Special Thank You To Our AmeriCorps National Member

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

At Habitat Montco this year, we hosted our AmeriCorps National Service Construction Crew Leader, Paul Rihn! Throughout his service term, Paul has been a part of multiple home dedications, and was able to give the new homeowners their keys, which was a great experience for all to witness!  Paul has worked on many homes throughout the county, and has built relationships with these partner families like no other!  He has been a part of countless Critical Home Repair projects, worked on new construction builds at our Bridgeport site, and has worked on our biggest rehabbed home to date in Pottstown! We could not be more thankful for all of the hard work and effort that Paul has put into our organization over the past year!

Paul has made some truly outstanding connections with our homeowners, because of his outgoing personality and desire to serve and give back!  Whenever he can, Paul will talk to the homeowners, whether that is during a lunch break, or even while working on their homes together!  He takes the time to make that connection with each of them, and genuinely wants the best for every one of them!  It is incredibly rewarding for me, as Paul’s Host Site Manager, to see him standing up there with the new homeowner during a home dedication and presenting them with the keys to their new home!  The combination of passion that Paul has for helping people, and getting to know them is undeniably immeasurable.

Paul has been such an outstanding member to work with.  He is dedicated, he is loyal, and most of all Paul is a great role model and an incredible example of a hard worker.  Paul truly takes the time to get to know each volunteer that comes through our system, and is great at learning a little about why they wanted to volunteer.  Since Paul, himself, had been a volunteer with Habitat for about 20 years prior to coming to serve as an AmeriCorps member, he is able to connect on another level with these folks. It is great to see!  Day in and day out, Paul works his hardest out there on the worksite, but it truly is his smile that keeps everyone going!  If you ask anyone in our office, Paul is the man with the million-dollar smile - it really just makes your day!

Although his service term is coming to an end, this is not the end for Paul! I am extremely excited to say that Paul will be returning for another service term with us beginning in August!  Paul is such an asset to our team, and we are more than happy to welcome him back for another year!  We know that this past year will be a hard one to beat, but if anyone can out-do themselves, it's Paul!  We look forward to all of the new accomplishments that Paul will have, and all of the hard work and effort that we know he will put forth!

Thank you, Paul, for your hard work, and continued service to Habitat!  We appreciate all that you have done for us, and all that you continue to do!  We are already looking forward to next year!  Thank you!

 

ReStore's Upcoming DIY Workshop- Join Us!

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By Elizabeth Hefner, Director of Development and Communications

A few weeks ago, I saw a video where someone knitted a blanket on their arm.  This seemed like a brilliant way to create a homemade gift that was not time intensive, looked fantastic, and was usable.  Unfortunately, I am not the most gifted DIYer. Still, I gathered the supplies, followed the video’s instructions. Before I knew it, sure enough I had tied my-self into literal knots.  After getting untangled, I decided to search the internet for another DIY that would not get me so "tied up" in the details.

Online, there were too many adorable ideas for something beautiful, simple, and practical. I knew that I could complete a project if I just had the right set of supplies and instructions but as a DIY novice, I can be pretty timid at tackling new projects. That's when it hit me…instructions are the absolute key to completing a successful project. I need step-by-step instructions to guide me, and I have found my perfect solution.

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Summer Reading

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director 

In the summertime, anytime I have a few spare moments, you can find me lounging in my plastic Adirondack chair in the shade of my back porch with a good book in hand. Usually it’s something with a hero and a villain and probably set in some historical location like Ireland or Scotland. This summer, however, I am reading something that has been a bit different.

I’ve been reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. You may have remembered hearing something about Evicted back in the spring when Mr. Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, or when he was the guest speaker at our neighboring Philadelphia Habitat’s annual fundraiser. I had originally heard about the book after he won these awards and was able to listen to an interview with Mr. Desmond about his experiences in Milwaukee. During the interview, he stated what those of us on the front line have known for years: “This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today, and acknowledging the breadth and depth of the problem changes the way we look at poverty.”

For me, the book is not an easy read because the author paints a vivid picture of what it is like to be poor and live in a marginalized neighborhood in several areas throughout Milwaukee. As I fly through the pages, I can see the connections and similarities to the communities here in the northeast. Things like blight, a high number of renters in the community, underfunded school systems, heavy handed and myopic agencies that “follow procedure” at the cost of losing their humanity, and a lack of well-paying jobs could describe so many communities throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.

The second chapter talks about a tenant who is wheelchair bound and disabled living with two teenage sons. He’s about to lose his housing because he is $290 dollars behind on the rent. The reason he’s behind is that he received an extra disability check and, not knowing it was a mistake, he bought his children shoes, food and some clothes. The County required him to repay the money and now he is unable to pay the rent.  But, it is more complicated that just that…his landlord provides housing to a large section of his neighborhood and struggles to collect rent, sharing that her tenants are often in trouble with the law or each other. In this story, Desmond paints a picture where no one is truly good or evil. The tenant became wheelchair-bound because he was high on crack and passed out in an abandoned house, losing both feet to hypothermia. Having learned from that experience, he now acts as a bit of a mentor to the neighborhood boys, playing cards and dispensing advice. The landlord is one of two African American landlords in that area of the city and has a toughness born out of exposure to so many people prompted by desperation. It would be easy to call the landlord heartless or greedy, but the author helps the reader understand that the issues around her decisions are much more complex than we would think.

