Greg McCormick joins Habitat Kent’s Board of Directors

We are honored to welcome Greg McCormick to our Board of Directors. Now retired, Greg brings a wealth of knowledge from his background at Perrigo as SVP – Self Care Marketing, Insights and Analytics.
Upon joining our mission, Greg says:
“I believe affordable housing is a fundamental need and critical in the establishment of a successful family and building a successful community.  While this has always been an issue, the pandemic has exacerbated the need, particularly in Kent County.  I want to be a part of an organization that can help parents establish a stable and safe place to raise their children so they can give back to the community.
I became interested in Habitat when my youngest son was president of his high school’s student Habitat for Humanity chapter in northern New Jersey, and I had the opportunity to work on several builds and renovations with him.  Working with my son and his classmates to help other families get what those boys took for granted was eye-opening.  Importantly, seeing a family move into their first home and the happiness and gratefulness the families felt was immeasurable!”

We welcome Fiona Brennan Shea, Jess Eglinton and Jade Johnson!

We recently welcomed three new faces to our Habitat team: Fiona Brennan Shea, Development Specialist, Jess Eglinton, Donor Relations Specialist, and Jade Johnson. They bring with them a wide breadth of experience and knowledge and we’re so excited to have them on board!

We enjoyed getting to know all three of these wonderful women in a short interview, and hope you do too:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

Fiona: I graduated from Hillsdale College in 2018 with a BA in Rhetoric and Public Address. Immediately after graduating, I moved to Minneapolis to begin my career as an Event Planner with JW Marriott Minneapolis and returned to my Alma Mater a year later to serve the Institutional Advancement team as an event planner and host various events across the country. I also served as the Assistant Director of Student and Young Alumni Programs and it was here that I realized my passion for development, engagement, and education in the non-profit realm.

Jade: Hello! My name is Jade Johnson, but most people call me Jade J. I graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2019, earning my BBA with an emphasis in marketing. With nearly six years in digital marketing and retail  management, my professional background has led me to wear “many hats.” From managing a sales floor, hiring and recruiting talent, to social media brand management, the hats I have been able to try on and wear are far and wide. My passion lies in brand management while developing people to be leaders through coaching and feedback opportunities.

Jess: I’m coming to Habitat Kent with over 8 years of experience in the non-profit sector. For most of that time I worked in fundraising and development, but I also have experience in programs, operations, human resources, leadership, governance, and volunteerism. I earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Community Development from Calvin University, and an executive MBA from Grand Valley State University.

Q: Why Habitat Kent for you and what are you excited for when you think about starting your role here?

Fiona: I am driven by faith, family, and community, and I am committed to making a positive impact on my city. The opportunity to serve the Grand Rapids community as the Development Specialist for Habitat Kent is both empowering and humbling, and I will work every day to live out our mission.

Many of my previous roles required extensive travel and long hours away from family, friends, and community. I am so looking forward to the opportunity to make a positive impact right here in our home city of Grand Rapids alongside a like-minded group of people who share a passion for our mission.

Jess: In college, I spent a few spring breaks volunteering at Koinonia Farm, a cooperative farm and intentional community in Georgia. Habitat for Humanity was founded by individuals who lived and worked at the farm back in 1976. During my time at Koinonia, I learned about Habitat’s mission and fell in love with the impact the organization has internationally. When I heard about the opening at Habitat Kent, I couldn’t help but want to join such a great organization!

In my role, I’ll be working closely with our corporate partners. I’m looking forward to getting to know these partners and how we can work together to build homes, communities, and hope.

Jade:  Habitat is a new adventure and a new field of business I have never explored, so I am super excited to be challenged and still make an impact in the community.

Q: What are some of the things you like to do outside of work?

Fiona: My fiancé and I recently added a Newfoundland puppy to our little family, and he takes up essentially ALL of the time (6 months old and 90lbs of crazy). When I am not doing damage control with that situation, I am collecting plants, doing yoga, snowboarding, and freelance event planning.

Jess:  I’m an avid reader and creative writer. My favorite thing is snuggling up with a warm blanket, cup of tea, and a good book.

Jade: I LOVE to bake! I try not to bake unless I can bring it to work or give it to others for them to enjoy because I have the biggest sweet tooth ever! I also enjoy reading, lifting heavy weights, as well as thrift shopping! I love finding really fun household items and love a deal!

Q: Are you a New Year’s resolution person?

Fiona: This year, I am focused on planting roots in my new community. I just bought a house in January, and my fiancé and I are getting married in February so we are off to a great start! This year, we hope to build a loving home, improve our faith life together, and dive into our parish, The Basilica of Saint Adalbert.

Jess: I’m working on strengthening healthy habits! I spent the past eight years working in healthcare, so I’ve learned the importance of being active, eating well, and finding healthy ways to reduce stress.

