In the current divisive political climate that seems to pit one class against another, Habitat for Humanity of Fulton County is a perfect blend of community cooperation in which people of any background, ability or socioeconomic level can work together for the common good.
Last week, Habitat broke ground on its ninth project - constructing a home at 71 Bloomingdale Ave. in Gloversville.
Habitat is an amazingly broad effort. Under this program, people or companies donate buildings to be refurbished or land on which to build a home. Everyday people donate money, time or labor, including participation in clerical work, fundraising and construction. Corporations and local companies offer free or discounted materials, including appliances, and they also can allow employees to volunteer labor on company time. Skilled craftsmen and professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, architects and real-estate agents, provide help.
The family that will live in the home is required to participate by putting in 500 hours of "sweat equity," which can include working on their home-to-be, another Habitat home or other community service. In return, a lower- to middle-income family gets a no-interest mortgage on a home the family otherwise could not afford. Habitat describes this as a "hand-up, not a handout." Laboring side by side, volunteers and the family members get to know one another.
Habitat describes itself as "an international nonprofit ecumenical Christian ministry founded on the conviction that every man, woman or child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live." Globally, Habitat has helped some 500,000 families since 1976.
This number seems small compared to the vast need, unless your family happens to be a beneficiary.
Habitat's homebuilding is limited only by our willingness to give. The effort is a win-win for everyone. Those who contribute to this effort gain a benefit not tangible like concrete and wood - the opportunity to do something good for someone else. Communities, especially those plagued by blight, also gain well-built, energy-efficient homes in place of no house or a deteriorating one. "We're going to impact one family, one neighborhood and one community at a time," said Naquana Mitchell, the upbeat local chapter president.
Mitchell said she's seen people improve their neighborhood after Habitat finishes a house. "When I walk by, I just chuckle," Mitchell said after seeing debris taken away and grass cut. "The neighbors are inspired, they're reinvigorated."
Many thanks to Habitat for supplying the kind of inspiration we all need.