Habitat Celebrates 25 Years of Housing Loudoun Families

Loudoun Habitat for Humanity has embarked on a year-long celebration of its 25thanniversary, beginning with formal recognition last month by the Board of Supervisors for the chapter’s work to help low-income families build and buy a home of their own.

County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall saluted the chapter for its efforts.

“You guys do an amazing job,” she said, calling the construction process from start to finish an “amazing full circle experience.”

The faith-based national building concept of partnership construction was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller. In 1984, the partnership received a major boost when Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter joined the effort, substantially raising the national Habitat profile.

In the quarter century since its establishment in 1993, Loudoun Habitat for Humanity has lived up to its vision of a world where everyone has a place to live, and where God’s love is shown in action. In the past quarter century, the nonprofit has built 42 homes, providing permanent shelter for 165 individuals in 44 families.

As he came to the end of a seven-year stint serving as president of the board last week, Greg Phillips said he was proud of the chapter’s progress. “We’ve come a long way,” he said, noting previously the goal was to build one house a year—now it’s up to between seven and eight homes.

Finding land for the projects is “very, very difficult,” he said, but the nonprofit has diversified—both geographically and in building choices. Habitat now has a strong showing in the Sterling area, where it focuses on rehabilitating older homes and foreclosures.

The Habitat operation takes an army of volunteer home-builders to put it all together. At the core of the endeavor are the construction crews, who typically work voluntarily on Thursday and Saturday throughout the year. At the apex of that effort is former board member and president Stanley “Bud” Green.

“I began [building] about 2000,” he recalled. The former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot was used to fixing things at home, so it was a no-brainer. But he quickly found that home maintenance was not quite the same thing as building a house from the ground up.

His energy and ebullience made him a natural crew leader—progressing from volunteer builder to construction supervisor and eventually an employee of the affiliate. Today, Green manages each building project—organizing subcontractors and permitting and arranging delivery of supplies.

Home ownership is key, Green maintains, noting Habitat only once had to take back a house. Habitat partners with families to ensure they pay no more than 30 percent of their income and pay no interest on their home. The homes are sold to the families at somewhat of a discount because much of the material is donated by local businesses, and the construction work is done by volunteers.

Family members also have to dedicate their own hours in “sweat equity.” They can log those hours working on the house, through charitable work or at Loudoun Habitat ReStore in Leesburg, which sells building materials and home furnishings. Funds from the store are used for construction projects.

Habitat also raises money by holding “team-building” days, where government departments, churches and businesses bring their staffs to work on various projects and take part in team-building exercises.

Green loves the work—in particular the camaraderie. “I love these guys,” he said of the construction crews.

He revels in the crews’ growth and success, proudly accepting an award on their behalf from Loudoun Cares on Friday.

Tim Cash has worked for Habitat even longer than Green, starting in 1998. As someone who worked in an office all day long, he liked the idea getting outside. A retired engineer by profession, he got involved when his daughter needed a volunteer project while she was a student at Loudoun Valley High School. He worked on a townhouse in Purcellville first—the first of many. Like Green, Cash mentors others coming on board. Cash likes the variety of the work and the families he helps.

Randy Smith is the newest crew member. He’s 63, retired from Exxon Mobil after 37 years, and lives in Ashburn. He sees retirement as an opportunity to give back. Smith said as the new boy on the block he’s OK with it if he cuts a board too short—all part of the learning experience.

“I just like to help others, and if I can have a place to do something useful and relevant, in the company of like-minded individuals, learning about craftsmanship,” so much the better.

Like Green, he said the camaraderie of the group is a big part of the appeal, and praised Green’s leadership in developing an efficient workforce whose members enjoy working together.

But, when the house or rehab is finished, it’s the reaction of the new owners that matters most.

Donna Robinson and her husband Jeffrey Miller bought their western Loudoun home with the help of Habitat 10 years ago. Back then, they had four young kids and also were raising her nephew. The seven of them were living in a three-bedroom apartment in Leesburg.

“For me it was a new beginning,” Robinson recalled.

When the couple got the news they’d been selected for a home to be built in St. Louis northwest of Middleburg, Robinson remembers asking, “Where the heck’s that?” With the help of their church community, they went out every weekend to help build their home.

Best of all, it was an all-women build, from the ground up.

The day of the home’s dedication, Robinson said it was a drizzly, overcast Sunday. Their pastor came and blessed the house—and then, “for a moment,” the sun came out—which she and her husband took to be a sign they were supposed to be there—and a blessing.”

Robinson added, “We take our stewardship of the house very seriously.”

This month, Habitat’s volunteers will being work building their next home—number 43—on a lot in Hamilton.

To explore ways to volunteer, donate time or sale items, go to Loudounhabitat.org or call the office at 703-737-6772 ext. 100.

mmorton@loudounnow.com