Jade:  My resolution is trying to give myself more grace. I hold myself to extremely high standards in my work life and my health/wellness goals and I tend to let those high standards get in the way of living life in the moment.

Q: What’s a fun fact about you?

Fiona: I earned All American Honors as a Sprinter in college on a National runner-up team, but I do not enjoy running and literally avoid it all costs.

Jess: Before the pandemic, I loved to travel! I’ve spent time in France, Switzerland, Ukraine, Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, and more.

Jade: I absolutely love Shania Twain! Any Man of Mine is 100% my karaoke song. I also have a classic rock and grunge record collection!

Meet Jillianne Carrasco, our newest team member!

In November, Jillianne Carrasco joined Habitat Kent as our newest Homeowner Services Specialist! Jillianne has experience as a FEMA Corps Member, Intern at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia and as a Legislative Intern at the MI House of Representatives. She also knows over 100 Starbucks blended coffee and tea recipes from her time there as a barista.

Q: What drew you to Habitat Kent? 

Jillianne:  I love the mission of bringing communities together and being a part of people’s journey to homeownership. I wanted to do work that has a direct impact on the community of Grand Rapids, and directly addressing the affordable housing crisis is so important and impactful for our city.

Q:  What about working at Habitat makes you excited?

Jillianne:  I’m excited to build relationships with the homeowners! Each family and each story is so unique. A house can really change someone’s life and it’s a privilege to be a part of it in any capacity.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Jillianne:  I’m a devoted New York Times Crossword Puzzle solver, a coffee lover, and a mediocre yet passionate crochet-er.

Q: Pets or no pets? 

Jillianne: I have 2 aquatic frogs at home!

Welcome Yolanda Ross, MBA, our new Human Resources Generalist

Help us welcome Yolanda Ross! Yolanda joins Habitat for Humanity of Kent County as the Human Resources Generalist.  She brings a wealth of experience with her including an MBA from the University of Phoenix with a concentration in healthcare management and over 20 years of HR experience in the healthcare field.  She also has great leadership experience and is active in the community with her previous terms on the Susan G. Komen board of directors and several committees as a voice for underrepresented populations, and is currently 1st Chair of the WIN (Women In NAACP) and a mentor for young ladies in the Youth Council.

We are thrilled to have Yolanda join our team. Read our short Q&A below to get to know her a little more:

Q: What drew you to Habitat Kent? 

Yolanda: I wanted a change. Healthcare is changing and I wanted to get back to helping those who don’t have a voice and see the pride of new homeownership.  

Q: What are you looking forward to in working at Habitat Kent?  

Yolanda: Watching the affiliate grow and build more homes here in Kent County, and seeing the affiliate reach its goal of 1000 homeowners by 2030.

Q: What are some of your hobbies? 

Yolanda: I’m a DIY queen. I love making home décor, refurbishing old clothes and furniture into new and exciting pieces. Also, my health journey is my number one goal – my health is my wealth. 

Q: Lastly, what’s a fun fact about you? 

Yolanda: I have cliff jumped on almost all of my vacations!

hope + opportunity = stability: annual impact report 2021

“Hope and opportunity are the essence of Habitat Kent. Although we faced many challenges this past year, our commitment to our mission carried us through to achieve great outcomes in 2021.” – Bev Thiel, Executive Director

Read more about the 17 new Habitat Kent homeowners in Plaza Roosevelt, our innovative building practices and programs, and our exciting vision for the future.

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photo credit: Gretchen Mathos

Introducing Abby Langenberg, Habitat Kent’s New Construction & Warehouse Director

This summer we added a new position to our team and are excited to welcome our Construction and Warehouse Director, Abby Langenberg! 

Abby has a diverse construction background and was most recently a Construction Manager for Rockford Construction where she led a team of carpenters in the trades department.  She graduated from North Park University with a degree in Global Studies, Spanish and the GRCC Residential Construction program.   

We recently had a chance to ask Abby some questions to get to know her better: 

Q: What drew you to Habitat Kent? 

Abby: I love building and the construction industry, but the outcomes of projects in the for-profit world are usually only measured in dollars and cents. Habitat Kent offered an opportunity to continue doing what I love, but bringing more meaning to it. When I was in GRCC’s job training program, we built a Habitat house and I got to meet the homebuyer. Seeing the excitement and possibility that she was experiencing had an effect on me that eventually caused me to come full circle.  

 

Q:  What are you looking forward to in your new position? 

Abby:  As Plaza Roosevelt has finished up, it’s almost time to start thinking about the “next big thing”. I am SO excited to be a part of the brainstorming, planning, and execution of whatever this may be. 

 

Q:  Who do you spend your time with when you’re not at work? 
Abby:  I have three kiddos! Brielle – age 11, Sawyer- age 9, and Theo- age 7. 

