The Builder Newsletter
Creating a legacy for the community
Tom and Charmaine have made service to others a central part of their lives. Tom met Charmaine while serving as a pastor in Rochester, Minnesota, and they have been married for 42 years. Charmaine was teaching Sunday school, and through their church they discovered Habitat for Humanity.
The church’s youth group volunteered to go on a mission trip to Alamosa, Colorado, with Habitat, and Tom enjoyed working with the Habitat staff and meeting the homeowner family. Despite having no hot water in the showers during the week of the build, Tom caught the Habitat bug and never looked back.
Over time, Charmaine and Tom deepened their connection to Habitat. Tom continues to volunteer, participating in dozens of builds and serving as the spiritual adviser on the board of his local affiliate for eight years.
Read more about Tom and Charmaine's story
The couple also decided to ensure their permanent partnership in the mission by leaving a bequest to the Habitat Endowment Fund. Charmaine and Tom know that giving to an endowment will create an enduring legacy in their community, as they first created an endowment with a local foundation years ago. That fund focuses on supplying building materials for projects in and around La Crosse, Wisconsin. Charmaine and Tom are actively participating in the projects funded by their endowment, including two veterans’ homes. Funding from this endowment will also help communities outside of the La Crosse area.
Now that they are leaving a gift to Habitat’s endowment in their will, Tom and Charmaine are proud that they will be able to create a legacy at La Crosse Area Habitat for Humanity to help even more people in their community.
Giving to Habitat’s endowment “is one of the best opportunities to support people in need,” Tom says. “You can feel like your money is going to an important cause.”
Tom and Charmaine also love that the future homeowners build alongside the volunteers and have some “skin in the game.” The couple plan to continue their work with Habitat for years to come.
“You can help people with a basic need: safe and affordable housing,” Charmaine says. “Habitat is giving families a chance to live in a safe environment. It is a winwin for everyone.”
Helping essential workers build affordable places to call home
As an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Aspen Middle School, Lyssa loves her job. “I’m a teacher through and through,” she says. Lyssa has lived and worked in the Colorado mountain community for more than a decade and never wanted to change her career. Faced with exorbitant housing and rental prices in the Roaring Fork Valley, however, she felt that staying there seemed impossible.
Lyssa had to consider what was manageable for her and her husband, Jeremy, and their two children, 6-year-old Arlo and 4-year-old Willa. And it wasn’t just their family facing the prospect of leaving. Lyssa saw firsthand that a dire lack of affordable housing in the valley was the driving force behind the school district’s challenge to recruit and retain teachers. “It’s impossible to find any housing on a teacher salary,” Lyssa says. “Our valley loses a lot of teachers because of housing.”
Read more about Lyssa's story
Lyssa hated the choice she faced: change her career or move to a more affordable area. Her young family lived in a two-bedroom rental apartment that was owned by the Aspen School District and offered to teachers at subsidized rents for up to five years. Their lease was soon ending, and their family was already outgrowing the small space.
If they moved away, they’d not only have to restart their lives, but they’d be leaving two critical jobs vacant. Jeremy works as an information technology professional for the Pitkin County government. Lyssa says county workers, much like teachers, are experiencing a “mass exodus” due to housing unaffordability.
Partnering for affordability
Lyssa and Jeremy feared they would need to leave the valley until they heard about Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley’s new Basalt Vista neighborhood, a 27-home community devoted to bringing affordable homeownership opportunities to schoolteachers and county workers. Lyssa and Jeremy, who qualified for the program through Jeremy’s Pitkin County job, perfectly fit the bill. In September 2020, the couple moved into Basalt Vista and exhaled with relief that they would be staying in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Habitat had forged key local partnerships to create the multifamily development. The Roaring Fork School District donated an estimated $3 million of land, and Pitkin County gave $4 million to go toward building costs. The partnerships opened doors for Habitat, the school district and the county to design a neighborhood where county workers and in-district teachers could thrive in the same community where they work.
