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The President & CEO's Blog

From John Paukstis, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Maryland, Inc.

Love in the Face of Adversity

These are challenging times.  We recently sold a home to a mother of two children despite the COVID pandemic, economic crisis, and blatant racial discrimination in our country.  We are committed to decent and affordable housing for all – no matter race, color, gender or belief.   We believe that kindness, compassion and love is part of our core values at Habitat for Humanity, and we will not back down from those who would divide us.

Crystal’s Story:

Crystal says she was truly overjoyed when Habitat called. “It was the manifestation of an answered prayer.”  She is the mother of two children.  Her daughter, an 11 year-old entering Middle School, is a competitive cheerleader, whom Crystal describes as positive, hopeful and a true champion on their journey.  Crystal’s son is six years old, entering First Grade, and was born extremely prematurely and has complex medical needs.  Despite his many challenges, Crystal shares that he has a loving spirit and a smile that lights up a room.

Needless to say, the family exhibits continued strength, perseverance, hope and positivity on their journey to their “new normal” as Crystal describes life now.  “When I learned about the Habitat affordable homeownership program and that they were building Universal Design homes in Prince George’s County, I knew this would be perfect for my family.  Purchasing a home that is both affordable and accessible is life-changing for my family and provides a level of long-term security that we did not have before.”

“I am excited about the hands-on opportunity to build our home alongside volunteers, family and friends.  We are ready to put in the “sweat equity” as this is truly a blessing for my family and a labor of love.”

Crystal did work hundreds of hours to help build her home.  And, it certainly was a labor of love.  Our professional construction staff of Preston and John did a great job of completing the home during the pandemic, maintaining physical distancing and strict safety protocols throughout.  Thanks to our many sponsors including Women Build and material donations by TW Perry, Thompson Creek Windows, Whirlpool, Bartley Concrete, Ruppert Landscape, and American Custom Contractors.

Universal Design homes provide accessibility because they provide space for wheelchair, walker, or motor scooter use throughout the living space.  These homes are built with Energy Star features including spray foam insulation, toxic free materials, and water efficiency.

Remembering John Lippincott

John Lippincott, second from the left, with golf buddies

John Lippincott, Chair of our Golf Committee died recently after a battle with cancer.  John began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland in 2009 as a member of the golf committee.  I think it is fair to say that John always had a servant’s heart, volunteering at his church over the years and helping the community by leveraging his relationships at Giant Foods, where he worked as an executive for 18 years.  He left Giant to join Mill Creek Residential where he met Chip Bay, founder of our annual golf tournament.  True to form, John offered to help Chip and the Habitat team because he felt that he could grow the event by bringing in additional sponsors and golfers, and he certainly did do that.

John knew that airline tickets would be difficult to obtain as a donation, however, he began calling airline headquarters until he reached the right person and persuaded them to care about Habitat as much as he did and for several years Southwest Airlines made significant donations to the silent auction.  John also attended a celebrity event, and because of his sincerity, persuaded Payton Manning to sign a jersey to be auctioned at our golf event.

When Mill Creek Residential was working on a large project in Virginia a few years ago, he made a point of thinking about our golf tournament and secured donations from Harris Teeter that continue to today.  John and his wife, Kathy, made a yearly practice of donating concert tickets for the auction.  John believed that if donations were worthy enough, golfers would return and they did, year after year.  Thanks to John’s commitment, the golf tournament raised over $1.5 million dollars since its inception fourteen years ago.

John’s support of Habitat wasn’t limited to the golf tournament, he also worked to introduce people to our staff that can help with ReStore donations or who have connections to potential land opportunities that can convert to affordable housing.  John was awarded the Glynn Mayes Award for outstanding volunteer service to Habitat for Humanity over the years.  

My memory of John will always be his generous heart and warm personality.  John was always eager to give and never expected anything in return for his service. 

To read more about the life and legacy of John, please click here: https://www.barberfhlaytonsville.com/obituary/John-Lippincott Provided by Roy W. Barber Funeral Home, Laytonsville Maryland.

Earth Day Celebrates 50 years!

What is the history of Earth Day? 

Source: earthday.org       #earthday2020          

Earth Day was a unified response to an environment in crisis.  Oil spills, smog, rivers so polluted they literally caught fire.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans – 10% of the U.S population at the time – stormed college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.

The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.  It is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

The End of Trash – really?

