The relationship between Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and Holy Hammers started in 1999, and continues to this day. The coalition of churches from the northern suburbs of St. Paul is celebrating its 20th year of partnership with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
Let's take a walk through the last 20 years as we celebrate our partners in giving and service, Holy Hammers.
What is Holy Hammers?
Holy Hammers is a coalition of 15 churches that work together to provide homes for families who are striving to access affordable homeownership. The coalition has committed 20 years of service and nearly $1.5 million to Habitat's mission.
Current Coalition Churches
Every year, the coalition churches provide around 750 volunteers that support 10 weeks of construction. The churches also raise an average of $76,000 toward home sponsorship yearly.
The coalition is strong, but is always willing to welcome new churches! Whether it's volunteers, help to raise funds, or even to cook lunches for volunteers - Holy Hammers loves to welcome new friends and partners in service.
“Habitat not only helps build community through providing families with a permanent home and neighborhood, it also allows workers to connect with each other. Volunteers have a chance to get to know each other better working side by side and sharing time at breaks,” said Jack Griffin, Holy Hammers Steering Committee Representative and member of Centennial Methodist Church.
Origin of the Holy Hammers
Parishioners from Judy Murakami’s church, Presbyterian Church of The Way in Shoreview, created an organization called Together, Inc. to support and provide housing for a Vietnamese refugee family in the 1970's.
They sponsored a Vietnamese mother, Quy Vuong, and her seven children who would have had trouble affording the rent for a large family with a single parent. Together, Inc. purchased a home in St. Paul for the family and helped with repairs until the family outgrew the home. By 1993, the children were grown up, and Quy had passed away.
Together, Inc. decided the best way to continue helping more immigrant families was to join their efforts with an existing organization with a similar mission. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity was a perfect fit.
The organization donated the land in St. Paul to Habitat. Then in the summer of 1996, the church members helped build a new Habitat house on this property for another young immigrant family.
Together, Inc. Home on Roy St in 1996
Two years later, Presbyterian Church of the Way teamed up with other area congregations to work together on a Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity rehab.
Pre-Holy Hammers Group Build on Jessamine in 1998
After that rehab in 1998, eight area congregations founded the Holy Hammers coalition. Since then, it has expanded to include 15 congregations.
Holy Hammers' Legacy
Since 1999, Holy Hammers has built 22 complete homes and helped build 10 others. The coalition's support has contributed to stable, safe homeownership for more than 180 people. As a group they have also donated $1,442,656* (as of August 2018) to help sponsor Twin Cities Habitat homebuilding projects.
*In addition - a Holy Hammers' church member, Jan, also donated her estate of about $1.5 million to Habitat*
Over the years, the coalition has pulled together their resources to sponsor Habitat homes at the Cornerstone sponsorship level. This takes a lot of effort and dedication every year to support the group's mission.
This hard work and persistent faith in Habitat's goal led the group of churches to cross the threshold of donating $1 million over their years of giving in 2014. The following year, they also celebrated completing their 20th full-home build - marking a major milestone in their service to the community, and their community has definitely taken notice.
Through their time in partnership with Habitat, the Holy Hammers have been recognized by media and other local organizations. After their build in 2010 (the first Habitat home in Shoreview), the Mayor presented a proclamation to the Holy Hammers "in recognition of the outstanding volunteerism throughout the community and the metropolitan area."
Holy Hammers Steering Committee Chair, Judy Murakami, was also recognized for her leadership with the Holy Hammers by the Rotary Club of Arden Hills/Shoreview in 2018. Since the beginning, Judy has been part of the coalition and has put in effort not only to form the group - but also to record what the Holy Hammers have accomplished year after year.
Not just the group as a whole, but several of its members are also extremely dedicated in their pursuit of providing homes to Minnesota residents. Most volunteers have been with the coalition since the beginning and year after year, will put in several days of volunteer work on a Habitat site.
Barb Peterson is a 3M and Ecolab retiree, and member of New Brighton United Church of Christ, who now spends much of her time volunteering. “It may not be traditionally recreational,” she says, “but volunteering for Habitat is re-creational.” Barb started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in her early 30's. She kept coming back to Habitat because it was “rewarding as a woman to learn... that construction is relatively easy to learn. In this field, if I had the right tools and knew how to use them, I could do anything.”
As I interviewed Jack Griffin and Judy Murakami for this blog, it was clear that the coalition is passionate about Habitat's mission. Summing up the partnership between Twin Cities Habitat and the Holy Hammers we came up with the words "Global Thinking. Local Heart."