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Seeking to put God's love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

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     The rain and cold this past Tuesday failed to stop the warm, festive, spirit at the South Division ReStore. Customers, employees, and anyone involved with the refurbishment process gathered for a re-dedication celebration. The ReStore in Wyoming had been closed since July of 2014, when a tornado came through and significantly damaged the building, causing the store to relocate to a temporary location. “It’s been a long ten months,” said Tom Poll, director of Habitat Kent’s three ReStore locations. “I know I’m going to be emotional during my short speech.” 

     And what a journey the past ten months have been. “Obviously no one predicted this tornado would hit- making these past ten months stressful, hard, and tiresome for our team,” said Gary, a ReStore employee. But what made the celebration so beautiful wasn’t the pizza, spinning discount wheel, selection of items to purchase, or even the amazing building.

     The most beautiful part was the selflessness, love, and spirits of everyone who rallied to rebuild the ReStore into something better than anyone could have imagined. Friends and supporters of Habitat Kent immediately volunteered to help in any way possible. Whether it was businesses lending their trucks after the tornado hit or retail professionals volunteering tirelessly to make the store look as spaced out and clean as possible. 

     “While the tornado was devastating for everyone involved at the time, I couldn’t help but be hopeful for the location’s future,” said Mary Buikema, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. Hope is contagious. And it was contagious throughout the whole rededication.

     “This ReStore looks so much more clean, organized, and bright than the location even before the tornado” explained Arvin, a loyal customer for five years. 

     I could not wipe a smile off of my face. Because the whole time I was able to witness how God can use hopeless situations, such as tornados, to give us something bigger and better than we can even imagine. Dan, an employee who has greeted customers at the door for eight years at the Division location was quick to speak at the ceremony, “I’ve worked here for eight years, and while the past ten months has been extremely difficult, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to this ReStore location.” 

     And I am not lying when I say that the new ReStore is better than it ever has been.  Dave, a ReStore employee, smiled and told me, “Today, in our first day of business, some customers have complained saying, ‘this is too nice.’ If that’s the worst complaint we get from a customer, we’ll take it.” 

     All three ReStore locations celebrated on the day, giving away free prizes, treats, and of course great deals. But the Division location was the epicenter of the celebration, hosting a re-dedication ceremony with words from Hyde and Buikema. 

      “It’s just like a Habitat home dedication,” said Dave. “And I think the reason our staff is so emotional is due to the fact that we after a long ten months, we are finally returning home.” 


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         When Haiti was struck by an earthquake in 2010, 1.6 million people were displaced from their homes and many families began to build homes on vacant land north of Port-au-Prince. That's where Habitat for Humanity came in. To assist these families, Habitat Haiti developed manuals to help them navigate Haiti’s land tenure laws and gain clear title to their homes. 

        Habitat for Humanity of Kent County will celebrate reaching $1 million of cumulative giving to international housing and relief work with a visit from Claude Jeudy, national director of Habitat for Humanity of Haiti.

        More than 30 local churches, organizations and businesses that do work in Haiti have been invited to participate in the celebration, which will take place 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 19 at Roosevelt Park Community CRC, 811 Chicago Drive SW. The event is free and open to the public. Jeudy, who has devoted his career to economic development in Haiti, will speak at 4:30 p.m. Under his leadership, Habitat Haiti has served more than 50,000 families.

        As part of its covenant with Habitat for Humanity International, each of the approximately 1,500 Habitat for Humanity local affiliate organizations throughout the United States and Canada tithe a portion of the unrestricted donations they receive to support one of Habitat for Humanity’s 70 international affiliates. After 32 years, Habitat Kent is the first Michigan affiliate to provide more than $1 million in support of affordable housing throughout the developing world. The donations equate to 300 homes for low-income families throughout the world, many of which are living in extreme poverty.

         In addition to operating under the familiar Habitat for Humanity model of enabling homeownership for low-income families, Habitat Haiti offers innovative programs that are tied very closely to the community’s needs. These unique challenges include high unemployment, gender inequity and navigating the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that occurred in 2010.

        Haiti’s unemployment rate is estimated at over 40 percent. To stimulate the country’s economy, Habitat Haiti employs and pays wages to would-be volunteers, who build more than houses. Habitat Haiti also performs a broad scope of work to improve the infrastructure of the neighborhoods in which it works such as digging drainage ditches and wells to ensure a community has clean water.

         Habitat Haiti also recognizes the complicated relationship between gender equality and economic development. The affiliate has equipped 2,000 women in Haiti in small business development and home maintenance. Habitat Haiti also assembles and gives out tool kits to families that have skills but lack the resources to improve their own housing.

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Grand Rapids, MI 49503