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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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Stability and opportunity. 

A well-funded endowment provides a permanent source of support for addressing Habitat Kent's existing and future needs.

  • Allows the development and implementation of new and better programs while growing Habitat Kent's core services.
  • Provides balanced income streams ensuring Habitat Kent's mission can weather periods of economic unsteadiness or unexpected expenses.

Endowments are vital to donors!

An endowment gift perpetuates the donor's values; it provides assurance that Habitat Kent's service to families in need will survive the donor. 

  • Your life's work and passion for change can live on indefinitely.
  • The endowment principal will not be spent and will grow; providing a source of lasting support and personal legacy.
  • Your annual giving to Habitat can last forever. For example: if you currently give $1,000 a year to Habitat Kent, a $20,000 endowment gift will ensure that Habitat Kent receives that annual gift of $1,0000, FOREVER! Your generosity will be invested in the lives of local low-income families in need of housing, FOREVER! (Actual distribution ranges from 4%-5.75% annually. Example given based on 5%)

Why Grand Rapids Community Foundation?

An endowment at GRCF means Habitat Kent's service will expand, remain healthy, and continue to revitalize our community's families and neighborhoods!

  • GRCF handles investment management and oversight; all accounting and financial reporting; and an annual audit.
  • Being invested in GRCF's larger pool of assets can lead to greater growth, greater income and lower investment fees.
  • GRCF can facilitate complex gifts from donors.
  • GRCF provides Habitat Kent's donors with access to planned giving resources; enabling Habitat Kent's staff and resources to be allocated to fulfilling its mission. 
  • Being listed in GRCF's annual report puts Habitat Kent's name and mission in front of our area's leading philanthropists. 
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     “I was bit by the Habitat bug a couple of years ago,” said Habitat Kent homeowner Tennille Harkness. Tennille paused and got a bit choked up while sitting in her living room just two years removed from moving into her Habitat home.

     “I’m definitely blessed. The timing was perfect. The conditions of my old living situation weren’t healthy,” Tennille said. “I worked hard in the Habitat program for my kids. And I want them to eventually own this home in years to come.”

     However, the “Habitat bug” did more than build a home for Tennille and her four kids. It also gave her the itch to serve her block on the west side of Grand Rapids. This itch to serve manifested itself this past week when Tennille accepted a position on the board of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization.

     “I’m excited to be on the board and represent the residents on the west side,” Tennille said.

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     Grand Rapids Community Foundation today announced a $500,000 grant to Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. The grant will support Habitat Kent’s Building Blocks strategy that focuses on neighborhood revitalization in Grand Rapids’ west side through new home construction and rehab and repairs of existing homes.

     Habitat Kent will develop and preserve affordable housing opportunities and revitalize west side focus neighborhoods by partnering with 120 families to build or repair their homes. The strategy is a continuation of Habitat Kent’s recent two-year neighborhood revitalization campaign that took a holistic approach of creating affordable housing in Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

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     Steve, Beth, Nilay, Melodi, Kyle, Arie, and Evelyn are thrilled for their new home at 1019 Sibley. Steve didn’t expect a conversation about Habitat with a friend two years ago would lead to a new home without a leaky roof. No more buckets are needed in the family room now, only buckets of fun.

     Steve and Beth appreciated earning sweat equity hours and have learned a lot in their partnership with Habitat Kent. “My character has grown because of this Habitat process,” Steve said. In order to complete construction hours, Steve used his vacation time at work. Steve and Beth also appreciated Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and implementing financially disciplined concepts.

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For Habitat Kent homebuyers, even an average day can be challenging. Balancing work, family, and earning sweat equity takes organization and commitment. Listen how one of our homebuyer's makes time for a home maintenance class and learns valuable information for her future home. 


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    Every month Donaldo Hernandez leads members of his church on a journey that could change the trajectory of their lives. The church members are seeking immigration consulates over 150 miles away in Chicago and Detroit. Donaldo helps provide his congregation with the knowledge and resources to become United States citizens.

     “There’s a lot of fear in the immigration process,” said Hernandez, a Habitat Kent homeowner who works at Church of the Restoration in Wyoming, MI. “There are lots of people in Michigan who are good people and indigenous people that are suffering.”

     Hernandez and his family applied for the Habitat Kent homeownership program in 2011 after having his own personal immigration struggles.

     “I was deported in 2007 and I was in Honduras for three and a half years working through this process.”

     While Hernandez was thousands of miles from his family, he got a first-hand experience of Habitat’s impact globally.

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     Home connects us all. It is a place we feel peace and community. Renewal Real Estate reflects this truth to connect the homes of their clients to the homes of Habitat families. 

     Located in Caledonia, MI Renewal Real Estate “invests in the future of Michigan by contributing 10% of all gross profits to organizations making a difference in the lives of people, neighborhoods, and cities throughout the State.”

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     After an extensive national search, the Habitat for Humanity of Kent County board of directors has appointed BriAnne McKee as executive director.

     McKee brings more than a decade of experience to her new leadership role, most recently serving as the director of volunteer services before stepping into the position as interim director. She joined Habitat Kent as a mortgage application specialist in the homeowner services department in 2012.

     More than 100 individuals applied for the position during the two-month long search to find a successor for Mary Buikema, who left earlier this year.

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     The new year brings much excitement for the Martin family as they look forward to a new chapter in their Habitat home. Luke, Megan, Annalise (3 years) and Asaph (6 months) are especially ready for stability, having moved five times in their six years of marriage. 

