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Habitat Kent Blog

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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     I pulled up to the construction site ready to perform my usual routine of taking pictures. I talked  to Jason the site supervisor for a bit and spotted a volunteer I’d never seen before. 

     “You don’t know Fred?” Exclaimed Jason. “You’ve got to meet him, Fred come over here!” 

     It didn’t take long to realize why Jason insisted I have a conversation with Fred Johnson. His soft, kind, personality was wise and easy to converse with. He’s currently studying at Western Theological Seminary and while most of his colleagues serve at churches, he chose Habitat Kent. 

     “Why Habitat?” I thought. Since Fred was busy volunteering I set up a time to meet with Fred offsite and hear more of his story. 

     FredQuoteFred has helped within many departments at Habitat Kent. Some Fred sightings have included (but are not limited to): pounding nails on site, typing data into a computer, or organizing supplies at the warehouse. Fred experienced jobs in various fields, circumstances that tested him, and cultures that changed him. 

     Before our dialogue we were mere acquaintances, and it surprised me how much he was willing to share. It reminds me of one of my co-worker’s closing quotes on her e-mails which states, “Being perfect is not what connects people. Vulnerability brings us closer together.” Vulnerability, humility, honesty, and genuine are some words I could use to describe Fred.

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     “We just liked the idea that we could do something to help someone get a roof over their head,” Dave resounded. “It’s tough to have a good day if you don’t have a roof over your head.”

     It is a rare occurrence to meet someone, let alone two people, who embody so many qualities that you admire. Laurie and Dave Russell are compassionate, inventive, humble, and hopeful. They have been consistent donors, volunteers, and enthusiasts at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County for upwards of two decades. The act of giving back through Habitat Kent is a trait they fostered in their children from a young age and grew to become a family bonding tradition. Beyond their plentiful labor on work sites, their generous spirit will continue to help others in a new way: the Dave and Laurie Russell Family Scholarship for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Families.  

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In case it’s slipped past you (we’ve been publicizing it a bit), we’re celebrating our completion of the Building Blocks Campaign: helping 200 West Side families in 2 years. It’s been humbling to not only partner with “200 in 2” but also witness volunteers and donors rally behind a cause that is more than the construction of a house- but a revitalization of a community.

“It’s been an honor for us at Gordon Food Services to sponsor a home and help a family,” remarked Tim Fatum, Senior Manager of Human Resources at Gordon Food Services. “But on top of that, it was truly a moving experience when I realized that we’re volunteering for a whole community.”

In a recent interview on the WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin, Jon Hankins, Corporate Relations Specialist at Habitat Kent explained the high impact goal of Building Blocks and how we “seek to break the cycle of poverty for our families.” For a further understanding of how we combat poverty, here are some economic statistics from Building Blocks.

  • 40 new homeowners and 160 homes renovated and repaired in 5 West Side Neighborhoods- These efforts helped to increase property values around the neighborhood and put money into the tax system. Residents are then motivated to fix up their homes and deepen roots in their neighborhood.

  • $4.9 million was raised/gained to benefit the local economy during the building and selling of homes.

  • $7 million will be produced to local government, businesses, and employers over 10 years. Vacant or blighted properties that hinder neighborhood development will be transformed and utilized to benefit the community, both socially and economically.

  • 89 local jobs were sustained. Stability in the home allows for more stability in employment and education for families.

  • 12,000 hours of sweat-equity achieved by our hard-working families. These work hours increase the sense of ownership for homeowner families.

What’s most beautiful about these numbers and statistics is that there’s a story of hope behind each one. Thanks to you, we can continue to impact lives and go #BeyondTheHome in Grand Rapids.   

Building Blocks newstory on WZZM 13

Shelley Irwin Radio Interview with Jon Hankins, WGVU

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Hear the story of Ignace and his journey from Mozambique to Grand Rapids. Together with his wife and four daughters he was able to apply to the Habitat Kent homeownership program, complete his 325 hours of sweat equity, and build a home for his family. The Karageyas new home at 1045 Dorchester Ave. will be dedicated on Tuesday July 21st. 



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     Habitat Kent desire’s to create permanent change in people’s lives. We do this by building affordable and sustainable homes while empowering neighborhoods to create a positive change in the community. But as crucial as owning a home can be for a family, a reliable job can be just as influential. 

     Desire was born in Burundi and then moved to Rwanda with his parents at a very young age. He came to America to help support his family with opportunities not found back home. Because English isn’t Desire’s first language, he had trouble getting plugged into a stable career opportunity. Enter Express Employment Professionals. 

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425 Pleasant Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503