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2017 Build-A-Thon

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

AmeriCorps is a program that is very important to Habitat affiliates all across the country.  Throughout the United States, there are hundreds of AmeriCorps members giving a year of their lives to service with all different affiliates, and in different capacities.  I was lucky enough to meet about 115 members at the AmeriCorps annual Build-A-Thon event a few weeks back!  Each year AmeriCorps and Habitat team up with affiliates to do a week long Blitz Build in one of their communities.

This year, there are 3 full weeks of service happening, two in Des Moines, Iowa, and one in Colorado!  I attended the first week of the Des Moines build as a member of the event staff, and it was such an incredible experience!  Members during this week came from affiliates all over the map, including, Hawaii, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and more, and it was great to see them interacting with one another and connecting with their peers!

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What Does "Resident-Driven" Really Mean?

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By Megan Briggs, Director of Family Services

Lately, in the Family Services department, we’ve been increasing our efforts in community organizing in both our Pottstown and Norristown neighborhoods. This work is as difficult, as it is rewarding; especially during a time when voter turnout rates are 15% for elections, and when our nation’s citizens are so politically divided, engagement can feel pointless. However, here at Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, we persist, and we persist with our values consistent in ensuring that our community organizing efforts are resident-driven, but what does that really mean?

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The "Impact of Stable Housing"

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By Markolline Forkpa, Development and Marketing Associate

When I was in the second grade, my parents made a decision that drastically changed the lives of my older brother, baby brother, and myself. They purchased a home.

Before that life changing moment, we lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. Though crime was not a major issue, there were many other factors that made our living environment less than ideal. For one, my brothers and I shared a small bedroom where we slept on twin size bunk beds. While this arrangement was not so bad when we were little, it really took its toll as we grew older. Being the only girl, I always longed for the space to claim my individuality. Likewise, having no real space where my brothers could play created the perfect condition for trouble. Together with concerns that my parents had about our schooling and the growing costs of rent, these issues really fueled their determination to purchase a larger space that they could finally call home.

As Liberian immigrants who migrated to the United States at the height of a civil war in their home country, my parents were serious about providing my siblings and I with the opportunities we would need to be successful.  When it came time to find the right community, my mom was painstakingly deliberate in how she made her decision. She took into account the school districts, the locations of nearest grocery stores, local libraries, and a multitude of other community resources that she believed would allow us to live the best lives we could. After several months of intense searching, she finally decided on a home in Bensalem. I was eight years old when we made the big move.

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Almost Home Graduates Keep Rising.

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Almost Home Graduates Keep Rising.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

-Maya Angelou, And Still I Rise

Our Spring 2017 Almost Home cohort has finally graduated! As excited as I am for their accomplishments, I will miss our class. This cohort included nine individuals who committed to spending two hours in class twice a week. Each of these individuals led very busy lives and faced many challenges that made it difficult to attend the class. Still, they persisted and kept rising to the final moments of graduation.

During the graduation celebration, we had a restorative circle with the participants of Almost Home and the people in their support systems who attended. These circles are based on principles of restorative justice and community building. Community building was very palpable as class members spoke about what the class meant to them, and they highlighted the strengths and accomplishments of other people in the class. Many of the graduates said the class made them feel more confident. One graduate saved $500 since the beginning of the class 8 weeks ago. Additionally, many of the people in the graduates’ support systems spoke about the growth they’ve seen in their loved ones since the beginning of the class. Many support members in attendance also mentioned that the class members are sharing what they’ve learned in the class to financially empower others. This means that the Almost Home class is not only having an impact on those who attend, but creates a ripple effect, influencing all other members of their support system as well! The graduation celebration was both emotional and inspiring. We could not be more proud of the individuals who successfully completed the course!

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8 Things to Donate to the ReStore When Renovating

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By Elizabeth Hefner, Director of Development and Communications

8 Things to Donate to the ReStore When Renovating

With the weather getting warmer and spring now in full swing, I recently started putting together a list of different projects I can do this month to spruce up my home. Home improvement projects are fun, but they always produce so much trash! Still, even when it feels impossible to get rid of everything I don’t need without adding to my renovation expenses, I know I can always turn to ReStore Montco — they make it a breeze to complete my home improvement projects on a budget and get rid of the old items that I no longer want to keep.

Donating leftover project materials to the ReStore keeps functional — and often times, desirable — home renovation items out of landfills. ReStore Montco resells your donated home improvement goods and uses this money to help build homes hardworking families in Montgomery County can purchase for an affordable cost.

By donating your used or new home improvement goods, you contribute to your community in many ways. You allow other home renovators to get the materials they need for their projects at an affordable cost, and you help others achieve their dream of stable housing.

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