100 homes and counting: Collaboration, volunteerism key pillars to Habitat’s homeownership mission

17 SCHFH tribute

From left, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity Program Director Nancy Green, SCHFH Executive Director Kevin Gilmore, Sussex County Council President Michael Vincent, AmeriCorps representative Traci deWolfe, and SCHFH Development Director Jay Gundy.

GEORGETOWN – Having recently marked its century milestone in late May, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has aggressive home-building plans for its next 100 houses.

“It took us 24 years to build the first 100 houses here in Sussex County. We also at that time announced the plans in the next seven years we would build the second 100 houses,” said SCHFH Executive Director Kevin Gilmore, among those present for a special tribute from Sussex County Council at its June 9 meeting. “So that’s pretty exciting for us, to increase our capacity to serve more people.”

On May 27, SCHFH dedicated its 100th home to the Morris family, and right across the street the 101st home to the Perez Martin family.

“And really the house number is one thing, but think of 393 individuals – families, adults, children – that are living in these houses and have the stability in their lives. That is really the true impact of this work,” said Mr. Gilmore.

The key to SCHFH’s mission to provide keys to simple, decent and affordable houses for new homeowners is community support and collaboration.

Founded in 1991, SCHFH over the years has engaged some 13,000 volunteers, including those from AmeriCorps.

In reading the tribute, County Administrator Todd Lawson labeled June 9, 2015 the day for all Sussex Countians to celebrate Habitat’s contribution to Sussex County and to affordable housing.

Mr. Gilmore thanked County Council and the County administration for their support over these years “whether it was through grants, through a tremendous amount of guidance, through working together with Community Development and Housing Department. We’ve done some creative and some innovative things. Eleven homeowner opportunities were made possible because of the decisions of this council and your administration.”

“Thank you very much Kevin for you and everything your group does,” said County Council President Michael Vincent, R-Seaford. “We really appreciate that. It makes a better county for us.”

Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable not-for-profit loans – and the homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used as the financial foundation to build more Habitat homes.

Actually, Habitat reached its 100th home milestone in 21 years. Initially, the program was structured around home rehabilitation. To date, 132 homes have been repaired by SCHFH, in collaboration with the County’s Community Development Department.

“That’s something that was actually in our beginning years. We started with repairs. It wasn’t until 1994 that we built our first house,” Mr. Gilmore said. “In recent years we’ve come back to adding that to what we do. We work hand in hand with Brad (Community Development Director Brad Whaley) and Brandy (Brandy Nauman, Housing Coordinator and Fair Housing Compliance Officer) on those projects.”

“It is really incredible for me as the director of this organization to be in a county like Sussex where the County government understands and values affordable housing and sees how that fits together into a healthy community; if we can get our folks who are living on the edge into a sustainable housing environment. Our organization in particular targets folks who can buy that house,” said Mr. Gilmore.

“It’s hard to do affordable housing anywhere in the country, but in a growing community like we have here in Sussex it really takes collaboration to pull that off, to control our costs to make these opportunities available to hard-working people who want to improve their lives,” Mr. Gilmore said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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