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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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      Peisly Guzman and her eight-year-old son, Joshua, are ready for their next chapter of life in their new Habitat home.

     For Peisly and Joshua, their new home is a world away from the small, one-room basement where they have to share a bed. 

     “My dream in being a single mother is to provide for my son and eventually pass the home on to him. He won’t stop talking about his room and how he’s going to design it. This has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, next to being a mother,” Peisly said. 

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Kayla Lopez and her four children Anyah (9), Semyra (8), Jermaine (6), and Sevaeh (3) are excited for their new life in their Habitat home. 

     For Kayla, the journey to homeownership has been over two and half years, but despite the long journey, it’s been “so worth it.” Being on her own since 17, she’s no stranger to obstacles in life. “There were a lot of feelings and emotions along the way and I found myself praying a lot as far as, ‘God if this is your will, let it be,’” Kayla said. “Without God it couldn’t have been possible. I’ve never been able to get a loan from the bank towards homeownership.” 

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It changed my life,” explained Dalia. “I never thought the simple act of volunteering could do that.” Dalia has an inspiring passion for serving others. “It all started in the Habitat program,” she said.

Dalia and her family moved into their Habitat home about six years ago. Before, her family lived in an area of town where safety was an issue and living conditions were substandard.  “Our Habitat home really brought us together as a family. As a family, we’re all more responsible and connected than we’ve ever been. We’re getting our debt paid off, and the home really united us. If I could describe home in one word it’d be blessed.”  

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     Jasmine Mendez has been working hard to make sure her two sons Octavio (5) and Carlito (2) will be moving into their Habitat home this summer. In fact, 5-year-old Octavio asks Jasmine if they can go to their “new home” every day. He says he wants to make sure that, “the people know how to build my room.” 

     Jasmine has worked with a local manufacturer for five years and this August will be finishing her schooling to pursue a career in medical billing and coding. 

     Jasmine is especially excited for the stability her Habitat home will provide her sons' stability that she’s never had. “My whole life I’ve been always moving, all the time. As a kid, if I didn’t switch schools three times per year then it wasn’t normal to me. I couldn’t make friends or call anywhere home. It was really hard for us. Life was chaotic.” 

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Latrice has owned her home in Grand Rapids for six years. She reflects on the journey of becoming a homeowner and how it has strengthened her family and provided stability for her future. At Habitat Kent, every memory is a shared inspiration and motivation to others.

Special thanks to WKTV Community Television for production equipment. Music from Drew Davis and mobygratis.com.

You can create strength for people like Latrice.

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Some volunteer with a hammer; others with a needle. Once a month, 15 people from the Grand River Needlepoint Guild gather together to needle pictures for future Habitat Kent homeowners.  

When I visited them recently, they were quick to clarify that a variety of ages and genders enjoy needlepointing. One needler spoke up for the guild: “It’s not just us old ladies that do this, we promise.” She also clarified a common misconception. “It’s different than stitching. Needlepoint allows you to get creative with a much broader palette of techniques and threads.”

The Grand River Needlepoint Guild is affiliated with the American Needlepoint Guild, which was founded in 1972 and now has almost 9,500 national and international members. The Grand River Needlepoint Guild started meeting in western and central Michigan in 1994. Last year, they began partnering with Habitat Kent and have needlepointed 22 pictures since.

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Below is a guest blog post by expert DIY Theresa Clement.

     Spring is here, and DIY makeover ideas are springing up like crazy in my brain.

     So when I spied a few rows of wood chairs at the Habitat for Humanity Bucks County ReStore, my DIY day was made. I knew I could turn one of them into a DIY planter for new flowers to liven up my porch.

     Some chairs were in pairs but most were singles, and all of them were $5 or less. A bargain if you want a chair, and a huge opportunity for a springtime repurpose project. 

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     Habitat for Humanity has been named “Brand of the Year” in the social services nonprofit category based on the 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Equity Score. This is the second consecutive year the global nonprofit has been recognized for its strength in brand equity.

