Helping Build Homes, Not Just Houses – Habitat for Humanity Prince William County

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Story and Photos by Helena Tavares Kennedy

Many people know what Habitat for Humanity Prince William County is all about – helping provide an affordable place to live for people and families in need in our local communities. But some may not know the heart and soul what the nonprofit organization really does. Traci DeGroat, President/CEO for Habitat for Humanity Prince William County, gives us a window into their heartfelt mission and said, “Everyone deserves a decent place to live. That’s what unites Habitat for Humanity. A strong roof over one’s head and a solid foundation under one’s feet offers strength and stability, which helps build strong and stable communities. It takes all of us working together to make it happen. And that’s what we’re doing.”

What seems like a lofty vision of helping build strong communities is actually being done thanks to the staff and volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Prince William County. How do they do this? It begins with a lot of work from their 21 staff members, many of whom work part-time in the ReStore and an impressive 800 or so volunteers that engage in Habitat for Humanity Prince William County’s work each year providing about 15,000 hours of volunteer labor.

Working Together to Succeed

It’s not just staff and volunteers that help make the Habitat for Humanity programs successful. “Habitat for Humanity helps families help themselves,” said DeGroat. “The family helps pay for the work we do and Habitat makes it affordable for them. The family receives financial education when they buy a home and they provide sweat equity to build, rehab or repair their home. And with our help, Habitat families have more strength and stability to build a better future for themselves and their family.”

These families are so thankful for Habitat for Humanity Prince William County. A Woodbridge resident said, “After losing my husband after his lengthy battle with terminal cancer, I was left with many financial burdens…this band of angels approved my application for assistance…my house has now been returned to being my home where I can safely live with pride and in comfort. Nowhere else can a long-term county resident of 50+ years find such an honorable organization to provide an anchor during such a devastating time in my life other than with the Prince William County Habitat for Humanity.”

habitat for humanityA Manassas resident said, “Thank you so much. You were God-sent. Now my kids are keeping warm.” And another Woodbridge resident said, “You have given away your own time and efforts to help your community, let alone our home, and that is priceless. …every time we open a window in our house, we give thanks towards you, Habitat for Humanity.”

Many people are surprised to hear that Habitat for Humanity Prince William County doesn’t give away homes, said DeGroat. “Habitat for Humanity Prince William County operates its programs with three basic principles: a family must show Habitat it has a need for its programs, they must meet certain income criteria and they need to be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity by providing sweat equity (volunteer time) and repayment of a portion of costs that are incurred for their project into a Fund for Humanity (to help the next family),” said DeGroat. “Habitat for Humanity provides zero-profit mortgages and zero percent interest home repair loans to make it affordable for its family partners.”

Changing with the Times

While Habitat for Humanity is well known for new construction and its home ownership program that helps low-income families become homeowners, it may surprise some people to know that due to market forces in 2007, Habitat for Humanity Prince William County started “rehabbing existing homes for home ownership, repairing homes for low-income homeowners and providing community development services,” said DeGroat. “Now, Habitat for Humanity Prince William County has completed 200 projects using volunteer labor.”

So how can you support Habitat for Humanity Prince William County and help your local community and neighbors? In addition to donating money, goods, and your time as a volunteer, another way you can help them is to donate to and shop at their nonprofit home improvement store and donation center. The Manassas ReStore located at 10159 Hastings Drive in Manassas has been in operation for 13 years.

“The ReStore sells new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price,” said DeGroat. Besides providing a valuable recycling service, the sale of merchandise funds our work in the community.” You can check out their blog which shows pictures of the latest items for sale in their ReStore.

Some great news for local residents is that a second ReStore is opening this summer in the Woodbridge area at 14055 Noblewood Plaza, next to the BJs at the corner of the Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road. Stay tuned on their website habitatpwc.org and follow their Facebook page for the latest updates.

 

 

Helena Tavares Kennedy (hkennedy@princewilliamliving.com), a longtime Prince William County resident, is a freelance writer and communications consultant at htkmarketingservices.com and livinggreendaybyday.com.

 

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