Leaving a lasting legacy with Habitat’s Endowment Fund
Habitat’s Endowment Fund provides permanent funding resources that enable us to meet challenges and leverage opportunities to expand access to decent, affordable housing. Numerous initiatives, including new home construction; repairing existing residences; and aiding veterans, low-income families and those impacted by disaster, like Hurricane Ian, are supported by the endowment. Additionally, the endowment supports the development of financial education programs for partner families as they move into stronger and more stable lives in their new homes.
Gifts to the endowment can be made with cash, stocks or other appreciated assets. These can be one-time contributions or part of an ongoing plan to create and expand an endowed account. Many donors choose to fund their endowment via a gift after their lifetime through a bequest in a will or trust. In any case, investing in Habitat’s Endowment Fund creates an enduring legacy of support for donors and demonstrates a commitment to the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Please visit our website to learn more about Habitat’s Endowment Fund and other planned giving options. Together, we can build homes, communities and hope for those who need it most.
A Return to Home: Rebuilding in Puerto Rico
Antero and his wife, Luz, moved into their home in the Adjuntas municipality of Puerto Rico nearly 30 years ago. Together, they shared countless memories under its roof and raised their three children inside its walls. But when Hurricane Maria barreled across the island in 2017, the couple’s treasured family home was almost destroyed.
“The building was standing. Thank God,” says 62-year-old Antero, in his native Spanish, as he recalls inspecting his home after the hurricane. “Later, I continued checking and searching, and I noticed the severe damage to the interior. And the roof was so weakened it could no longer withstand even a breeze.”
Read more about Antero and Luz's story
Antero and his family worked to secure the home as best they could, despite having to spend the six months following the storm without electricity or water. Their kitchen cabinets had gotten wet and began attracting moths. Antero, a wood artisan by trade, tried tying down the metal sheeting on the roof with cables to keep the rain out. It didn’t work for long. “I was working, but financially I wasn’t very well. There were days without work, the pay was meager, and buying materials was very difficult,” he says.
The road to recovery
After the storm, communication was challenging, especially in rural areas, like Antero and Luz’s neighborhood in Adjuntas. Vans with loudspeakers drove through severely damaged areas sharing information about Habitat’s home repair program.
The couple believed Habitat could be the answer to their prayers and applied. Sixty-four-year-old Luz says she felt like, “the happiest woman in the world,” when she heard they’d been approved. When the repairs took place, it had been more than three years since the couple’s home was damaged by the storm.
Five years ago, AbbVie, a research-based global biopharmaceutical company that has operated on the island for nearly 50 years, donated $50 million to Habitat to help families and communities recover from the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and strengthen access to housing in Puerto Rico. With AbbVie’s support, Habitat has partnered directly with hurricane-affected families, like Antero and Luz, to address their shelter needs. Besides home repair work, Habitat’s holistic program also supports workforce development, securing land tenure and fostering long-term improvement to shelter and land resilience issues.
During their repairs, Antero and Luz’s home received a new roof and kitchen cabinetry, waterproofing of the concrete roof, replacement of an aluminum door and interior wood doors, general electric work, and repair of their balcony and stairs as well as interior and exterior paint. Antero also used his skills as an artisan to help personalize some of the repairs, including purchasing and installing trim for the windows, and he installed a new gas stove.
A safe place to be
“We live more confidently now,” says Antero. “We no longer have leaks. When I saw how the house was and seeing it now, it’s like a load that has been taken off. We even enjoy downpours now because we know we’ll stay warm and dry.”
The couple loves being able to have family over again and looks forward to spending many more joyous occasions with their children and two grandchildren. “Home is happiness,” Antero says.
Qualified charitable distributions
Are you looking for a more meaningful way to make a charitable donation? Consider making a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD, through Habitat for Humanity. QCDs can provide tax benefits while helping those in need – they are direct transfers of funds from your retirement account directly to qualified charities. Not only do QCDs help those in need of better housing. They can also reduce your taxable income from your retirement account. Together, we are creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
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