 

Q:  What are some hobbies you enjoy in your free time? 

Abby:  I love to read, be outdoors, exercise, salsa and swing dance, and do projects around my house.  

Two summers ago, I took my kids on a 6-week road trip out west that included The Badlands, Yellowstone, Zion National Park, and my kids’ favorite- The City Museum in St. Louis. 

Meet Our New Homeowner Services Specialist

Michelle MacNall joined Habitat Kent earlier this summer as a Homeowner Services Specialist. She brings 12 years of experience from the Habitat affiliate in Baton Rouge, LA where she began as an AmeriCorps member and went on to work in the Homeowner Services Department. We are so fortunate and excited to have her on board!

Get to know Michelle by reading our Q&A with her below!

Q: What initially drew you to Habitat as an Americorps member?

Michelle:  After spending a few years in retail and human resources, I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world. I wasn’t sure what that was but I found AmeriCorps and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new. I also wanted to live someplace new and experience a different part of the country. AmeriCorps was perfect for that as well. Habitat interested me because I knew how important it was to me growing up to have a safe, stable home. I wanted to help others, especially children, have that as well.

 

Q: After 12 years of working with Habitat for Humanity, what keeps you interested in this work?

Michelle:  I continue to be involved with Habitat because of everything I’ve experienced over the last 12 years: Homeowners who have gone back to school because the work they did with Habitat made them feel empowered to do more; children that grew up in Habitat homes and went on to be the first of their family to go to college; grandmothers crying tears of joy as they get the keys to their very first home. Seeing how something as simple as a home can make such a huge difference in a person’s life.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in your work with Habitat Kent?

Michelle:  I’m excited to be back in my home state and helping homebuyers in Michigan. I look forward to working on my first closing here and learning how that process works in this area.

 

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

Michelle:  I love to travel! I’ve been to 23 countries and 25 states. I also love to swim. I’m hoping to get scuba certified next year. I’m a big foodie so I’m loving exploring all that Grand Rapids has to offer.

 

Q: What else should we know about you?

Michelle:  I have a three-legged rescue dog named Miggy. We both loving walking around and exploring Grand Rapids.

Ask the Expert: How to Upgrade Curb Appeal On a Budget

In our first installment of “Ask the Expert,” Tom Poll, Habitat Kent’s Warehouse Supervisor, shares affordable, easy-to-do tips and tricks to upgrade the look and feel of your home.

 

Q: What is “curb appeal”?

Tom:  Curb appeal basically means, how attractive your home is from the street. When someone first looks at your home, what do they see, how do they feel about it, and what point are you, the homeowner, trying to make with the way your home looks.

Basically, it’s the first impression someone has about your home. The idea is the curb appeal of your home is an extension of you.


Q: What’s an example of something simple to improve curb appeal?

Tom:  Outdoor lighting is a great way to give your house an extra boost or pop.  Simply changing the light by the front door will change the appearance of your home.

Solar-powered lights along the sidewalk to your front door will give a warm, inviting look.  Solar-powered spotlights shining into the landscaping or on the house will give a new look as well, especially if you use colored lights – that will really make a statement!  There are many exterior lighting options available that are very inexpensive, including the fun holiday lights that project snowflakes, pumpkins, stars, or other fun items onto your home.


Q: Ok, so where should I start to help my curb appeal?

Tom:  One of the easiest things to help with curb appeal is to eliminate any clutter that’s in the front yard.

Keep garbage and recycling bins somewhere else, put away kids’ toys when they’re done playing, and keep the front yard free of litter that may blow in from the neighborhood. This is a constant problem I have because I live on a busy road.


Q: Are curb appeal projects expensive?

Tom:  Talk with a contractor and you could be looking at thousands of dollars in projects. Thankfully, there are many things you can do for under $100.

One of the first things someone sees is the front door. A really simple and expressive way to show off your house is by changing the color of your front door. A gallon of exterior satin paint for this costs about $35 or less.

You can also change the color of front posts or railings. Depending on the amount of railing and posts you have and the material they’re made of, changing the color can be as easy as painting. You can also change materials, but it’s more expensive.


Q: What if I don’t want to change any colors?

Tom:  Some subtle things that really show your personality are putting up a fun mailbox or special house numbers.

Q: How can I incorporate plants or flowers?

Tom:  If you’ve been in your home for a long time, it might be time to replace overgrown shrubs. Planting new shrubs or flowers is an inexpensive way to change the look of your home. You can go minimalist with just a couple of accent plants, or make it look like a jungle to create a buffer with the street. This is especially helpful if you live on a busy street as I do!

Attaching flower boxes under the window for annual flowers or a couple of flower pots along the sidewalk or on the front steps adds colors that will last all summer and fall. Just remember to water them! Flowers and plants not planted in the ground need more water.