We’ve shared the videos and photos of showing up at a workplace, a group of people bearing balloons and flowers, jubilantly informing a hopeful that she has been selected as a new Habitat homeowner. There is laughter, often tears. And it’s all happy.
But, what comes next?
The moment the celebration ends, the real work begins – and it starts with Nevada County Habitat’s Homeowner Support Committee. Each emerging homeowner is assigned a volunteer team (Homeowner Support Partner Family) who will walk with that homeowner every step of the way.
The Homeowner Support Partner Family will meet often with the new homeowner, guiding them in a number of areas: staying on track toward fulfilling their sweat equity commitment (500 hours), providing guidance with budgeting and other financial matters, and mentoring them in what it takes to be a homeowner.
“Virtually all of our newly selected homeowners have been renters their entire lives,” says Lorraine Larson, Nevada County Habitat’s Executive Director. “For most it requires a whole new way of thinking with respect to the responsibilities they are taking on. Having that Partner Family alongside them every step of the way makes the transition easier and leads to greater success.”
And that’s the goal – helping families become successful homeowners. “When people think of Habitat they might picture Jimmy Carter swinging a hammer, of concrete being poured and frames going up,” Lorraine says. “What they don’t see are the hours of work that happens behind the scenes in one-on-one meetings, heart-filled phone calls of encouragement, and pencil-to-paper planning our volunteer families will guide the homeowner through. It really is a team effort, and our Homeowner Support team is at the heart of this effort.”
Ann Davis and Mike Vasser are original members of the first Homeowner Support Committee, and continue to remain active in supporting Habitat families. Ann, who is the current chair of the committee, says that the relationship with families is a two-way street. “In the beginning so many families don’t know where to start. They may have questions about appliances, maintenance or just about how things work. The first call is to their Partner Family. They know they have that support.
For the Partner Families,” she went on to say, “It’s extremely fulfilling and inspiring. We know what these families go through, the amount of work they do, sticking with the process despite the challenges because they are committed to providing a safe and stable home for their children. It’s fabulous.”
While the highlight of this team effort is the day keys are dropped into the hand of the homeowner, the partnership doesn’t end there. “A part of our commitment is to stick with the family as their partner through the first year,” Ann says. “But quite often the relationship doesn’t end there. Many of our Partner Families have built wonderful relationships with Habitat families that have continued for many years after they moved in.”
John and Ann Shulse have been Partners to three Habitat families. “It’s fulfilling.” John says. “We’re cheerleaders, encouragers, guiding and advising. We really enjoy helping families make their dream of owning a home come true.”
“The role these Partner Families play in Habitat’s overall success can’t be emphasized enough,” Lorraine says. “Our mission is to not only build safe, decent and affordable homes with deserving families, but to ensure they are successful as homeowners. Our Partner Families go over and above in building these positive relationships. They have made a significant contribution to Habitat’s success, and to the community.”