Habitat would like to thank the over 1,000 guests, 22 sponsors and 30 volunteers for making our 11th annual HopeBuilder Breakfast a wonderful and warm event! In case you couldn’t join us, please click below to read the special messages from our event speakers.
You have the power to double your impact when you donate to the HopeBuilder Breakfast. Gifts of $1,000 or more will be matched by Habitat’s Board of Directors, up to $35,000. Want to maximize the power of your generosity and have your gift matched? Click the donate button below and select HopeBuilder Breakfast from the program designation!
A Miracle for the Community
Video message from Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley
Steve Messinetti, President and CEO
Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East
Steve Messinetti, President and CEO
Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East
I’d like to share an experience I had while working at Habitat’s headquarters back 2001. I was on the planning committee for Habitat’s 25th Anniversary Celebration to take place in Indianapolis. I arrived the day before the conference, which happened to be Tuesday, September 11, a tragic day none of us will ever forget. We had 2,000 people scheduled to arrive, so as we watched the events of the day unfold, a small team of us needed to make the decision of whether to continue on with the conference or not . Emotions ran high as we disagreed on whether to and how to hold the event. In the end, we decided to go forward, and we knew that it was the right decision when former President Jimmy Carter called to confirm that he would still be attending as one of our speakers, right after he attended the national day of prayer and remembrance at the National Cathedral. We later learned that this required special approval from President Bush and that Carter’s flight was the only civilian plane to fly in United States airspace that entire week.
Hearing from a former president at a time of national crisis like that was an incredible experience. I think the words he shared with us that morning are just as relevant today, as our country is again in crisis:
“Crises come to us on occasion. Crises call for reassessment of life’s values, the cherishing of those most precious, the reaching out to others and forming alliances. Crises call for the resurrection of hope and a consummation of mutual faith.
I believe that one of the greatest personal crises for a father or mother would be not having a shelter for one’s children, which would generate despair and a sense of hopelessness, isolation and abandonment.
It’s not just governments that have a responsibility to resolve crises. It’s really a conglomerate of dedicated individuals, and this is particularly true in democracy, to demonstrate our faith. Our faith in ourselves, our faith in each other and our faith in God.”
He said that that was what Habitat meant to him. I think President Carter’s words are again relevant as our nation lives through the most severe housing crisis in our lifetime. With record high foreclosures rates combined with high unemployment, we are starting to see the deterioration of entire neighborhoods. Did you know that each foreclosed home costs tax payers between five dollars and $35,000? I hear numbers like that and I am reminded that while government is responsible to take action and play a role, it is not government alone.
I expect that when you think of Habitat for Humanity, you think of volunteers swinging hammers and families putting in sweat equity helping to build their homes. In my 20 years of working with Habitat I’ve seen over and over the program’s ability to transform a family’s life. But in the past three years, I have a whole new respect for the power of this organization to improve our neighborhoods, strengthen our schools and create a brighter future for our entire community. You many not think of Habitat for Humanity as providing economic stimulus, but it does.
In this economy, three of the hardest hit industries have been construction, real estate and financial institutions. Habitat for Humanity is all three of these rolled into one. We build homes; to date over 400,000 worldwide, and 1,000 right here in Oregon. We connect these homes with qualified and educated homeowners. And we write mortgages, selling our homes with a 0%-interest mortgage. The Habitat model works. We see this in the positive changes in people’s lives and in our foreclosure rate of less than 1%.
Over the past few years, when we were seeing other housing programs being forced to cut back on their budgets, and likewise on their support of people most in need, it would have been reasonable for Habitat to just try and hold steady. But we were faced with a record number of qualified families coming to us for help. In fact, this year we’ve seen that number double! With our proven model for providing affordable homeownership, we found ourselves in a unique situation, not to wait on government, but to step out in faith, and do more.
Habitat’s board and staff made the commitment to grow our efforts by 50%, with a new determination to bring revitalization to our neighborhoods. We knew the first step, the foundation for this plan, was to secure the land for our next four years of building, so we could plan for this growth.
Now for years, land prices had been our largest barrier to growth. We knew that land values were at an all time low, (and I know there are plenty of people in this room who cringe when they hear me say that) But, what has happened, over the course of the last year is that Habitat was able to bring together housing developers who had upside down lots stalled in the development process, local banks who had bad loans and foreclosed properties plaguing their balance sheets—We brought them together with our public sector partners and generous donors who were looking for a way to have the greatest impact with their philanthropic dollars. Over the past year we made these connections again-and-again and now we have secured the property for our next 130 homes, at record low prices; bringing these parties together in a win-win situation and directly having an impact on the foreclosure crisis right here and now.
Habitat’s impact on our local economy doesn’t stop there. Habitat is a construction company. At a time when this industry is hurting, thanks to the generosity of people in this community, we have continued to build at least 20 homes a year. Each Habitat project supports a significant number of construction-related jobs. This year $1.3M in donations from our community, went back into the economy to purchase construction materials, supplies and to licensed trades from Portland and Gresham businesses. An additional $180,000 went to pay city development and permit fees. Habitat is uniquely positioned to take a donor’s generosity and stimulate the economy through homebuilding. And these dollars are being recycled again and again in each house payment that the family pays back to Habitat that will build additional homes. We call this the Revolving Fund for Humanity.
