Turning a House into a Home: Linda’s Story

Linda first applied for a Habitat Kent house in December 2019. She was approved but had to wait for a home to become available. She was finally offered and accepted her home in October 2021. During that time, and throughout the fourteen-month period in the homebuyer program, Linda and her sister, Willie Mae, lived in a small apartment paying high rent.

Linda has loved her time with Habitat Kent and makes a point to attend every event that she can. She has especially enjoyed her time working on construction sites. She said that working with the construction staff and volunteers gave her a chance to meet people from all different walks of life that she wouldn’t have met otherwise. Everything about Habitat Kent has been a rewarding experience for Linda, but she says that painting and doing the finishing touches on her house has been her favorite part. There’s something to be said about making a house look like a home.

In December Linda celebrated her home dedication on a cold and blowy winter day. But inside was all warmth and bright smiles as staff and volunteers gathered with Linda.

Linda was able to move in just after Christmas. She can’t wait to turn her new house into a home where she can relax and enjoy time with family and friends. She’s also looking forward to getting to know her new neighbors and exploring her community.

But most of all Linda is looking forward to this time next year when she can have everyone over for a big holiday meal!

“A Safe Place to Call Our Own”

Tory’s relationship with Habitat for Humanity began very early on in her life. Riding on the bus to and from school, she would see the signs outside of Habitat Kent build sites and whisper to herself “I want one of those!” Tory’s dreams are now being realized as her new home stands in the very same neighborhood she grew up in.

“I am looking forward to creating a space for my family to be whole in; a safe place, a place we can call our own.”

This home will support Tory’s family in many ways and open doors to new opportunities for her children. Most notably, each child will have their own room, and the family will be able to take pride in owning and maintaining their home.

Before she partnered with Habitat Kent to build her new home, Tory and her family were living in a small 2-bedroom apartment that did not suit their needs. They battled through some setbacks at the end of their sweat equity hours – but Tory found strength through the support of other Habitat homeowners and staff. Of her accomplishment, she says, “I like to think I am breaking the cycle and showing my kids to never give up.”

Work with a Purpose : Celebrating Bill and his 21 Years of Service!

Today we give a big shout-out celebrating Bill Moerdyk, currently the longest-serving member on Habitat Kent’s team. Throughout his 21 years of service, he has been led by a heart for the mission and for the homeowners of the houses he has helped build.

After serving as missionaries in Nigeria for ten years, Bill and his family cultivated a strong sense of what it means to make an impact at the community level by engaging in mission-centered work. While talent and experience bring value to the table, Bill believes one of the most important aspects of building a Habitat home is to reflect an understanding of the mission and of the families we walk alongside on their homeownership journeys.

Having served Habitat Kent in various roles since he began his career here in 2001, Bill confidently states that he is most effective in his current role as Senior Site Supervisor. To date, Bill has built about 370 Habitat Kent homes. He loves being on the job sites, instructing volunteers, teaching new skills, and connecting with the families who will one day live in the homes being built. One of his joys is empowering people to complete tasks they previously did not feel equipped to do.

Bill’s legacy with Habitat Kent spans statewide. He is the founder behind the annual Construction Roundtable, a gathering of construction employees from all Habitat affiliates in Michigan with the goal of advancing building strategies and learning what’s new on the market. This Construction Roundtable was picked up by Habitat Michigan and is now known as the ‘Homes Summit.’ He also previously led Habitat Kent’s ‘Brush of Kindness’, a three-day project where Habitat Kent partnered with 250 Americorp volunteers to improve 14 homes on one street.

Bill says of the work we do, “we are a witness not only to the families we serve, but to each other and to the neighborhoods we work in.” 

We are so grateful for Bill, and for the countless lives he has touched in his many years of service to Habitat Kent and our community. 

19 households become homeowners with your help: annual impact report 2022

“The truth is, there are no words to fully express our gratitude.” 

Those are the words of Bilsan, the 2021 Habitat Kent Homeowner of the Year.  Those words are tribute to the hard work our volunteers put in, the generosity of our donors, and the commitment of our community.

Hear more from Bilsan and other Habitat Homeowners and learn about our first all-electric house, Women of Habitat Kent, neighborhood engagement activities, and other big strides we made over the past fiscal year with your support!

Read more here.

Quanette’s Homeownership Journey

Quanette’s journey to Habitat Kent began when she was informed that her apartment was being sold and that she would have to move out. With Grand Rapids area rents so high and rising, she soon realized it would be a challenge to find a place that gave her the space she needed at a price she could afford.

Fortunately, her parents suggested she and the kids stay with them while she prepared herself for more permanent housing. When she returned to house hunting, she found that the opportunities were the same: no adequately sized housing was available in her price range.

That’s when Quanette remembered Habitat Kent. A close friend had a Habitat house and had told Quanette to check out the program.

Quanette entered our program with a lot of energy. So much in fact, that she completed her sweat equity before her house was even under construction.

“When my own house started, I couldn’t stay away. I wanted the pride of being able to say, ‘I helped build my own house. I can now look at it and I know I helped build this wall. I helped with painting and siding and the front steps.’”

Quanette worked so much extra time, that she gifted some of her extra sweat equity to other single moms in the program. “As a single mom, I know how hard it can be, so I wanted to give back to other single moms. Volunteers came out and helped me, so I wanted to help others as I had been helped.

Seeing the volunteers on my house put a spark in me. You have all these people coming out and they are happy to be there. It really touched me. There are a lot of good people in the world. People who are still willing to help other people.

This house has brought my family together. It will make us closer. We are so looking forward to the holidays now. We can’t wait to host. I can also see the joy and pride that my children have in their house.”

Congratulations, Quanette, and thank you to everyone who helped her on her journey to homeownership!

Building Leaders and Community in Roosevelt Park

Throughout May and June of 2022, we partnered with Dwelling Place to host Building Leaders, Building Communities (BLBC) in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. This program seeks to bring neighbors together to learn about community organizing and the power of resident leaders. Over the course of eight weeks, neighbors from Roosevelt Park spent time identifying gifts and passions, building leadership skills, and talking about the issues facing their community. Each week, neighbors were able to connect with guest speakers who talked about their involvement in the neighborhood and provided tangible ways for neighbors to make the changes they want to see.

Two Habitat Kent homeowners joined the facilitation team and helped bring neighbors together through this amazing experience. They have been involved from day one helping to plan and lead this experience for their neighbors. Toni, a Plaza Roosevelt homeowner, shared “I joined this to learn about my community and the people in it, but what I got out of it was so much more.”

During the final celebration session, participants, facilitators, and several community members enjoyed a dinner together and each participant received a congratulatory gift box specifically curated for them for their commitment to their community. Several community organizations shared about resources in the community and opportunities for these new leaders to get more involved in the neighborhood – Our Neighborhood Our Health, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, and the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. Each participant also had the opportunity to share what they gained from their experience and what changes they want to see or concerns they have about Roosevelt Park, which was especially valuable with Milinda Ysasi, Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner, in attendance.

We are so appreciative of the partnership with Dwelling Place and everyone involved, and the opportunity to empower neighbors of Roosevelt Park to take the next step in their leadership journey.

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!