Since its inception in 1987, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Rhode Island –Providence, a local arm of the national Habitat for Humanity organization, has built more than 70 homes for low-income families here through volunteer labor and other donations.
Those families for whom the homes are built also labor on site.
With a build capacity of 11 homes per year, the need is ever growing, says the nonprofit’s Executive Director Herman deKoe.
PBN: Who do you most often see volunteering on site?
DEKOE: A large number of our volunteers are students. Habitat has campus chapters at most of the colleges and at some high schools. Others come because they like the kind of work they do with Habitat. Businesses and companies are of great support. Many companies schedule a work day for their employees, some on a monthly schedule, others occasionally. Churches are still an important source of volunteers, as are social clubs like Rotary Clubs. Many volunteers are individuals, who call or go on line at www.habitatprov.org to sign up for the day. A number of those come all the time and are therefore appropriately called “The Regulars.” We have a Wednesday Crew of mainly retired gentlemen and the occasional, very welcome, woman.
PBN: Are you more in need of onsite volunteers or financial donations?
DEKOE: Both. That said, funding has been very hard the last year or so and we do not see much improvement in the near future. Companies and corporations willing to become a “House Sponsor” would be a godsend. However, all donations, of any size are welcome and very much needed.
PBN: How has the need for Habitat homes changed in the last few years?
DEKOE: The housing crisis has exacerbated the situation,. The foreclosures have hit the rental market very hard. Many if the foreclosed properties were multi-unit properties owned by often absentee landlords. If those landlords got foreclosed on, a number of families lost their homes, even if they had paid their rents on time.
Many of these families come to organizations like Habitat. Our waiting list is longer than ever.
PBN: What is the most rewarding part of making a home dream come true for the home owners?
DEKOE: On the day the house is finished and we are dedicating it to the family and I am handing them the key to their new house, so they can make it into a home. To see the look on their faces, the joy, the excitement, the kids in their new rooms. All that makes it worth it. I know I speak for all the volunteers who come and help build these houses.
PBN: What is the most difficult part of your job?
DEKOE: Getting the funding: writing all the proposals, dealing with the bureaucracy of the various governmental departments, private foundations, banks, etc. However, I must say that the people who are working in these departments and places are usually very helpful and accommodating. The various state departments and commissions are great to work with.