So, we now know where our next 130 Habitat homes will be built, and that is a great feeling. We set out to purchase these lots strategically, clustering our future builds in targeted neighborhoods, because we have found that when we build one home in a neighborhood, that has a huge impact on that one family, but when we build and sell 20, 50 or 100 homes in one area the positive impact has a ripple effect on the entire neighborhood. We’re targeting neighborhoods like Rockwood in Gresham and southeast Portland, where homeownership rates are low, poverty rates are high and there are a high percentage of families with school aged children.
We also target properties with good access to public transportation and open space for kids to play outdoors. By providing a family the opportunity to buy an affordable home in their own neighborhood where they can now truly establish roots, and where their kids can now plan to attend the same school, and have the same friends until they graduate, the entire community benefits.
So, I have explained how Habitat stimulates the economy as a developer and a homebuilder, the other stimulating effect comes from the fact that we are also the lender. When Habitat subsidizes the sale of a home to a low-income, responsible family, one that could otherwise not have the blessings of homeownership, the effects are far reaching.
Almost immediately, the family has more funds available to spend since their mortgage payment is often less than what they had paid in rent. And these dollars go right back into the economy as the families purchase basic necessities.
For example, by this time next year, we will have built and sold 53 homes in the Rockwood neighborhood. That means there are 145 kids who will no longer have to be uprooted due to rising rents. No longer moving from school to school. This is significant, I’ve visited with elementary school principals in this neighborhood that told me we have classrooms where half the kids transfer before the end of the year due mostly to rising rents. Also, before Habitat, many of these families were forced to rely on food stamps, public housing or other subsidies. Now they are financially independent, and will collectively pay over $60,000 in property taxes each year.
I am proud to share that Habitat for Humanity has had the most successful year in our organizations history, building more homes, starting more new programs to meet the changing needs and increasing our support to families to ensure they succeed. I learned recently while at a national Habitat convention in Atlanta that this is true, not only for Habitat here in our community, but for our collective effort throughout the country and the world. Habitat for Humanity is now working in over 80 countries, and we have become the eighth largest homebuilder in the United States.
Here, we have set the goal to increase the number of families we serve by 50%. This will involve raising the funds to build 30 homes a year, growing the number of volunteers from 6,000 to 9,000, increasing the energy efficiency of our homes to be sure they are not only affordable to buy, but affordable to live in long term, and expanding our homebuyer readiness training program that ensures families are ready for homeownership and get the support they need in times of financial stress. We also plan to open our third Habitat ReStore in the coming months that will take donations of new and used building materials and sell them at a fraction of retail price to raise money for Habitat
In closing, I’d like to say that as we enter into Habitat’s thirtieth year of homebuilding here in the Portland metro area, I am hopeful for our community’s future. That hope lies in my confidence in Oregonians, to continue to step up and take on the issues that our neighborhoods are facing. I mentioned the land we now have in place for our next 130 homes. Think about the impact these homes and new homeowners can have in improving our community and growing our economy. With your help, when the homes are completed, they will represent an additional $20M investment in our community and tax base, in some of our hardest hit and most needy neighborhoods.
The need is great, but our collective will is strong. I hope you’ll join us as we keep building.
A Place to Call Home
Molly O’Donnell, Future Habitat Homeowner
My name is Molly O’Donnell. I want to share my story with you this morning so that you can better understand what Habitat means to the homeowners. I am a single mother of four boys. 15 years ago I left my abusive spouse with my then oldest son who was four years old, my second son who was two years old and my youngest who were nine week old twins. Like most victims of abuse I felt, “I could handle it” and so I stayed until the abuse transferred from me to my children. Having just given birth to twins nine weeks earlier, I found myself in a shelter with four little faces looking at me like “what now mommy?” To be honest, I had no idea what was next, but I knew that we were safer in this shelter than we were at home. I stepped out in faith and thanks to friends who took us in, and my family, we made it through.
We eventually settled in with my parents. I know that they didn’t expect to spend their twilight years with four little boys running around their house, but with the grace of God, a lot of prayer, a supportive parish community, and above all, a good sense of humor we have all made it work.
Three of my boys are now in high school at De La Salle North Catholic High School and my eldest is now a freshman at Clark College.
About four years ago, two things happened in my life which changed and shaped my path today. I thought at the time that they were unrelated, but now, looking back, I believe there was a divine plan at work. The first thing was, my faith community volunteered on a local Habitat for Humanity build site.