There is a good article in the March, 2020 edition of National Geographic magazine titled, The End of Trash.

Many countries around the world are taking the initiative to convert trash into energy and recycle metals, clothing and plastic.  What can you do to recycle, refurbish, reuse, or repair?   

It was recently reported that we are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, of which 50% is for single-use purposes, that may be utilized for just a few moments, but could be on the planet for at least several hundred years.  We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle and estimates are that around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away.

What can you do?

Restrain yourself – fly and drive less.  Eat all the food you buy.  Wear the clothes you already have, and avoid single use plastic. 

Repair and reuse – buy fewer, higher quality products and repair them when they break.  Donate the clothes you don’t wear.  Especially, clothing that hasn’t been worn for the past year.

Recycle everything – Compost food waste, repurpose whatever you can – and lobby for more recycling.

Donate to the ReStore – Shop at the ReStore!

Recycling and repurposing stuff is a high priority at Habitat for Humanity.  We established ReStores to repurpose gently used furniture, appliances, cabinets, home goods, lighting fixtures, tools, hardware, and more.  We also get donations of new furniture and appliances as well.  We opened our first ReStore in 2006, and our business has grown dramatically every year.  We proudly state that well over 1,200 tons of material is diverted from the land fill every year. 

Our ReStores are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please check our web site www.habitatmm.org to get updates on when we will be ready to accept donations, and when our stores will be reopen for business.

The U.S. Census is Important to Affordable Housing

Have you taken the census?  The 2020 census, launched April 1, is designated to collect basic information on every U.S. resident, including age, race, sex and marital status.

The census impacts us in three main ways:

  1. The census determines representation in the U.S. Congress.
  2. The census determines allocation of critical federal funding for programs and services, including funding for community development and housing, education, transportation, healthcare and so much more.
  3. The census assists local decision making on school construction, economic development, transportation projects, and more.

It is estimated that the State of Maryland lost $1 billion in funding over the past 10 years because of Marylanders that were not counted in the 2010 census.  That equates to around $18,000 for each person living in Maryland.

Did you know that about a third of our nation’s households are spending more than what is financially healthy on housing, or a maximum of 30 percent of total income?  In Maryland, with a population of over 6 million, 31.5% of households, spend more than 30% of their household income on housing.

Based on the 2010 census, Maryland received roughly $16.4 billion in federal funding for programs such as low-income housing loans.

Now is the time to take action!  You can complete the census online, by phone or via U.S. Mail.

Personal data shared through the census is not disclosed. The census is safe and easy.

Click here to learn more.

Remembering Michael Clurman

Mike Clurman, Chair of our Board of Directors died a few weeks ago after a long struggle with cancer.  Mike was enormously enthusiastic and inquisitive about Habitat for Humanity.  I was very impressed with Mike’s long career and senior leadership responsibilities at the Washington Post.

I immediately felt that we were aligned because, like Mike, I worked for many years in the printing industry, had a long career in business, and served in the Marine Corps.  We both had the experience of attending one of Harvard Business School’s programs on Leadership.

Mike’s interest in every aspect of Habitat was fantastic.  He joined the Family Services Committee, working with our staff on family selection, financial education, and preparation for homeownership.

Mike’s enthusiasm and positive attitude was very uplifting to me and our staff.  Mike’s great sense of humor and lightheartedness is how I remember every meeting he attended.  Mike would always say “Habitat is doing real work.”  His encouraging words made us feel great.

Of course, someone with Mike’s vast business background and “people skills” does not come along every day.  I was thrilled when Mike agreed to join the Board of Directors.  Mike had a fabulous way of framing issues and making a point in a non-threatening way.  During Mike’s tenure a Board Chair, he recruited several high-level professionals to join the board, conducted a board retreat, and led the completion of a five year strategic plan.

Under Mike’s board leadership, we successfully launched the building of single family Universal Design homes and increased our repair and weatherization program to over 80 projects each year.

Mike was very enthusiastic about the success of our ReStore business and our ability to increase net proceeds that support our mission of making affordable home ownership for low to moderate income families. 

Several years ago, Mike and his brother Dan, joined me on a Global Village Trip to build homes in El Salvador.  It was a real treat to share that experience together.

The foundation for our success was laid when Mike joined the board and provided the encouragement to forge ahead.  Mike made a positive impact on the lives of all of us who know him.

To read more about Mike’s career with the Washington Post click here.

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