Levine foundation’s grants to Habitat create ‘lifelong change’

As a band of volunteers began raising the 1,181st Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte house last week, the organization learned that its new revolving Living Legacy Fund has grown by $100,000 – and maybe double that.

The donation came from The Leon Levine Foundation, a group well-known for its generosity in the Charlotte region. The $100,000 is an outright gift, good to finance one mortgage. The foundation, run by Family Dollar founder Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra, also said that it will match whatever the legacy fund raises through May 31 up to another $100,000.

It’s the second $100,000 gift from the Levines to Habitat in two years.

“This fits one of our goals of helping hard-working people and families achieve self-sufficiency,” said Tom Lawrence, the Levine foundation’s executive director. “Home ownership is not for everybody, but the local Habitat has a long track record of success for finding families who have a desire to work hard to get these houses.”

The donation will provide a Habitat family a $100,000 mortgage to finance the building of a home. The family’s monthly mortgage payments go back into the legacy fund to pay for the construction of more homes.

“We can build a house and provide a mortgage for that $100,000,” said local Habitat spokesman Phil Prince. “Each home helps stabilize a family. When they become homeowners, they become property tax payers. It strengthens a neighborhood when you have homeowners instead of renters. The homeowners’ children are graduating from high school and going to college, which increases the likelihood that those children will become homeowners themselves.”

Since 1983, the local Habitat affiliate has repaired or built homes for nearly 1,400 families. Those homeowners have paid $12.8million in local property taxes, Prince said.

Nothing was given to them. They were required to put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity before they were given interest-free mortgages to buy their homes.

Habitat is on target to build 47 houses this year. The house begun last week for Baye Dione of Senegal and his family is the 28th this year and is set to be complete in March, Prince said.

He said the Levine grants are “strong seed money (for the legacy fund). The Levine foundation is very judicious in how their money is allocated. Their mission is not unlike our mission – investing in opportunities that create permanent lifelong change.”

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Want to help?

If you’d like to donate to Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte’s Living Legacy Fund, go to www.habitatcharlotte.org and click “donate.”