By TIFANY HENDRICK
Habitat for Humanity of Sumner County is a non-profit, Christian housing ministry, that began in 1993. They have built more than 57 houses in the cities of Gallatin, Bethpage, Hendersonville, Portland and Westmoreland and rely on grants, sponsorships, donations and volunteers to keep their organization running. Currently they are averaging 5 home builds per year with each build spanning over a 12-week cycle.
All builds have a theme and require 10-12 volunteers. The next build is slated for the spring and follows an event titled “Women Building the Community” on March 5th. It is an after-hours networking event organized to bring attention to the annual women’s build. It runs from 5:00om-6:30pm and will be held at The Club at Fairvue Plantation. The cost is $10/pp and includes light appetizers, drinks and a cash bar. There are several other theme buildings scheduled for 2018.
Susan Johnson is the Executive Director of the Sumner County location. She became involved with the organization in her early 30’s through her church ministry. She participated in building homes for the Habitat for Humanity organization in Lexington, Kentucky for 7 or 8 years. During this time, she was employed as a basketball coach at Georgetown University and continued to find herself invested in the Habitat cause. Her basketball team would volunteer on build sites and eventually she founded a tournament with proceeds going directly to Habitat for Humanity. After retiring from her position as a coach she sat on the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors in Scott County, Kentucky. This led to her current position as Executive Director.
The organization also oversees the Habitat for Humanity ReStore which sells new and gently used home improvement items at discounted prices and helps fund the building projects. Susan Johnson feels it is important to note “The store is open to the general public.” The store accepts donations Tuesday-Saturday and will provide proof of donation so that it can be used as a tax write-off. Mrs. Johnson shares “The ReStore is our largest source of income. It is a thrift store for anything related to the home. (We take) lightly used furniture, building materials, home décor, cabinets; anything that can be used in a home. 100% of every donated dollar goes directly towards the builds.” Habitat staff are also able to pick up donations at your home or job site. The organization also relies on from donations of time and labor from skilled workers. Mrs. Johnson shares “We depend on in-kind gifts of materials and skilled labor.”
Habitat for Humanity also offers home repair services, known as Critical Home Repair, which improves accessibility and addresses environmental hazards. A Brush with Kindness is another component of the Habitat for Humanity organization and provides exterior home repairs and services. This program has not yet launched in Sumner County, but the staff would like to see it become a part of their program. Both services are offered to low-income homeowners who are limited by age, disability and/or family circumstance. To be eligible for these services, applicants must meet three criteria: Have a need for housing, be able to afford home ownership, and display a willingness to partner with the Habitat Program. This includes Homebuyer Education classes, volunteering on the job site and at the retail store. Applicants must also be a Sumner County resident for six months or more and be a first-time homebuyer or have not owned a home in three years.
Mrs. Johnson explains “We do not give our homes away. We provide new homes for qualifying low income families that are first time home owners and they receive a home loan at 0%. We provide home repairs for seniors, veterans and the disabled at 0% interest. Mortgages are based on 20-30% of (an applicant’s) income. Most in this area are cost- burdened. They have regular work but are having to pay too much in rent to provide a safe home for their families.”
Mrs. Johnson shares “We have a fair record of people paying on time. We have not had any foreclosures in my 5 years with the company. We are their mortgage company and try to work with them on individual basis.”
Habitat for Humanity is hosting an upcoming fundraiser known as the “Raise the Roof Luncheon.” Sponsorships are offered at $500 per table and will include a musical guest and lunch. Individual tickets are $65. This event has a Title Sponsor in Creekside Homes and will be held April 25th, 2018 from 11am-1pm at Epic Event Center in Gallatin.
Applications for Habitat home builds are available at the Habitat for Humanity Restore at 327 Sumner Hall Drive. You can reach the Restore at 615-230-3032