Important Home Maintenance Tips for the Colder Months

The journey to homeownership takes encouragement and endurance, ultimately leading to evolution and structure. The changing weather could complicate your journey if you ignore proper maintenance. You aren’t alone in this, as we are here to help you prepare for colder months and avoid those common pitfalls.  

Furnace Filters: 

Changing your filter can ensure your furnace operates smoothly and improve the indoor air quality. If left unattended, it can cause the filter to shut down and cause severe damage to your furnace. Remove the filter and hold it toward the light to determine its cleanliness. If the light is clouded, then it is best to replace the filter.  

Clean the Gutters: 

Usually, clean gutters direct water from your home, lessening the risk of water damage. Cleaning gutters will be vital as piling leaves can clog them. Blocked gutters can capture tons of water, providing a home for mold and insects or causing water to seep into your home. While there’s no single best method, cleaning it from the ground is the safest route. Use a leaf blower to clear the debris and a water hose to rid the remains. If this isn’t a comfortable option, contacting a professional to help is viable.  

Covering Outdoor furniture: 

It is sad to say goodbye to the sunny days, but let’s welcome this transition with open arms. The weather has yet to be brutal, making it a good time to prioritize the conditioning of your furniture. Cold temperatures can damage outdoor furniture if not properly stored and protected. It is best to consider the furniture material; wicker materials such as bamboo and seagrass may begin to unravel during the season. Wood furniture will begin to split when exposed to colder temperatures, and durable materials like metal will last longer in comparison; however, they will still be impacted by consistent exposure to extreme conditions. Store them in an easy-to-build storage shed to avoid damage to individual furniture. Shielding wooden furniture with a wood protectant will protect it from mold, algae, and mildew. Cover larger items such as couches and chairs with a cover or tarp. Ensure both furniture covers and tarps fit your furniture tightly, leaving minimal room for rain to enter. 

Shampoo Carpets: 

Due to warm and humid weather, carpets take longer to dry in the summer. Making fall the perfect time to start as temperatures are cooler with lower humidity levels. Cleaning your carpets can provide a cleaner and healthier environment for your family. It improves air quality and eliminates allergens, as it can trap airborne particles and other pollutants that may harm your ability to be comfortable inside your home. Carpeting is essential to interior comfort and a critical aspect of home maintenance that should not be neglected. 

Sealing Air Leaks: 

Air leakage can quickly become troublesome, creating a drafty and uneasy housing experience. This can welcome dust and dirt, making it difficult to keep your interior clean. Also, it costs you wasted energy and higher bills. It can be difficult to determine where your home has an air leak, but it is doable as you’ll want to familiarize yourself with common areas of air leaks, such as floors, ceilings, and outside walls. Caulking may be one of the more cost-effective methods for sealing your home from air leaks.  

Homeownership will come with complications that can test your endurance; however, these tips can assist in making your homeownership journey rewarding, as everyone deserves a decent place to live and call home. 

Affordable Housing & Health

For many, our homes are an expression of ourselves and our creativity. We change colors and fabrics to reflect our tastes and alter the furniture layout so that our home has a sense of flow and visual appeal. 

But our homes are also a leading determinant of our mental and physical health. In fact, “Housing is one of the best-researched social determinants of health.”

Many of us have a friend or family member who suffered a fall because their home wasn’t designed to age in place. Lead exposure can lead to irreversible brain and nervous system damage. Poor ventilation and mold increase the likelihood of asthma. The health effects of asbestos and radon are well established, and a new debate has sprung up over the health effects of the nitrogen dioxide emitted from gas stoves in our kitchens. 

What isn’t as well known is that housing, and particularly the consequences of its rampant unaffordability, has both mental and physical health implications. Early poverty, for instance, is linked to “toxic” stress that harms brain development.  Families who are “housing burdened” are often forced to make compromises when it comes to nutrition, healthcare, and childcare. 

When we expand the singular house into a collection of houses (otherwise known as a neighborhood!) the correlation between housing and health is even more pronounced. So much so, that the phrase Your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code,” is often quoted in public health discussions.  

At Habitat Kent we are very aware of all these issues and discussions. Health and stability through affordable housing is what we do.  We know that when a family’s home is a blessing instead of a burden, they flourish!

So, from our vantage point, the future looks bright and hopeful. We see neighborhoods where families from different backgrounds live next to each other. We see children with hope in their eyes. We see families begin to realize that the future is wide open and not pre-ordained. 

We see it because for the past 40 years, we’ve been blessed to witness it on almost a daily basis!

Celebrating Home with Nelson and Rosa

Homes are where families are nurtured, memories are created, and dreams are brought to life. Homes give us the space and security to work and plan for a better tomorrow. Last week we were able to celebrate this milestone with Nelson and Rosa’s family during their Habitat home dedication.

Helping their children to have a better future is why Nelson and Rosa sought out Habitat and put in the hard work to make this house their family’s home.

“Our family is getting older and growing and we need more space,” says Nelson. “Even having enough room at the table for our children to do school work is difficult. And trying to do that in Covid was very hard.”

Completing the Habitat journey wasn’t easy either. It meant working night shifts and then going directly to a Habitat jobsite. But even during that effort the family enjoyed the process. “The best part of the experience was working with families from everywhere – all over the world. Even if we didn’t speak each other’s languages and only communicated through gestures, we worked together and helped each other.”

Their new home will provide the space for this family to continue their journey and nurture their dreams. For the kids, who plan to enroll in Southwestern High School at Plaza Roosevelt, it means their school will be very close. Almost a decade ago we purchased the property where the school sits and the community shared with us their own dream of having a school there. To have a Habitat family move into this neighborhood and enjoy the benefits of that project is our dream come true.

Congratulations, Nelson and Rosa and family!

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

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.

stronger together: annual impact report

You guys are family to us because you’re helping us every step of the way. Habitat is making sure that
we fully understand budgeting, we understand everything about our mortgage and just the process of
buying a home. I have the resources to help me be successful.   – Serita

Read more from homeowners and about Habitat Kent’s community impact.

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