Almost Heaven Habitat For Humanity Building Communities As Well As Houses
Snowshoe, Wv – Michelle Connor, Executive Director of Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity says there’s so much more to habitat than just building new homes. She spoke about their various programs over lunch at a noisy restaurant.
“So people frequently think of Habitat and they think new home construction, which we do, and that is our bread and butter, that’s one of the sexiest’ things we do, we get the most attention for that,” she says, “but we really are about preserving existing homes for families and helping people age in place gracefully. And that makes our communities stronger and healthier. It’s also less of a burden on taxpayers because if you’re discharged to a nursing home it’s going to be Medicare or Medicaid that’s paying that expense, whereas for a tenth of that same amount of money, they can be in their homes in the environment that they’ve been in for years.”
That being said, Almost Heaven is planning to build several new homes this year in Pendleton, Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties. But they’ll also do critical home repairs and weatherization for other homes in their service area. The weatherization is a pilot program through the US Dept of Energy. Also part of the program is the A Brush With Kindness’ project.
“Brush With Kindness jobs are exterior cosmetic repairs, cleaning up the yard of an elderly disabled family or making a small repair to a front porch or reattaching gutters; something that would require substantial skill,” says Connor. “But it’s really exterior cosmetic only we’re not going to go inside. And sometimes that’s all a family needs or all they want; they’re not prepared to let volunteers come inside their house.”
Like other habitat groups, Almost Heaven recipient families are required to help with the construction process if they’re physically able; it’s part of the sweat equity’ component. But Connor says some of those families go a step further, paying the good will forward.
“We have a gentleman in Pendleton County, he was a disabled American Veteran, and he was living in the basement of another family,” says Connor.
She said it was far less than ideal situation as he didn’t have his own separate entrance and no way to cook his own meals. She says they knew right away they wanted to get him in his own home as soon as possible – a feat they accomplished in less than six months.
“Ray Butcher is his name and Ray comes in on a regular basis, visits us in the office,” she says. “And when we do special builds, he does volunteer registration, he sits there and greets volunteers when they come up, helps them fill out their volunteer paperwork, he mans the tool trailer for us. A lot of our volunteers don’t know what a [particular] tool is so the supervisor will say why don’t you go get a circular saw; they don’t know what it is, they just walk up to the tool trailer and say I need a circular saw and Ray can get it for them because he knows what it is.”
And then there’s Rose McFarland, another Almost Heaven habitat homeowner and volunteer coordinator for Pendleton County.
“She volunteers her time now, on a regular basis, she comes in about 20 hours a week and coordinates our entire volunteer program in Pendleton County,” says Connor.
If you’d like more information about Almost Heaven, you can visit their website, www.almostheavenhabitat.org.