Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Movers and Shakers: Habitat for Humanity International
Unless you’re one of the top five Giants, building 17,000 houses in a single year seems unattainable. And for a nonprofit organization, it’s improbable.
|“Builders are very compassionate people. They get excited about helping to build houses for families who, in their normal business, they don’t build for.”
—Millard Fuller of Habitat For Humanity
25 Years of Giving
Unless you’re one of the top five Giants, building 17,000 houses in a single year seems unattainable. And for a nonprofit organization, it’s improbable. But Habitat for Humanity International has a track record of setting ambitious goals, achieving them, and raising the bar each successive year.
“We built 17,000 homes worldwide last year, and a little over 6000 in the United States,” says president and founder Millard Fuller. In calendar year 2000, Habitat reported 4247 closings for revenues of approximately $203.7 million. Their rank in the Giant 400 is 74th this year, compared to 92nd last year.
At Habitat headquarters in Americus, Ga., Fuller ran down a list of activities planned this year in conjunction with the organization’s 25th anniversary.
“Not only are we trying to put the spotlight on the work of Habitat, but more importantly on the issue of substandard and affordable housing,” he says. The celebration officially kicked off last December with the first-ever Hollywood for Humanity Build, which drew over 3000 volunteers from the entertainment industry working on 20 houses in a single week. Nearly 10,000 college students are using their spring break to build Habitat houses: “I was in Clemson, S.C. where more than 2000 students from that school did a five-house blitz. It was a huge success.”
Also launched this year was Houses the Senate Built. U.S. senators, their spouses and staff members are building two Habitat houses in the Capital Heights district of Washington, D.C. The houses will be dedicated in June during National Homeownership Week. Afterward, each senator must build at least one house in his or her home state by the end of the year.
Two other events planned for 2001 are the Women’s Legacy Build in Denver (five houses to be built entirely by women) and the first World Leaders Build. The actual 25th anniversary celebration will take place in Indianapolis in September. In connection with that event, 250 houses will be built by Habitat’s affiliates in Indiana. Prior to the start of the celebration, the affiliates will build 25 houses that are symbolic of Habitat’s history, with a plaque in front of each house explaining the significance of that particular year. Speakers will include Jimmy Carter, former HUD secretary Jack Kemp and current HUD secretary Mel Martinez.
One might wonder why, with all the demands that are placed on home builders’ time and resources, they so readily commit themselves to Habitat projects. “Builders, as a group, are very compassionate people,” says Fuller. “They get excited about helping to build houses for families who, in their normal business, they don’t build for. These are people whose incomes are so low they can’t go to the bank and get conventional financing. I think they appreciate the opportunity to help families realize the American dream who, without a program like Habitat, never could.”
Since Fuller and his wife, Linda, founded Habitat in 1976, their essential mission has not changed. “We want to make shelter a matter of conscience,” he says. “We want to make it socially, politically, morally and religiously unacceptable for families to live in substandard housing.”
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