Editor's note:This is the 11th in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.
BY BECKY MALEWITZ
Habitat for Humanity has helped six Garden City families move into homes and has approved a family for house number seven, which is expected to break ground within the next few weeks.
"It truly breaks that cycle of poverty," Bev Miller, Habitat for Humanity board president, said.
"We have homeowners that were single parents with several children. One of them, every one of their kids has gone to college since she got into her home. Actually, we have several of them like that. This woman in particular had seven or eight children and they have been or are in the process of completing college, and so we are really proud of that. I have seen firsthand how it works."
Miller wanted to make it clear that Habitat doesn't just give away houses. In order to qualify, individuals must have a job, fall within a certain income range, prove that they live in sub-standard housing and put in volunteer hours on their own homes, as well as other Habitat projects.
The 30-year mortgage for the completed home is owned by Habitat for Humanity until the homeowners pay it off.
"(The homeowners') goal is to get their house paid off. They cannot wait to get their house paid off, even though it's an interest-free loan," Miller said.
Habitat for Humanity will be receiving $5,000 from the 2013 Finney County United Way campaign, half the amount it received in 2012 due to the fact that the funds were distributed before they had approved their most recent family.
The money will be placed in the general building fund, which among other things, has been used to purchase tools and lots for the houses.
"We don't have any full-time staff or anything," said Miller, who is a volunteer herself. "We work strictly on volunteers, and so we feel like the money we get from the community, from individuals who donate and any (other) way we bring it in, is really put to use. We use it for what those people intended it to be and we are really proud of that."
It takes nearly 100 volunteers to finish a Habitat for Humanity project, and according to Miller, the experience is rewarding for both the future homeowner and the volunteers.
"The volunteers get a lot out of it, too. They learn how to do things, building skills and you are working right along with the family and so it's a relationship thing, too," Miller said.
Even after finishing the required hours of "sweat equity," several Habitat homeowners have continued volunteering with the organization to help get other families into homes.
Miller said that two of the previous owners have worked on every build since they have moved into their homes, and the most recent Habitat family already is asking when the next build will start.
"They saw all these people working on their houses — it made such a statement to them that they want to return it," Miller said. "It changes their lives. It really does."
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.
The 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.