     The past couple of years Luke and Megan have been paying rent for a crowded, moldy, 2-bedroom apartment in Wyoming. Lack of homebuying education, the perception of debt, and affordability prevented the Martin’s from homeownership. The Martin’s two-year partnership with Habitat started with a simple trip to the ReStore. Luke walked in looking for a door knob for their current apartment and left with a pamphlet of information on starting a story of partnership.

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     Shaun, Yvette, and their children Nyasia, (16) Shaun Jr., (13) and Tayshaun, (10) are thrilled to be moving into their Habitat home on Grand Rapids’ west side. The home build was sponsored by Thrivent Financial. Yvette discovered Habitat Kent’s program through one of her friends, an 11-year Habitat homeowner. they’re excited to leave the cramped rented house they have been living in.

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The Beer City Saxophone Ensemble played a concert this holiday season to benefit Habitat Kent. I sat down with one of the bandleaders of the group, Gary McCourry. He shares his Habitat story that began in New York City and has flourished in West Michigan. Music can be a platform for powerful change in the simple and big ways. 


change in the simple and big ways. 
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     In a community where many of us have never known growing up without a home, the impact of homeownership can be diluted. At Habitat Kent, we’re honored to partner with families who experience the impact of the homeownership process and beyond.

     The living situation before many of our homebuyers start the Habitat program is dire. Families are living in cramped apartments or rental units while overpaying for rent and utilities.

     “My whole life I’ve been always moving, all the time,” said homebuyer Jasmine. “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.”

     Each homebuyer story is unique, but each member of the program shows a need for homeownership, ability to pay for a home, and a willingness to partner with Habitat Kent

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I sat down with Habitat Kent homebuyer Steve Jones who is on the finishing end of the homeownership program. Steve shares his story on how going through the homeownership program changed his family and his own personal life. He talks about sweat equity and how giving to Habitat Kent has a powerful return on investment. 


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     The Beer City Saxophone Ensemble will perform on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. in a concert featuring a wide variety of jazz arrangements with rhythm section.  This event is open to the public at Christ Lutheran Church, 2350 44th Street SW, Wyoming, Michigan.  This swinging group includes saxophonists Gary McCourry, Jim Hayward, Mike Lutley, Tom Lockwood, Tom Stansell, Greg Marsden, and Bob Nixon and will be joined by pianist Steve Talaga, drummer Eddie Eicher and bassist Joe Oprea.  Free will offerings will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.

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     Clovis, Fany, Johanne (8), Arthur (6) and Grace (2) are excited for a new chapter in their lives. A two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment has been too crowded for the Moyopo-Djouguem family, and they’ve lived in various locations since immigrating to the United States in 2012.

     “My main motivation for moving to the United States was because I love my children,” Clovis said. “I want a better future for them.”

     Clovis found out about Habitat Kent’s homeownership program through his brother, another Habitat Kent homeowner, and he feels blessed that his family “can have a new start.” This new start means a quality education for the children and a continued education for both Clovis and Fany. Clovis wants to eventually continue his education in the health care field while Fany is studying to become an electrician.

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     This month marks the beginning of my second AmeriCorps term year at Habitat Kent. I have the privilege to tell our partner family's stories via social media, our blog, etc. I feel honored to remind people of the ‘why we do what we do’ here at Habitat.

     Last week, Habitat Michigan generously provided a scholarship for me to attend the Affiliates In Motion conference in Lansing, Michigan. The AIM conference brings affiliates in Michigan together for a three-day conference to collaborate ideas, network, and discuss how we can best serve Michigan together.

     I processed a lot of information in that three days, and I wanted to share some lessons and ideas that would be relevant to you and allow you to get to know the “deceptively complex” Habitat for Humanity.

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     Sweat equity. A phrase that is crucial to our mission at Habitat Kent. Because of the partner families invested in our mission, we witness empowerment, excitement, and hope.

     “It’s a way for Habitat families to pay it forward and give back to our community,” said Habitat Kent homebuyer Tiara VanDam about the approach of sweat equity.  “We’ve been given a great opportunity, and Habitat requires sweat equity so we can pass it on.”

      Some homebuyers will even go so far as to donate hours once they accomplish their required amount. Jasmine Mendez, a homebuyer in the middle of her sweat equity hours recently received 50 donated hours from another family.

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     On October 7, Habitat Kent and local Bank of America Merrill Lynch volunteers participated in the Bank of America Global Build Week by working on a new construction build in the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood. This volunteer day is part of the long-standing commitment from Bank of America to help individuals and families achieve home ownership.

     “At Bank of America Merrill Lynch we believe in the positive change that affordable housing and home ownership can have on a community,” said Jeff Dykstra, Merrill Lynch financial advisor and Habitat Kent board member. “Our Habitat for Humanity Global Build Week allows our employees to support our partnership with Habitat by rolling up their sleeves and volunteering.”

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     Art Prize is Grand Rapids’ largest and most visible event of the year. In six years, Art Prize has hosted 10,688 artists’ entries and had 1.9 million visitors. This year, Habitat Kent decided to join the Art Prize fever by partnering with SiTE:LAB, a nomadic all-volunteer arts organization.

     By using the three-acre parcel of Plaza Roosevelt project land (breaking ground in 2017), SiTE:LAB was able to create their 2015 Art Prize entry called the “Rumsey Street Project.”

     The above video explains the relationship between Habitat Kent and SiTE:LAB working towards Plaza Roosevelt in 2017.

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     The Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Board of Directors has appointed BriAnne McKee, the organization’s director of volunteer services, as interim director. She replaces Mary Buikema, Habitat Kent’s visionary executive director, who will leave her position on Nov. 2 as she transitions into a new life with her new husband and children outside of Ann Arbor.

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425 Pleasant Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503