That same year, I read a book titled “The Total Money Makeover.” I followed the steps in that book, one-by-one, believing that my family’s financial future depended on it. I set out to do things the right way… save for emergencies, dump my debt, and save for our future. I was determined to do this even though I worked at a local grocery store when I began this process. During this time, my support system that I had relied on started crumbling… my father passed away and my mother was aging and needed more of my help. I worked as much as possible while still being ever present in my boy’s lives and taking care of mom. It was while working at Fred Meyers that I was also hired by my current employer – Catholic Charities – to manage an emergency assistance fund for low income people. In a short time, I had gone from someone who was in an uncertain financial place to being hired to help others who were in that place. I knew I could really be of assistance to these people by teaching them the tools I had learned rather than just have the fund act as an ATM machine. Personal finance seems to be a piece of education that was missed when I was growing up and is still missing in the school systems today. I think this oversight is the root of so much pain in this country—at all income levels. I was happy to learn that one of the requirements of becoming a homeowner through the Habitat program is to complete budgeting classes.
At this point, I have to say, if you haven’t caught on already, I am a woman of faith and believe that everything happens for a reason and that someone greater than me, or you, is in charge and guiding all of our paths. With that said, one thing led to another and I continued working both jobs paying off debt and saving what I could. Eventually it became too much to work both jobs and try to be there for my boys and my mom; so in a leap of faith that things would be okay, I let go of the cashier job and continued as a consultant at Catholic Charities; where I was later hired full time. It is in this position that I have been able to bring the financial literacy classes to everyday people, like you and I, who are working hard to better themselves and just need that extra injection of hope that with a bit of work they can effect a change in their lives.
As I had mentioned, the other thing that happened four years ago was that members of my faith community had volunteered at a Habitat site. Finally, last fall I hoped that my financial situation was in order enough to meet Habitat’s qualifications. Much to my surprise and joy we were accepted! It was early December when Habitat called with the good news and my boys and I were at home so we were able to share the excitement of the call. I couldn’t imagine a better Christmas gift!
As a single mother of four boys there are a few things that I have missed in their upbringing – one is sports and the other is the use of a hammer. I can’t do much about the sports piece, but through the Habitat program, all five of us will be taught useful life tools so that they will be better prepared to be the head of their own households one day.
For me, the Habitat program means stability that I didn’t think I would ever have – an affordable home as I grow older.. a family home that my sons can come back to. Habitat is also offering my sons the opportunity to help in providing (building) a home for their mom, an accomplishment which I believe will hold them in good stead as they grow into manhood.
So, my thanks goes to Habitat, for putting a home at the end of this long road!
Help Build It!
Tom Kelly, President
Neil Kelly Company
When I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about today, I decided I’d start with a question that my brother posed to our family, over email a few weeks ago. The question he asked was “Do you think we gave mom enough credit?”
What he meant, was which of our parents was the most influential in instilling the civic values that all of us share. It’s an interesting question to ask yourself — where do my core values come from?
My father, Neil Kelly, was an Irish Catholic Minnesota farm kid who rode the rails out to the Northwest during the 30’s. He found a job helping build Grand Coulee Dam and that is where he met my mother. In my family, my father, was a “bigger than life” figure. He was, and to this day remains, well known in the Portland community for his civic activism and for giving back. In fact, shortly before his death a group of MBA students did a paper that focused on our company’s culture. Interestingly, their conclusion was that even though the company was a for profit enterprise, it really served as a platform from which the Kelly family could contribute back to the community.
Well, my mother, Arlene Kelly, on the other hand was raised a Quaker and although she converted to Catholicism, we kids never believed there was a complete conversion. I’m not sure how much you know about the Quakers, but it really is remarkable how long ago these Quaker business people were practicing what we today call social responsibility. During the 18 and 19 centuries, Quaker businesses thrived in an extraordinary way. In fact the religion prescribed the proper way to do business, how to treat employees and otherwise run an ethical business. I believe the remarkable success of the Neil Kelly Company, is in large part, thanks to her values.
So during this email discussion, we realized that our quiet, under-the-radar, mother had a much bigger influence on us than we had credited her with.
Why do I tell you all this? Well, I think on a day like today, when we all have a chance to truly make a difference, it is worth reflecting on the source of our values. It isn’t just our parents, but people we meet along the way; the girl in grade school who shared her lunch with a hungry classmate, a neighbor that always watched out for you, the person that talked you into coming to a breakfast at seven in the morning! Because they know there are people who need a home.
Some of them larger than life, some of them under the radar. But all of them laid the groundwork to show us how to have a truly impactful life. And then, the rest is up to us.
We have a choice to make, how we spend our time and how we spend our money. I believe this is by far the clearest indicator of our value system, of what we think is important.
When I choose where to place my philanthropic energy and dollars, I look for what I perceive as the level of impact. And that brought me to Habitat. Helping a family obtain home ownership impacts that family and the entire neighborhood where that home is built. But what I love most about Habitat is the participation by the recipient in the process. It is not just a handout, but a hand up. Whether you are buying a Habitat home, like Molly, or volunteering time or money, it brings joy and empowerment to everyone that gets involved. It feels good and it feels right.
Lastly, I want to reiterate what Steve said earlier. Habitat has seen a doubling of families coming to them for help. After over two years of foreclosures, our neighborhoods are in desperate need of stable affordable home ownership and land prices are lower than they have been in decades. Habitat has a very unique opportunity right now to raise funds and make a significant impact on our community.