Partner program supports prospective Habitat families
Gwyn McIntosh has volunteered in many positions with Haywood Habitat For Humanity (HFH) in the past 16 years. It’s her commitment to the Family Support Committee that she finds most rewarding.
“Our organization does more than build houses,” said McIntosh. “Behind the scenes we have volunteers who ‘build up families’ to prepare them to be successful home owners. A partner couple is assigned to each prospective family and serves as a mentor and liaison with administration. The process begins when a family is accepted and ends six months after purchase, generally 12 to 18 months. Partner families can be a married couple or two individuals."
Once a month, partners meet with their family to record sweat equity hours and escrow payments and help with any issues they may be having in meeting commitments. Prospective families are required to put in 40 volunteer hours of sweat equity a month, which includes working on a build site or in the ReStore, or attending an educational session. Family and friends can also donate time for credit. After families reach 400 hours of sweat equity, they contribute 20 hours a month until closing. Escrow payments of $60 a month are required to raise money required for closing.
Partners help the family work through budget issues.
“Most of our families have always rented and are used to calling a landlord when repairs are needed,” said McIntosh. “It’s very different when you own the house and need to budget for the unexpected, learn to maintain your property and make good decisions about what you can and cannot afford."
Cindy and Tom Golden, who purchased a Habitat house in 2010, recently attended a budgeting session with their prospective family. HFH International offers an online assessment to help gauge family knowledge of financial terminology and budgeting, savings accounts and spending practices.
The Goldens want to give back to Habitat.
“The family partner program set us up for success,” said Cindy. “We can relate to the struggles a family experiences on this road to home ownership. In this economy we still struggle to keep our heads above water, but you learn how to budget to meet the monthly expenses, and who to turn to for help when things go wrong."
In a recent session with their family, Tom provided helpful advice on how he was able to meet the sweat equity requirement.
Cady Hill, a Senior Financial Services rep with First Citizens Bank, also volunteers with the program.
“Habitat is a wonderful organization and I admire its mission. I do not have a Habitat house but I still remember how I had to learn to budget when I left home on my own,” said Hill. “I am happy to help others learn what I did about keeping track of bills as they come due.”
Hill's family partner is Sarah McVeigh, who became a Habitat homeowner in 2012.
“For those who support our mission but may not be able to wield a hammer on the build site or work in the ReStore, volunteering as a partner to a prospective family is very rewarding and critical to success,” said McIntosh. “We are always looking for more partner families and those interested in offering a learning session on topics like insurance, food and home safety or a family will."
For more information on the family partner program, contact the Haywood Habitat administrative office at 452-7960.