Within communities there are unique organizations that have the ability to bind together volunteers, businesses, local government, professional/social organizations and churches to collectively meet the needs and support the dreams of deserving local families. This has been the history of Aiken Habitat for Humanity which was founded in 1988 as a nonprofit (501c3). This ecumenical Christian housing ministry, has been providing quality, affordable housing to partner families in need for close to three generations. The dream of home ownership has been kept alive through the continual efforts and unmatched commitment of Aiken Habitat’s staff, Board, partners and volunteers.
From Then to Now
It might have been unimaginable to Aiken resident and first Board President, Bruce Eberhard, who was there when the first “home” was built, to envision that another 90 local families would also have a place… a home… where their families might grow and prosper. In fact, we are at ninety homes and still counting. Perhaps no one imagined back then either, how many of these homeowners would pay off their mortgages and own their homes “free and clear”. Success, then, could be measured not only in providing for family needs, but in the sense of accomplishment and responsibility that each home owner was able to achieve through honoring their commitment to the very community that reached out to help them. Families like that of Lester and Geneva Lewis who were selected to be the owners of the very first Aiken Habitat house. This is the story of Aiken Habitat for Humanity.
Partnership and Volunteerism
A charitable organization must inspire its stakeholders if it is to survive long-term. Aiken Habitat Executive Director, Richard Church, supported by a highly committed Board of Directors has been able to do just that.
The list of individual volunteers has been impressive and more importantly, they come back time and again to help with the ReStore, home builds, and donations. Equally important has been the consistent sponsorship by businesses, education, social and professional organizations, churches, local government, and philanthropists (enabling Habitat to launch in 2013, its first Endowment Fund to provide for the organization in perpetuity). These players, forming the core of Habitat’s sponsors and volunteers, have also consistently participated in the organization’s meaningful work.
The Challenge Continues
The coming years bring with them continuing challenges. Economic uncertainty and continued high levels of unemployment make the dream of homeownership even more challenging for many families. What is not uncertain is the commitment and fervor of Aiken Habitat to be there, as we have been for the past 25 years, committed to raising dollars, raising friends, volunteers and sponsors, building endowment funds and helping the community to meet its housing needs while giving families the opportunity for affordable home ownership. This is a “game changer” in the lifeblood of every family that participates and in the lifeblood of our community.
While the roots of Habitat in Aiken were inspired by the parent organization, Habitat International (formed in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller) and promoted by its most visible volunteers former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who still build homes today… make no mistake about the real heroes of Habitat. They are local; they are our friends, our sponsor businesses, our churches, our students, our community and civic leaders right here in Aiken. We invite you to join us in something that makes a real difference in our community.
All are Welcome
Aiken County Habitat for Humanity has an open-door policy: All who believe that everyone needs a decent, affordable place to live are welcome to help with the work, regardless of race, religion, age, gender, political views or any of the other distinctions that too often divide people. In short, Aiken Habitat welcomes volunteers and supporters from all backgrounds and also serves people in need of decent housing regardless of race or religion. As a matter of policy, Habitat for Humanity International and its affiliated organizations do not proselytize. This means that Aiken Habitat will not offer assistance on the expressed or implied condition that people must either adhere to or convert to a particular faith, or listen and respond to messaging designed to induce conversion to a particular faith.