edwards addressed hundreds on the importance of affordable housing.

Habitat’s capital campaign just went public. With a goal of $5 million, $4.3 million has already been raised in the quiet phase and the organization hopes to raise the remaining $700,000 before the end of 2007. More on where you might come in a little later.

All of this good news is really great, but the REAL story is the Habitat volunteers. These giving people not only swing hammers, but they also serve on committees that make the program work. They come from every strata of the community and they do what they do out of a sense of commitment and love that is simply overwhelming.

Who are the volunteers? They are us! They are high school students and UNC students from a wide range of organizations and groups that want to help. Examples include the UNC Class of 2007, numerous fraternities and sororities, the business school, religious campus organizations, departments and many other university groups. Volunteers are from our many congregations of all faiths who believe so strongly in the mission: “Habitat for Humanity of Orange County brings together God's people and resources to build quality affordable homes with people who need them.”

Each Habitat homeowners is required to invest 325 hours of sweat equity during the construction of their home and the homes of other Habitat families. As a result, neighbors meet neighbors long before they move in and develop firm and cooperative friendships. They also work along side volunteers and build lasting bounds of friendship. And homeowners also know that their monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat homes for another family, thus helping to build Orange County one home at a time.

I stand in awe of those honored for their service to this great organization, people like former board chair John Sehon who received the Alice Call Miller Volunteer Award for helping Habitat grow and improve to better accomplish its mission.

What can you do? Volunteering your time is simple. Contact the volunteer coordinator at 932-7077 ext. 221, or by email at If you desire to donate, go to and select the option that works best for you. Giving your time and talents and/or your money to support this worthy cause is a good thing to do!

Note: Fred is a Habitat volunteer and the vice chair of the capital campaign leadership committee.

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