Building Community Blog

Today we celebrate the life of one of our countries greatest moral leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. He inspired the country and brought about great changes, not by earning more votes, or spending more money, or making threats. He brought about change through the power of his words, his vision, and the unstoppable energy he displayed in showing us how to bring them to life. 

Business owners and managers tend to spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to increase productivity, profits and retention. They recognize that happy employees tend to be more productive, making more profits for the company. They also stay with the company longer, meaning the company doesn’t have to spend as much on hiring and training new employees. Better working conditions, more generous paid time off, and other enhanced benefits are just a few of the ways employers are looking to accomplish these goals. Fortunately, more and more companies are discovering that matching employee donations and supporting employee volunteer involvement in the community is an even more powerful way of improving all of these areas. 

This time of year it’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t the only holiday people celebrate. We’re in the midst of Hannukah. Islam has many days of celebration like Eid, the celebration breaking the 30 days of fasting during Ramadan. The celebration of the New Year is huge among Korean, Hmong, Chinese and most other Asian communities. It would take a very long blog post to list every holiday and holy day celebrated by the people, communities, volunteers, and employees Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity serves.

It’s holiday time and that means buying gifts for people. Whether you’re buying a small toy to give to a child one evening during Hanukkah, buying clothes a teenager needs to wear to school, or buying something fun to put under the tree for the whole family, you’re spending money, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. You build your list and buy your gifts one piece at a time. At Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, we buy and build homes for families, one piece, and one price, at a time.

            Jen Annoni and Ali Vandercook didn’t fit the rest of the volunteer crew they were working with on a house build in Crystal. They had volunteered to spend another day working on a Habitat house and, since they were not members of a larger group, they’d  been assigned to work with a group from seven West Metro Episcopal Churches that called themselves EpiscoBuilders. Jen and Ali were in their early twenties, the others were all in their fifties, sixties and seventies. In addition, the only other woman on the site was McKinsie Clyde, the Habitat site supervisor.

Thanksgiving day is an invitation to think about all that we’re thankful for in our lives. My family has a tradition of writing something in a “Thankful Book” on Thanksgiving,  as well as other holidays. So I thought creating a short Thankful Book for everyone who works at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity would be a good way of sharing our blessings.

Whether building one Habitat for Humanity home or trying to revitalize an entire neighborhood, the work goes better when more people help. This all-in-together approach is paying off right now in St. Paul’s Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods, one area where Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has focused efforts since the foreclosure crisis. In the past three years, working in just a small cluster of blocks, Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built or rehabbed 11 homes and repaired 11 existing homes through A Brush with Kindness. The positive impact is noticeable, and both hope and neighborhood pride are on the rise. There are far fewer vacant, boarded-up homes than there were at the height of the recession.

All this work is thanks to an outpouring of support from businesses with strong St. Paul ties, local churches, foundations, and residents passionate about seeing their neighborhood become a better place to live. On the corporate side, both Ecolab and PCL were primary sponsors on Habitat homes in St. Paul in 2014. Holy Hammers, a faith coalition that's contributed more than $1M to Twin Cities Habitat's work over the years sponsored a third home. And the Builders Circle, made up of individuals who donate more than $1,000 annually to Twin Cities Habitat, sponsored a fourth home in the neighborhood revitalization zone. 

 

Six years ago, Great River Energy started a new policy to encourage employees to give back to the community. That first year they decided there was no better place for them to direct their volunteer hours than building houses with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. David Kemp, the Manager of Transmission Planning for Great River, has worked on a Habitat house every year since. “As an engineer I like construction. Most of us do.”

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