Under the cold, gray skies of an impending snow storm, hearts were warmed at Habitat for Humanity’s celebration blessing and ribbon-cutting on their new permanent home on Academy Street in Georgetown. Guests included U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.); Jack Tarburton, state director for USDA Rural Development; and representatives from U.S. Sen. Ted Kauffman’s office and U.S. Congressman Mike Castle’s office, along with state and local representatives.
The new 3,500-square-foot office will replace a 700-square-foot office that Habitat had leased for three years, although their beginnings were more humble than that.
Kevin Gilmore, executive director, said Sussex Habitat has grown from having meetings in people’s living rooms to finally owning a place of their own.
“We came to a point we had to decide ‘Are we going to rent or own?’ Has anyone ever been faced with decision?” he asked rhetorically, to a crowd on which the humor of the question was not lost. “We believe in ownership and see this as a place for Habitat to grow into all that God intends.”
He thanked all of their partners in making the dream of the board come true.
“From financial help to grants, to donations, to tech volunteers, that’s how Habitat works. It’s a combination of the community coming together. That’s how we build houses and now we know that’s how we build an office – probably the last one for a long time,” he said to laughs.
He thanked USDA, NCALL Research, Delaware Community Foundation, Sussex County Council, state legislators, Gillis Gilkerson, GMB, AXIOM, Miracle Roofing, Accessible Homebuilders, Duke’s Lumber, Citi Bank, partner families, Americorps and other Habitat supporters. Gilmore mentioned that, although they have worked with NCALL Research as partners serving families, it was a first for them to work together in a lender-client relationship.
“What a joy to have Kevin come to us,” said Joe Myer of NCALL Research, adding that it is the third community-based facility in Georgetown they have been a part of in the last two years.
Carper stated that, amid the cold, he was “warmed by the spirit and goodwill of the people.” He mentioned the Senate Bible study that he partakes in every Thursday when the Senate is in session and how they learn that they have an obligation to “live our faith whatever our faith may be,” and said Habitat is a true example of that. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful endeavor and real special.”
USDA State Director Jack Tarburton said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” He said that last year, the agency returned more than $132 million to rural Delaware to support agriculture, business opportunities, homeownership, home repair, rental housing, health care, education, public safety and social and cultural needs by way of their Community Facility program.
“This is a great program that demonstrates how the U.S., government, through USDA Rural Development, can partner with communities, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups or local governments to do what is essential to their rural residents,” Tarburton said.
The Habitat office was made possible, in part, by their Community Facilities Program in terms of a $50,000 grant and a $750,000 low-interest loan. The balance was provided by Habitat as a result of several small grants.
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1.5 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.
In addition to supporting home construction, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity is expanding into home repairs. The organization’s four-year goal is to assist families with 42 homes and 45 home repairs.