Celebrating 500 Homeowners

Last month we reached a significant milestone – celebrating the home dedication of the 500th Habitat Kent homeowner! Whittley was beaming amidst four generations of her family there supporting her, Habitat Kent staff, volunteers and donors.  

While it was a time to reflect on the organization’s 40-year history, it was more so a celebration of all that Whittley has accomplished on her journey to homeownership. Whittley learned about Habitat Kent almost two years ago through a friend and decided to make her dreams of homeownership a reality for her family. She was highly motivated and set her sights on providing a safe home with more living space and place for her kids to play and grow. 

While working her way through the program, Whittley most enjoyed learning the ins and outs of home maintenance and how to build a home from the ground up, and the financial classes. She formed and cultivated friendships with other homebuyers in the program, creating a great sense of community. At times, it was difficult for her to balance all her responsibilities – being a mother of two, working full–time, and completing the homeownership program – but she was inspired by the opportunity to build wealth and stability for her family. Alongside these dreams, she most looks forward to decorating a home that is hers, hosting gatherings, holidays and birthdays, and gardening in the yard. Knowing that her family will not have to worry about increasing rent and having to move provides a sense of peace.  

Whittley would like to thank all the volunteers and donors, and all her friends and family who supported her through this process. She is excited to own a home to call her own! 

Shanika’s Journey Goes Beyond Homeownership 

Shanika’s journey to homeownership with Habitat Kent began with a desire for stability and growth for her family. After moving back to Michigan from Mississippi in 2021, increasing rent and inadequate space for her daughters prompted her to seek a better situation. 

Shanika’s co-workers introduced her to Habitat Kent, inspiring her to learn more about our mission. Shanika decided to start her homeownership journey with Habitat to give her daughters a safe and loving place to live. 

Throughout the process, Shanika immersed herself in the Habitat program, participating in construction activities and financial education classes. She enjoyed learning how to use tools and being actively involved in constructing her future home. Fueled by her determination to provide a better life for her family, Shanika balanced challenges like having a full-time job and being a single mother with grace. 

Now that she’s closed on her new home, Shanika plans to pursue her nursing degree. She is confident Habitat Kent has provided the stability and support she needs for her educational aspirations and a brighter future. She also anticipates hosting celebrations and dreams of starting a garden to grow fresh vegetables and flowers. 

Above all, Shanika sees her journey with Habitat Kent as a testament to the power of hard work and perseverance. She hopes to inspire her daughters by showing them that with faith and dedication, dreams can indeed come true. Grateful for the support of Habitat Kent staff, volunteers, donors, and her loved ones, Shanika is ready to begin this new chapter and leave a lasting legacy for her daughters. 

Shanika’s journey with Habitat Kent is not just about homeownership — it’s about creating a foundation of stability and hope for her family’s future.

A Celebration to Remember: 40 years and 500 Homeowners

Photo credit left and top right: Mojet Photography

On October 26th, we gathered with over 300 community members at our 40th Anniversary Event celebrating 500 homeowners! It was an incredible evening reflecting on our history and the impact we have made as a community. 

We were uplifted by the many stories shared by and about our founders, volunteers, supporters, and Habitat Kent homeowners. Quanette, a Habitat Kent Homeowner since 2019, shared about her journey to homeownership and said she was moved by the outpouring of support. “The volunteers working on my house didn’t know me, but they were out there every single day. Knowing that people care and are trying to get community back – it touches me a lot.”  

Keynote Speaker Majora Carter, an expert on neighborhood revitalization, inspired us to continue working toward building thriving communities: “Instead of building an idea that you have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one, help others see the power of investing in your communities. That is what helps create stability.”  

Dr. Linda Smith emphasized this message. Smith grew up in the third Habitat Kent home and is now Corporate Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at a large global company.  She gave a testimony of hope and opportunity, and encouraged guests to invest in their communities by supporting local organizations like Habitat as her family does. 

We were also honored to recognize the recipients of the 2023 Habitat Kent Awards and thrilled to have so many of them celebrating with us at the event: 

Hope Award – Habitat Kent Founders: Honoring those who emulate hope in our community 

Jonathan Bradford – Inner City Christian Federation, Federal Home Loan Bank; Alistair Brown – Scott Christopher Homes; George Heartwell – Heartwell Mortgage, Mayor – City of Grand Rapids; Dave Jacobs – Home Repair Services; Betty Zylstra – Salvation Army Booth Family Services, Community Food Club 

Stability Award – Van Haren Electric Inc.: Honoring a long-term supporter with roots in our past and a vision for the future

Opportunity Award – Mercantile Bank: Honoring a partner who provides opportunities to give back to their community and opportunities for community growth

It was tremendous being surrounded by so many supporters who care deeply about building a world everyone has a decent, affordable place to call home. We are grateful for what we’ve accomplished together and are incredibly optimistic about the next decade of working together with a passionate and dedicated community! 

Watch Linda and others share their Habitat stories! 

Check out more photos from the celebration! 

Welcome Home, Isaac and Elizabeth!

Isaac and Elizabeth recently closed on their Habitat Kent house, becoming first-time homeowners. But they were champions of Habitat Kent well before joining our homeownership program. They first learned about the organization by translating for their friends and community members to help them complete their Habitat homebuyer applications.  

After years of helping their friends, they decided to apply because they wanted a safe and stable home with plenty of space for their children. While their journey to homeownership was long with plenty of ups and downs, they remained steadfast. With their children on their minds, they worked hard to complete their sweat equity hours, required classes, and homebuyer workshops. On the day of their home dedication their joy was evident by the bright smiles on their faces and heartfelt words shared by Isaac about what this home means to their family. 

Isaac and Elizabeth enjoyed working with the staff and many volunteers and thank everyone involved for assisting them in their homeownership journey. They’re eager to host gatherings and holidays and celebrate their kids’ birthdays in their home for many years! 

 

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.”

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!

Jawaan

This is the story of Jawaan and her family.

When Jawaan applied to become a Habitat homeowner, she brought her faith in God, her favorite motto (“Teamwork makes the dream work!”), a lot of energy and hope, and a few wishes. She wished that she and her four children could live in a safe, affordable home, away from unpredictable rent hikes and moves. She wished to continue her employment and to take more college classes, and maybe even to own her own business one day. Jawaan’s sons wished for more space and stability, and her daughter wished for her own bedroom for the first time in her 15 years of life.

Jawaan closed on her own Habitat home just days after her birthday and she says ALL her wishes are coming true! Thank you for partnering with Habitat Kent and families like Jawaan’s to help them pursue their dreams.