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Habitat Charlotte wins national honors

By Mark Price
msprice@charlotteobserver.com

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  • How to help

    If you are interested in joining a Habitat Charlotte team going to El Salvador Aug. 2-10, there is an information meeting March 28, 5:30 p.m. at the Habitat Charlotte office, 3815 Latrobe Drive, in Charlotte. Details: 704-376-2054.



Of the nation’s 1,554 Habitat for Humanity affiliates, Habitat Charlotte has one of the best track records for providing homes to more than 100 low-income working families annually, according to Habitat for Humanity International.

And it’s the best affiliate in the nation for providing money to create housing overseas, a total of $3 million over the past 30 years for homes built in El Salvador.

As a result, Habitat for Humanity International has named it among the Affiliates of Distinction for 2013, an honor that puts it in the company of affiliates in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Seattle. Seven affiliates in all were honored, and Habitat Charlotte was the only one in the eastern United States.

Habitat Charlotte CEO Frank Spencer said the affiliate is also No. 1 in the nation in terms of sales and profits at its ReStores sites, which have provided nearly $1 million toward the cost of housing programs.

Shelves at ReStores are stocked with recycled building supplies, cabinetry, appliances and furniture. All items in the stores are donated by members of the community.

Spencer said the secret of the affiliate’s success is coming up with innovations that boost results.

An example: Local ReStore staff members work with companies such as Lowe’s to get items from homes going through remodeling. Habitat volunteers also offer to come to homes and “deconstruct” kitchens where homeowners are throwing out the old and bringing in the new.

“We’ll come and take that out of your house in such a way that it can be fixed up and resold to folks who can’t afford brand-new cabinets,” he said. “Many ReStores in the country don’t offer that.”

More innovations are being implemented for the coming year, and Spencer expects the result to be a 20 percent increase in the number of families helped annually, up to 120.

Habitat Charlotte is in the business of providing housing that low-income families can buy with no-interest loans.

Its three initiatives include: building new homes, repairing existing homes that were donated or purchased after a foreclosure, and making critical repairs to old homes, mainly for the elderly and disabled who can’t afford repairs.

Among those helped last year were a Vietnam veteran who’d been disabled as a result of repeated exposure to Agent Orange and a Bhutanese immigrant family that had lived for 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to Charlotte to begin a new life. The boost enabled the family to recently purchase a small grocery store in Charlotte, officials said.

Habitat Charlotte is celebrating its 30th year in 2013. In that time, it has housed 1,200 families, or about 5,000 people.

Price: 704 358 5245
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