     In addition, Habitat for Humanity earned the distinction of being named the “Most Loved” and “Most Trusted” brand within its category this year.

     “The reason we are able to humbly receive this recognition is because of the dedicated homeowners, volunteers, and donors who actively share the mission of Habitat Kent,” said Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Executive Director Bri McKee.

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     The SpartanNash Foundation is pleased to announce that it has raised $20,200 for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County in partnership with SpartanNash store guests.  Participating stores and fuel centers in Kent County included Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Markets, and Forest Hills Foods and fuel centers.  The campaign ran March 4-13, 2016.

     SpartanNash (formerly Spartan Stores) has partnered with Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Michigan since 2006 and surpassed the $1 million donation mark in 2015. The company has also supported eight home builds with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County (the most recent of which was a home build for a veteran in 2015) and sponsored the 100th LEED-certified home by Habitat Kent (MI) in 2012.  

     In 2016, SpartanNash expanded its partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates in seven additional states (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) where the company operates retail stores.  Together with the SpartanNash Foundation, $114,500 was raised and 100% of funds raised will be donated to the Habitat for Humanity affiliate serving the community where the dollars were raised. 

Read more about SpartanNash's regional scan program for Habitat for Humanity. 

Join SpartanNash in helping provide strength and stability for families in Kent County.

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     Samai grew up in Sierra Leone and came to the United States when she was 10 years old. “I lived in a mud hut and slept on a dirt floor in a war-torn country. To me, everything is an incredible blessing. My job. My family. And now this home. Where I come from, I couldn’t even have dreamt of owning my own home.” 

     Samai and her children Jonathan, Dee, Brandon, Bryan, and Rebecca are ready for their next chapter in life at their Habitat Kent home. “We’re ready. We couldn’t be more ready. Living in a three bedroom apartment got a little too cramped for us,” Samai said. “The twins have been sleeping in the same room as me.” 

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     Stephanie Harris got involved with Habitat for Humanity in high school and has continued to be a driving force in raising up the next generation of volunteers for Habitat Kent. Stephanie is currently the president of Habitat Young Professionals of Kent County, which is a group that helps support Habitat Kent’s work through volunteerism and giving. HYP also provides a platform for networking and fellowship for young professionals through service.

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      “My position is trying to get everyone equipped with what they need,” Harris said. She serves as a liaison between the group and Habitat Kent staff in order to most effectively create opportunities for service and fundraising.

      Harris has been around Habitat for many years locally and in her hometown of Cincinnati, giving her a unique perspective on the impact of Habitat.

      “Everyone is coming because they're looking for something,” Harris said. “People connect and people find community and people get houses in safe places.”

      When Harris went to college she actively pursued involvement with Habitat Kent that led her to join HYP as a student. Harris said her connection to Habitat as a student and now as a young professional has changed her view on unity and serving with others.

      “I’ve become more aware of the beauty of diversity.”  

      HYP will be hosting their 4th Annual Build-a-Spike Volleyball Tournament on June 18th at the Score in Grand Rapids. This will be an opportunity for corporations or groups to sponsor a team, have fun, meet new people, and raise money for Habitat Kent. Email Membership@hypkc.org if you’re interested organizing a team, sponsoring a table, or donating a silent auction item.

Click to learn more about HYP

Listen to Beyond the Home on iTunes 

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   Below is a guest blog post written by Tom Rademacher b2ap3_thumbnail_Tom-Rademacher.jpg

       It began with a gentle reference to Chinua Achebe, one of Africa’s most celebrated storytellers.

     It concluded with a profound quote from American writer Anne Lamott.

     Not your typical luncheon.

     But just the kind you might expect from Habitat for Humanity Kent County -- an organization that puts people first.

     Upward of 100 men and women gathered recently to engage a trio of speakers – Kenyatta Brame, executive vice president at Cascade Engineering; the Rev. Doriane Parker-Sims, pastor at Kingdom Life Ministries; and Robert Torres, executive director of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan.

