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Volunteers often ‘fall in love’ with Lexington Habitat for Humanity and families it serves


To shine the spotlight on the contributions nonprofits make to the quality of life in Central Kentucky, KyForward joined with a University of Kentucky School of Journalism advanced journalism class taught by Dr. Michael Farrell for a series of stories about area organizations and the people they serve.
 

By Kayla Pickrell
Special to KyForward
 

Fifteen volunteers giving 20 days to build one house for one family.
 

That’s the formula Lexington Habitat for Humanity will use to build homes for 16 families this year, said Resource Development Director Dana Stefaniak.
 

Lexington Habitat for Humanity was established in 1986, and the first house was completed in 1988 at 224 Willard St.
 

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Volunteer Reg Morris has helped build 35 to 40 houses since he first started working with Lexington Habitat for Humanity. (Photo provided)

The volunteers
 

Reg Morris, 69, volunteers for Habitat and has built roughly 35 to 40 houses since helping with his first house.
 

Morris sat as the board president for two years after serving on the board for 12. He has seen every side of Habitat, from helping with the budgeting to working at the construction site.
 

Morris started while working at Lexmark when a friend pulled him aside and said, “You ought to come out on a build.”  

His friend was a master builder and was very involved in Habitat. Ever since, Morris has been in love with the organization and its purpose. In fact, he helped Lexmark become the second corporation to give a full $42,500 scholarship to build.
 

On the other said of the spectrum is Alex Wade, 21, a recent hire as assistant project manager and a two-year volunteer. Wade was introduced to Habitat through his fraternity at the University of Kentucky.
 

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After volunteering in his first build, Wade helped with construction every weekend.
 

“You kind of just fall more and more in love with the organization as you find out more about it,” Wade said. He has worked on 15 to 20 houses since then, including one over spring break in Buxton, Miss.
 

“You can see how much it empowers these people,” he said. “My favorite part is that we get to serve these people and love them.” Wade said a lot of the families will be first homeowners in their entire family.
 

“To give them that opportunity, they understand the lessons and do amazing things,” he said. “It’s so cool to be a even a tiny part of that.”
 

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Alex Wade, left, was a two-year volunteer through his fraternity before being hired as an assistant project manager. He’s shown here with Peter Carew, project manager.

“(Wade) works as hard studying as he does with Habitat,” Morris said. “I hope that he becomes a part of the board after he graduates.” After graduation, Wade hopes to go to medical school and become a surgeon, but he said this is his dream job after he retires.
 

“I just can’t see ever being separated from Habitat,” Wade said. “It’s part of what I am so passionate about.”
 

The families
 

To identify a family in need of a new home, Habitat has them complete a rigorous application with three major requirements: the family must have the ability to afford the no-interest mortgage, must be willing to partner in the construction and must need for affordable housing, said Stefaniak.
 

“They have to perform a limited number of sweat equity hours,” she said.
 

If it is a single family, 250 must be put in, compared to 500 hours with a dual family. One hundred of those hours must be put into construction.
 

“Not only are we giving the family a foundation to build the rest of their life off of, but we’re having them be a part of that whole process,” Wade said. “They have a sense of ownership.”
 

Families also attend house management and finance management courses, too.
 

“Working with the partner family, and at the dedication ceremony, seeing the look on their faces when they take the keys and the house finally becomes their home, that is the most rewarding thing to me,” Morris said.
 

To volunteer
 

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Dana Stefaniak

Visit lexhabitat.org to sign up to volunteer. Emails will be sent to you with reminders of upcoming builds. Show up to any builds you are available for. “They don’t have to have experience,” Stefaniak said. “The program is designed to teach you as you go.”
 

If you want to help in other ways, contact Risa Richardson, the volunteer coordinator, at 859-252-2224, ext. 108.  
 

“There are so many ways for people to volunteer,” Stefaniak said.
 

Kayla Pickerell is a journalism student at the University of Kentucky.


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