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Welcome to Habitat for Humanity International Newsletter

Here, you can read about how your support makes an impact for those in need. We hope you enjoy these stories. Visit our website to learn how you can support Habitat for Humanity’s programs and change the world through shelter.

Making a difference through the RV Care-A-Vanners

Even though life wasn’t always easy for Ron Vandeveld, he sought to make an impact – and throughout his 84 years, he did, in ways both big and small.

As a young child, Ron contracted whooping cough, a respiratory disease that left him developmentally disabled. At the time, schools weren’t equipped to accommodate students with special needs. Frustrated, Ron dropped out in the eighth grade. Refusing to let his disability define his life, he pursued other paths.

Ron joined the U.S. Army where he served as a fuel truck driver during the Korean War and, upon returning home to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, served his community for three decades as a sanitation worker. Although he never married or had children, Ron took great pride in the role of uncle, making sure his nieces and nephews never lost a soup label collecting contest. And like clockwork, every month for years and years, he wrote $10 checks to causes that he most believed in.

Read more about Ron's story

One of those causes was Habitat for Humanity. Ron’s younger brother, Dave, and sister-in-law, Mary, are long-time volunteers through Habitat’s RV Care-A-Vanner program. RV Care-A-Vanners journey from state to state, hooking up their RVs and lending a hand at Habitat offices and build sites. From responding to disasters at a moment’s notice to leading safety trainings for Habitat volunteers and staff, roughly 2,000 RV Care-A-Vanners crisscross the country to help ensure that Habitat families — no matter what time zone they live in — have a decent place to live.

For several years, Ron Vandeveld was one of these traveling housing champions, throwing himself into Habitat’s mission. His time on the build site confirmed the indelible difference that a house can have on a family, especially the children. “Seeing what a house could do for a child left a mark on Ron and was why he wanted to support Habitat,” Mary says. “Once you get kids into a stable environment and into one school system, they do so much better. Time and time again, we’ve seen that.”

It was in this spirit that Ron planned out how he was going to make his biggest impact on the world after he was gone. The mere thought of not using the money he had saved during his lifetime in a way that could do the most good brought Ron to tears. “There were times that he surprised you with his big thinking, with his thoughtfulness,” his sister-in-law says.

Ron Vandeveld died on Sept. 21, 2018. He left behind money to build two Habitat houses. One of those homes began going up in Fort Myers, Florida, when hundreds of RV Care-A-Vanners descended to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their program and the life of an honorary RV Care-A-Vanner named Ron.

For the families who will benefit from Ron’s gift, the houses represent a launching pad. They represent a safe and stable place from which they can invest in their futures — efforts that will grow and build across generations to come. For Ron, the houses will be a legacy fulfilled, a lifelong impact a lifetime in the making.

“He wanted to make a difference,” his sister-in-law says. “And through Habitat, he will for a long time to come.”

Like Ron Vandeveld, you can make a difference beyond your lifetime. Learn how.

Peace in Poland for Ukrainian Refugees

Marina talks about her experience as a Ukranian refugee to Poland.

When Marina and her daughters left their home outside Dnipro in central Ukraine, their destination was unclear.

“We were looking for a safe place, because, well, like all mothers who are taking their children away, they simply worry and want their children to stay alive,” Marina says.

Read more about Marina's story

With bombings only intensifying as Russia invaded Ukraine, and Marina, her husband and 10-year-old Kristina and 5-year-old Alisa crowded into the hallway of their apartment every time the air raid sirens sounded. Concerned that their block of flats would simply collapse if anything were to hit or land nearby, the family made their decision. Marina and the girls would leave on a bus supplied by the bank where she works as a business analyst. Her husband, an industrial engineer, would remain.

As Marina and the girls headed west, she frantically tried to determine where they should go. Family friends told her about Habitat for Humanity Poland’s housing help desk at the Warsaw East transit station. Through this kiosk, Habitat helps connect families to apartments through a city of Warsaw database of more than 4,000 residents who have agreed to open their homes. Habitat also has arranged hotel rooms for refugees who are headed to other destinations in Poland or other parts of Europe. Habitat also works in Romania, Hungary and Slovakia to help meet the shelter needs of displaced families like Marina’s.

Habitat Poland placed Marina and her two daughters in a Warsaw apartment. The owner has said they can stay for at least six months. “I am very grateful that we have a roof over our heads, that my children live in safety,” Marina says.

Alisa attends kindergarten, meeting several other Ukrainian refugee children in her class. Kristina attends remote classes because her school back home went virtual when the war started.

The girls have begun to decorate. Magnetic butterflies adorn the stainless steel refrigerator in the kitchen. In the bedroom, stuffed animals — some brought from home, others donated by Polish families — surround their mattresses on the floor. Soon, the Habitat ReStore in Warsaw will deliver a bunk bed for them, as well as other furniture and household supplies.

