Haywood Habitat looks to 2016
With the holidays currently underway, there’s plenty for all of us to be grateful for living here in Western North Carolina. A roof over our heads, food in our bellies, a warm bed to climb into each night, a beautiful mountain view to awaken us each morning.
And yet, with all the things we are blessed for, what still remains are families — numerous families — who don’t have a place to call home. Since 1990, the Haywood County chapter of Habitat for Humanity has raised funds and walls for numerous homes to be built for those in need of housing. In 2015 alone, the organization completed three homes that now house 11 people, with over 35,350 volunteer hours donated. Twenty-one folks received financial education classes. More than 100 women learned to build affordable housing through the “Women Build” program. And more than $100,000 has been generated through combined city and property tax revenue from homes built by the Haywood Habitat.
But, for Haywood Habitat Executive Director Jayme Cooper Sheppard, there is still much work to be done.
Smoky Mountain News: What were some of the obstacles and objectives coming into 2015?
Jayme Cooper Sheppard: At the beginning of 2015, we had just lost our lease on the downtown Waynesville location of our ReStore. It’s a major source of funding for our organization, so moving and getting the doors open was a priority. Not only did we need to move the store, the retail space we secured needed a massive amount of work before we could open. Given the situation and the relatively small size of our organization, we had to suspend construction on the home we were building in Clyde and pull our construction staff and volunteers in to do the work to open the ReStore. We opened the store on March 27 (on Walnut Street in Waynesville) and immediately went back to work on the home in Clyde. Thanks to incredible community volunteerism, the Clyde home is almost complete, and we will close on it later this month with a family will be moving in.
SMN: Your organization recently broke ground on Walton Woods, a neighborhood Habitat project. Can you tell me what that entails? Where that project stands today? What it will look like upon completion?
JCS: A local couple, Sara Jane League and Gary Smith, donated some property in Waynesville several years ago. With the help of community volunteers, we’ve spent the last year planning the best use of the property to serve the largest number of families with safe affordable homes. The result of the process is Walton Woods, the first Haywood Habitat neighborhood. The development will have eight new homes and some common area with a playground. Right now, we’re working on the infrastructure for the neighborhood, and plan to begin building the first homes right after the first of the year. Depending on volunteer and financial support, as well as weather, we expect that it will take about four years to complete the project.
SMN: How does the Habitat of Haywood County stand as an organization these days?
JCS: We’re growing. So many Haywood County individuals, businesses, civic groups, and church groups have stepped up and provided critically needed volunteer and financial support to help make that happen. Just this year, the number of construction volunteer hours doubled. We have a monthly building program just for women called “Women Build” that we introduced to almost 100 new volunteers this year. The community has really embraced our ReStore with donations, shoppers, and volunteers. We’re completing our 53rd home and the family will move in between Christmas and New Years. We’re starting on Walton Woods in a few weeks. The Haywood County Methodist churches have joined together to fund and build the first house in Walton Woods in 2016. It’s an exciting time at Haywood Habitat. We’re building relationships, working together, and making a lasting difference in the community.
Want to know more?
Haywood Habitat is a partnership homebuilding program that provides safe affordable homes to people who have need, the ability to purchase a basic home at cost with a 0-percent interest loan that the nonprofit provides, and are willing to partner in the construction of their home.
For those interested in volunteering, there are opportunities at both the ReStore and the construction site. There are trained professionals to show people the ropes. No experience is necessary. For those that want to make a difference, but don’t want to swing a hammer or volunteer at the ReStore, they can donate. Donations are needed for the ReStore, and financial support to purchase building materials with. Haywood Habitat typically accepts homeowner applications in January and July.
To learn more about the Haywood Habitat for Humanity, click on www.haywoodhabitat.org or call 828.452.7960.