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     On March 9th Habitat Kent hosted a lunch dialogue on embracing justice in your organizational strategy. The goal was to create an inclusive space for community members and friends of Habitat to discuss how justice can be incorporated into the work that we do, no matter if it’s in ministry, nonprofits, or the corporate world. The dialogue was helmed by three panelists: Kenyatta Brame Executive Vice President of Cascade Engineering, Roberto Torres, Executive Director of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, and Reverend Doriane Parker-Sims of Kingdom Life Ministries.

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It started with a successful millionaire couple 40 years ago. Millard and Linda Fuller sought to reaffirm their Christian faith by giving away all of their possessions and moving to a farm, where a group of Christians had gathered to intentionally live according to New Testament values.

Millard Fuller’s approach to starting Habitat for Humanity was counter-cultural even by today’s standards.

As part of their ministry at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, the Fullers helped neighboring low-income families build affordable homes. Homeowners were expected not only to work with Koinonia volunteers during the construction process but pay back the cost of the house to a revolving fund, called the “Fund for Humanity.” This model allowed volunteers to build even more houses.

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     When most college students traveled south in search of some fun in the sun, a group of enterprising students from Boston College headed to Grand Rapids to serve with Habitat Kent.

     Last week 13 Boston College students donned their work boots and hard hats and serve at two Habitat Kent builds.

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“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10

     The definition of a tithe within Habitat for Humanity is essentially the same as the biblical definition of tithe – to take 10 percent of what we have been blessed with and give it back to God. Through Habitat’s Tithe program, Habitat affiliates in the United States are encouraged to donate 10 percent of all unrestricted cash donations each year to further the organization’s work in other countries.

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     On March 4, 2016, the SpartanNash Foundation is launching a companywide fundraising campaign in partnership with Habitat for Humanity local affiliates where corporate-owned retail stores are located. The scan will run through March 13, 2016.

     At all Kent County Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Markets, Forest Hills Foods and Fuel Centers, customers will have the opportunity via any checkout lane to donate $1, $5 or $10 to Habitat for Humanity Kent County. When customers make a donation, they will receive four coupons toward Spartan® brand products. Stores will hold additional fundraising activities during the 10-day fundraiser. The SpartanNash Foundation will donate 100% of funds raised to the Habitat for Humanity affiliate serving the community where the dollars were raised. SpartanNash corporation underwrites the cost of the campaign through its more than 160 stores and provides volunteer opportunities for associates to assist with home builds.

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     Most people who work in social service or economic development know the "babies in the river" folk tale. It has a few variations, but essentially the storyline is as follows:

     The residents of a village are gathered by a river for a picnic when someone notices a baby in the river, struggling and crying.  

     The villagers’ panic subsides as someone successfully saves the baby; but to their horror, they notice another screaming baby in the river. Before they know it, more and more babies come down the river. Fortunately, the villagers are up to the task and quickly organize their efforts. Some people are in the water and others take care of the babies on land. But as the work continues unabated, several villagers stop working and run upstream.

     "Where are you going?" shouts one of the rescuers. "We need you to help with these babies!"

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     I don’t know about you, but I could use a little help when it comes to shaping my worldview. If I’m honest, hearing the phrase “religious institution” often creates a bit of fear in me. It gets my blood pumping a bit.

     It’s a complex feeling. One that I’m not proud of. But whether we like it or not, we’re all going to form a worldview which shapes how we see people. What’s important is taking a step back to realize what has shaped our worldview. And at this point, I’ve let negative news headlines and people’s opinions (not facts) shape how I approach other religions. Partner that with a lack of exposure and sticking to my familiar, comfortable, Christian circle and it’s no wonder I have this feeling.

     None of our worldviews are perfect. And they never will be. However, in my year and a half at Habitat Kent, I’ve learned a lot about taking small steps towards “building” peace and simply seeing all people as fearfully and wonderfully made. And for me, a big part of the realization came from exposure to Habitat Kent’s approach to interfaith work.

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HABITAT FOR HUMANITY OF KENT COUNTY

CONTACT US
616-774-2431
425 Pleasant Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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