“This is some miracle, how my friends found this organization, Habitat,” Marina says. “When we entered the flat for the first time, it seemed to us that here was a place where we can now sleep in peace, without being woken by sirens in the middle of the night, without having to sit in the hallway for three hours in a row. My children had a good night’s sleep for the first time.”

Marina fully expects to return home, but has no idea when. She speaks with her husband often, worries about his well-being and misses the time spent together in their daughters’ sunny room, playing.

“We were always on the go, never had the time for everything we wanted to do,” she says. “We didn’t realise that this was simply great. It was life. And that things may somehow go otherwise.”

Gifts that Pay You Income

It’s possible to receive income for life while ensuring that families have access to save and affordable housing.

With a simple contract, you agree to make a substantial donation to Habitat for Humanity, and in return, we agree to pay you (and someone else if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life. It’s a win-win. You help empower people to become self-reliant, successful homeowners and at the same time, providing financial benefits to yourself.

Read more about gifts that pay you income

What’s great news, however, is that beginning July 1, charitable Gift Annuity rates have increased. What this means is that your gift to Habitat for Humanity International will provide you even more income. The rates of return on a Gift Annuity may be higher than other investments.

In addition, there are tax advantages to this type of gift.

  • First, in the year during which the gift is made, you are eligible to receive an income tax deduction.
  • Second, a portion of the income you receive from us is considered a return of principle. This means that it is partially tax free, with the remaining income taxed either as capital gains or at ordinary income.
  • Finally, if you make a gift of appreciated stock, you pay less in capital gains. That is, you pay capital gains taxes on the annuity payments, not the value of the gain on investment.

If you are considering this type of gift, we recommend that you consult with your financial advisor and a gift planner at Habitat for Humanity.

Older Adults Aging at Home Gracefully with Habitat

Habitat “Angels” make Rachel feel like a queen after painting her house and repairing her water heater.

Since moving into her ranch house decades ago, Rachel had hopes of tackling the upkeep it required.

But those hopes — including refreshing the flaking exterior paint — took a back seat to more immediate needs, like putting gas in the tank and food on the table.

“I always thought, well, next year, next year,” says Rachel, who lives in Fresno, California. Before she knew it, the 85-year-old says, “Thirty years passed — and I lived in a weather-beaten house. I was embarrassed. I was accepting the fact that my house looked bad.”

Rachel pauses before her blue eyes light up, a smile spreading. “Then the angels came along.”

After responding to an ad in the local paper, Rachel connected with Habitat for Humanity Greater Fresno’s Aging in Place program, an initiative to help older adults remain and age safely in their homes.

Read more about Rachel's story

In a single afternoon, Habitat staff and volunteers checked off Rachel’s years-long dream of repainting her home — transforming its original taupe stucco with a coat of modern light gray paint and replacing the fading blue trim with bright white. “I am so proud of my house now,” says Rachel.

While there, the crew discovered that Rachel’s water heater had broken and that for over a month, she had been heating water on the stove — one pot at a time — to bathe and wash dishes. This wasn’t just time-consuming; it was dangerous because of the potential risk of being scalded by the water.

“I was accepting the fact that my house looked bad. Then the angels came along.”

—Rachel, Habitat homeowner

“They couldn’t believe that I was sitting here with no hot water and not asking for help, but that’s just the way I was raised,” Rachel says. After a full day of scraping, sanding and painting, Habitat staff returned to repair the water heater — restoring Rachel’s warm water and her safety.

“They turned my old house into new,” Rachel says. “They made me feel like a queen for the day.”

According to the Census Bureau, 62 million women and men in the U.S. are 65 or older. The number is expected to grow to 78 million over the next 15 years. A 2018 AARP survey found that, like Rachel, more than three-fourths of older Americans prefer to stay in their home as they age. However, that same survey found that only 46% of participants anticipate they’ll be able to.

For some people, the combination of physical challenges and a fixed income in the face of costly repairs can force them to move. Deferred but critical home projects often snowball into larger, more expensive issues that can threaten residents’ health, safety and even their homeownership through repeated code violations.

For others, their homes simply weren’t built to accommodate the changing needs and abilities that come with aging. Stairs can cut residents off from second stories and basements, and even the outside world. Shelves become unreachable. Door and cabinet handles become difficult to grasp.

Through Aging in Place, Habitat hopes to alleviate these issues so more people can have the choice of where they grow older. For Rachel, who has always wanted to age in the comfort of her own home, she feels more confident in that desire now that these repairs have been made.

“This is my home, and I’d still be trying to make do if it wasn’t for their help,” she says. “So I am so grateful to them, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to pay that back.”

Join Habitat for Humanity’s Legacy Builders

Habitat for Humanity’s Legacy Builders are supporters who have made a permanent gift to Habitat. They share a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  Members of this dedicated group of supporters are not only making a lasting impact on our mission, but are also eligible to receive invitations to special events, exclusive impact reports and recognition in our publications.

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