The Roller Coaster

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director 

My favorite ride at any amusement park is the Roller Coaster. I am particularly fond of the old wooden ones that make your teeth rattle and your back ache.  I like the anticipation of waiting my turn, pulling the bar down, starting with a jerk and then the long, slow ascension to the top. During that part of the ride, I am always a little excited, a little scared, and a little unsure of what path the car will take on the way down.

I feel like my time at Habitat has been a little like that first part of the ride…standing in line, waiting for others to get in the car with me, anticipating the route the car will take, and finally, making that long climb up the hill. The climb has taken the better part of three years, but Habitat is finally to the top, paused, ready to roar down the course with fearlessness and a few ups and downs along the way.

During that climb, our affiliate’s leadership has been creating a strong strategic plan, addressing four key areas of the organization and the community that need support so that we might make a true impact on substandard housing. The four areas identified by our leadership include program growth, capacity building, ReStore growth, and financial stability.

The board and staff have focused significantly on Habitat’s programs - building and refining them so that when we race down that track, it will be with impact and focus. Establishing four distinct programs - Homeownership, Critical Home Repairs, Neighborhood Revitalization, and Almost Home Financial Literacy - allows us to follow clear paths to address a wide variety of housing issues plaguing our community such as affordability, aging housing stock, aging population, blight, community cohesion, and more.

While climbing the hill, Habitat has been building its own capacity so that we can meet the needs of these critically important programs.  To this end, we hired a few key positions such as a ReStore Director, a Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator, and a Critical Repair Construction Specialist. We also obtained a grant for four AmeriCorps members to come on board later this year in positions with Construction, Family Services, and Resource Development. In order to meet the challenges ahead - the loops of the coaster, it is essential that Habitat invest in staff growth and training, focus on infrastructure, and provide the tools that these dedicated individuals need to change people’s lives.

Finally, Habitat has been focusing on our own long-term stability so that we might support those in need within Montgomery County for many years to come. In the current ReStore, you might notice some changes adopted in order to increase revenue, such as a loading dock, a new checkout system, extended pick-up schedule, etc. These changes are helping more families in need through increasing funding to the affiliate.

Through our resource development efforts, we are focused on engaging those passionate about our mission, including faith communities, corporations, schools, universities, and individuals. Our communications with these audiences are becoming more frequent, but more importantly, spreading the message that you as one person can make a difference.

This spring, we sat at the top of the roller coaster, waiting with anticipation for that small moment before taking flight.  Right now, the coaster has begun to move and is picking up speed – it began with Rock the Block in Pottstown and built momentum through the ReStore Earth Day celebration, the community breakfast for Bridgeport, the groundbreaking for the Bridgeport homes, Almost Home graduation, and finally a home dedication at 130 Wayne Avenue.  Habitat is now racing down the hill, impacting as many people as we can, and enjoying the ride just a little bit.