Habitat for Humanity holds ‘Focus Fest’

Published 3:32 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Sunday, April 3, Habitat for Humanity held its first “Focus Fest” at the Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Tryon. The “fest” portion of the event was to say thanks to the Habitat Donors, volunteers and partners (Habitat home owners) who comprise the membership in the local Habitat club. The food and liquid refreshments were apparently enjoyed since they rapidly disappeared.

The “focus” portion of the event concentrated on sharing ideas on how to bring the story and work of Habitat to those folks in the community who might be only mildly aware of Habitat’s activity in Polk County and the Landrum area.

Here is a brief summary of what was agreed upon as the major concern and objective: everybody knows about Habitat for Humanity, International, but not enough people in the community know what Habitat does locally, or how to get involved.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A major concern is the common misunderstanding regarding how rigorous the family selection process for a Habitat home really is. This is not for the family who doesn’t know how to work. It’s for the family with a good work history, a decent credit record – in spite of a low income – and no record of material illegal activity. In other words, to become a Habitat Partner, you’ve got to be the kind of neighbor anyone respects.

For example, two of Habitat’s successful partners, Gaye and Phil Johnson, well known musicians in the region, donated their time and talent for the Fest, closing with a version of “If I Had a Hammer.” As a young and struggling couple they became Habitat Partners, went on to raise three kids, pay off their mortgage ahead of schedule and become one of the highly regarded musical acts in the region.

Every able-bodied adult in the partnering family must put in at least 200 hours of on-the-job “sweat equity” while his or her house is being built. They aren’t just called partners; they really are. Over the years, as the partner’s payments join with the other partners’ payments, they become the major force and source for helping to build the next partner’s house.

As to the major objective of better local communication, the new website, thermalbelthabitatforhumanity.org, will be up and running on May 1, which will make it easier for folks to find out how to join as donor, volunteer or partner.

In the meantime, people can always drop by the Habitat ReStore on Trade Street in Landrum for information.