Giving Tuesday - Q&A with Haywood Habitat for Humanity
Jamye Sheppard has been at the helm of Haywood Habitat for Humanity since 2014, but you may also remember her as the former director of Dining for Women and Folkmoot USA before that. Jamye is passionate about helping families find their forever home and is working hard to provide more affordable housing options in Haywood County.
Rumble: You've been in the nonprofit realm for a while now — it's a tough career — what's kept you in it this long? What continues to inspire you?
Jamye: I actually got into nonprofit work by accident. I was in corporate accounting and a friend asked me to help her nonprofit board understand financial statements and work with them to manage what few assets they had. That was about 35 years ago, and I was hooked. I realized there were a lot of nonprofit organizations doing great work and they had their programs nailed, but they had no idea how to manage the business part. They were literally operating these enormous programs based on what donations came in that week or month without much thought about strategies to keep delivering these important programs. I thought I could do some good in the world by helping with the business part of nonprofits and I knew I was up for the challenge, so I made that the focus of my accounting career.
Rumble: What continues to inspire you?
Jamye: Over the years I learned and was inspired by so many talented people and my interests grew to include other aspects of nonprofit like fundraising and program development. I’ve stayed in nonprofit because I love to see what these organizations can do when they have the staffing and resources to look to the future with confidence. They are all doing such important work — delivering youth programs, making the arts available to the public, keeping people housed, fed, and clothed, funding medical research, and so much more. I enjoy being part of the solution and doing some good where I can. I’m continually inspired by other nonprofit leaders and their program success stories, the people that make that possible from staff to donors to volunteers, and by those who are served by nonprofit organizations. It’s nice to feel good about what you did when the day ends, and I don’t think I would feel that way if I hadn’t changed my career direction years ago.
Rumble: I think most people are familiar with Habitat's mission — give us some background on Haywood Habitat and what has been accomplished in the last decade or so?
Jamye: In the last 10 years or so, Haywood Habitat has really grown. The biggest catalyst for that growth was the opening of a ReStore, and that provided increased revenue that has allowed us to serve more people. The store moved to Walnut Village in 2015 and that had a big impact on our community visibility, as well as providing office and meeting space to get all of our operations under one roof. I think those things helped us to prepare for what was to come — our first all Haywood Habitat neighborhood. We had just finished a joint project in Clyde with Mountain Projects and it was time to move on. We had received a gift of property in Waynesville that would allow us to serve 8 families with affordable homes. We had never been responsible for the development of property for multiple dwellings so that was new and a big step for us. That neighborhood, Walton Woods, is complete and will be dedicated after the first of the year. We just broke ground on another neighborhood that will have 10 homes and the first 2 are under construction.
Rumble: How has Habitat adapted as an organization to meet the growing need for affordable housing in our area?
Jamye: Adapting to meet the growing need for affordable housing has always been the focus of Habitat. Walton Woods is a great example of the application of a higher density neighborhood to maximize the use of limited land and serve more people. We will continue to think and work creatively to do the most we can wherever we can so that we can serve more people without sacrificing quality of construction. We are fortunate in that our staff, board, volunteers, and donors are very committed to serving this growing need. We are all on the same page and never get our foot out of the gas when it comes to staying true to our mission of providing decent affordable housing for all.
Rumble: How did COVID impacted Habitat's fundraising/building goals for 2020?
Jamye: COVID has definitely slowed our progress. Our entire operation was closed for two months earlier this year as a result of the pandemic so we lost ReStore revenue we needed to build homes and lost construction time delaying homeowners from moving into their houses. We had three houses that were almost completed and were prepared to start two more when we had to close. After re-opening we had to wait for several more months before volunteers could come back, and when they did our staff had to create ways to keep the crews small, socially distanced, and safe. Of course our homeowners work on their homes and we had to find ways for them to work on their sweat equity while being safe too. As far as fundraising, our in-person activities were cancelled and that impacted three important annual events that provide significant funds for construction. We require 30 hours of homeowner education for all of our homeowners. Traditionally, that has been taught in person at our offices. We had to change our curriculum somewhat and provide those classes virtually. Some homeowners don’t have computers or internet so we had to accommodate that as well. It has been a process and continues to be.
Rumble: Tell readers about the Women Build project you started working toward before COVID.
Jamye: In 2015, Haywood Habitat started hosting a Women Build event every month at our construction site. This is part of a national Habitat program that is designed for women from all walks of life to learn construction skills with a group of like-minded people — people that are passionate about providing affordable housing. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful group of committed Women Build volunteers. The group came up with an idea to raise enough money to sponsor a home ($60,000) and then do most of the building of the home. This house would be a true Women Build, sponsored and built by women in Haywood County, something that to our knowledge has never been attempted. We had planned to kick off the fundraising last spring, but like most things, COVID stopped that. The group will meet in a few weeks to revamp the plan, and we’ll have something to announce in early 2021. We're anxious to get started.
Rumble: How can readers help Habitat this holiday season — either through volunteering or giving?
Jamye: We are truly grateful for the support of this community whether it’s through donating, shopping at our ReStore, or volunteering. We aren’t able to accept new volunteers right now, but what we can do is accept ReStore donations, financial contributions, and customers can shop at our ReStore. Whatever you do, it will help us to serve more Haywood County families with affordable housing.
Rumble: What are your goals for 2021?
Jamye: In 2021 we plan to finish the first two homes in Chestnut Park, our new neighborhood started a couple of months ago. We will have one or two more homes started depending on how fundraising goes. Like most everyone else, we are prepared to take it day by day.
For more information on how to give to Haywood Habitat for Humanity, visit www.haywoodhabitat.org.