Almost Heaven Habitat For Humanity Including Pocahontas County In Five Year Plan
Snowshoe, WV – “We started talking about from the beginning that we needed to be able to develop the organization and build organizational capacity for our newly expanded service area,” says Michelle Connor, Executive Director for Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity, based in Rupert, WV.
She and the board of directors of Almost Heaven recently held a daylong meeting at Snowshoe to talk about their five year plan. Over lunch at one of the village restaurants, she spoke a bit about those plans.
Connor says the Greenbrier County habitat group merged with Almost Heaven about a year and a half ago. However, they soon discovered a problem in that Pendleton and Greenbrier don’t share a physical border; Pocahontas County sits in between them.
“There had been a habitat community in Pocahontas years ago, and they for whatever reason just weren’t really able to get off the ground,” says Connor. “And the folks in Greenbrier County they were just getting tired or exhausted; we entered into some preliminary discussions and ultimately the decision was made, why don’t we all become one? So in the process we adopted Pocahontas as part of that new expanded service area.”
Taking advantage of the well established organization in Greenbrier, Almost Heaven is jumping into that county in a big way – they’ve purchased a whole city block. They’ve already built one house, and have plans to build 9 more, including the first ever “blitz build” in the county later this year. But Connor says they don’t always build on new sites; one the five homes they’ll build in Greenbrier this year is on an existing lot that previously had a home.
“It was an existing lot that that had had a house on it, but it had a house fire some years ago,” she says. “And a woman had inherited it, she’s currently doubled up with another family, so we’re going to be building a house for her and her son.”
She says they’ve established some good contacts in Pocahontas County to help them address the needs here.
“We’ve been thinking for a little while what will our plan be in Pocahontas County; didn’t want to be real aggressive and come in and say we’re from this other county and we know what you need, and we’re going to tell you what you should do’,” she says. “We really wanted to get to know the community, which is why we wanted to find someone just like Jason who could get us connected and introduce us to folks.”
Jason Bauserman, from Bartow joined the group as a board member. LuAnn Creager, from Green Bank is also on the board, as a sort of community liaison for the group. Connor says they also have a great deal of support from the local libraries.
“Making friends with the library system because they certain are incorporated throughout the county and talked to them about how we can mutually do things together that would be beneficial,” says Connor. “We helped the Durbin library folks, we helped to coordinate the wall raising and were physically present and oversaw some of the leadership associated with raising the walls.”
Connor and her husband John, along with a small army of volunteers got all the exterior walls of the Durbin library and community center erected last spring. When completed, the Durbin library will also provide living space for Almost Heaven volunteers when doing a project in Pocahontas.
“So our plan for this year in Pocahontas County is we’re going to do some critical home repairs, probably three or four, which will be identifying some families who have some substantial home repair needs; handicap ramps, roof repairs, really partnering with a family who owns their own home and who’s in need” says Connor. “And we’ve already started to identify some pockets of the county that we’re going to reach out to instead of doing an ad in the newspaper. The need is substantial Pocahontas, Pendleton and Greenbrier; it’s not difficult to find families who need home repairs.”
Tune in for noon hour on Friday for more about Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity.