What does Monroe County Habitat for Humanity do, exactly? There are many misconceptions about how Monroe County Habitat for Humanity serves our community. The most common misconception is that they give free homes to unemployed people, which couldn’t be further from the truth. MC Habitat for Humanity is based on “neighbors helping neighbors with a hand up, not a hand out.” We had the chance to talk with Kelly Kemmerer, Executive Director of the organization, to help us learn more about the services MC Habitat for Humanity offers and how they can help you and your family.
Q. Tell us about the general mission of Monroe County Habitat for Humanity (MCHFH)?
A. The mission of our organization is “Seeking to put God’s love into action. Monroe County Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.” The vision of MCHFH is “a Monroe County where everyone has a safe, decent place to live.”
Q. What motivated you to work with MC Habitat for Humanity? What is your current role?
A. In 2010, I was working on completing my Master’s Degree at ESU. I wanted to get more involved in the community and started volunteering for Monroe County Habitat for Humanity. As I learned more about the organization, I was impressed. I continued volunteering and was surprised three years later when I received an offer for a position.
Q. What are some common misconceptions about your organization?
A. Many people believe that Habitat for Humanity gives free homes to unemployed people; that could not be further from the truth. Monroe County Habitat for Humanity is based on “neighbors helping neighbors with a hand up, not a hand out.” MCHFH helps get homeowners and struggling renters who earn 60% or less of median income into safer, more decent homes. The people who participate in MCHFH’s programs are called partner families. Partner families contribute sweat equity hours and pay for their homes or the materials to repair their homes through low and zero interest loans.
Q. What is the difference between the Home Preservation and Home Ownership programs?
A. The Home Ownership program helps struggling renters become homeowners. A renter’s earnings must fall within a stated range that will allow him or her to become a successful homeowner. The applicant supplies 250 hours of sweat equity to MCHFH per person, and they attend financial literacy classes. If they are approved to purchase a Habitat home, the applicant will agree to a 30-year interest free or low interest mortgage.
Home Preservation, on the other hand, allows current homeowners who are affected by limited income, age, and disability to make necessary, and sometimes critical, repairs to their homes.
Q. Through your Home Preservation program you’re able to make home repairs for qualifying families?
A. Yes, Home Preservation allows deserving homeowners to make repairs that increase the safety and health of their home. Homeowners must have owned their home for at least two years, must be up to date on their mortgage and property and school taxes, and must have homeowner’s insurance. Habitat will not make repairs on a home that the homeowner is in danger of losing. When applicants call us and are behind on their taxes, we encourage them to set up a repayment plan with their local tax office. Also, if homeowners call us and do not have homeowner’s insurance, we encourage them to purchase it. We have had several homeowners who end up being more self-sufficient even before they have applied for their repairs.
To qualify for the home preservation program, the homeowner must agree to volunteer on another partner family’s home preservation project before their own. The homeowner will then also agree to volunteer on their own home preservation project each day alongside the Habitat volunteers once it is underway. I have had several applicants tell me they were apprehensive about volunteering; these same volunteers have reported to me when their projects were finished and said they missed working alongside the volunteers who came to their home. They say that they enjoyed meeting new people, learned a lot, and had fun while working. Many of our partner families have become permanent volunteers with our organization.
Finally, the Home Preservation partner family agrees to pay Habitat back for the cost of materials used in their project. This repayment to Habitat can be made over a five year period and is through an interest-free loan directly through our organization.
Q. Who is eligible to receive your services?
To apply for Home Preservation, a homeowner must:
• fall at 60% or less of median income
• have owned a home in Monroe County for at
least 2 years
• must be up to date on property and school
taxes and mortgage
Q. Does Monroe County Habitat for Humanity pay for everything?
A. Monroe County Habitat for Humanity requires that homeowners repay the cost of materials through an interest free loan over the course of five years.
Monroe County Habitat for Humanity is “neighbors helping neighbors with a hand up, not a hand out!”
Q. What is the best way to find out more information?
A. For more information please visit our website at www.habitatmc.org or call (570) 216-4390
Q. How can residents and businesses provide support for the organization?
A. Volunteers are needed! No skills are needed, but skilled volunteers are greatly appreciated. There are 30 home preservation projects being scheduled throughout Monroe County, so project supervisors are needed as well as skilled and unskilled volunteers.
Volunteers are needed for committees including homeowner support, construction, public relations, and faith relations.
Monroe County Habitat for Humanity operates solely on grants, donations, and fundraisers. Donations are greatly appreciated!
Car donations to Car for Homes are needed! Unwanted cars, running or not, can be donated to Cars for Homes at 877-277-4344 or at www.habitatmc.org/donate/cars-for-homes
Car donations made to Cars for Homes in Monroe County directly benefit Monroe County Habitat for Humanity, and you may qualify for a tax deduction. Cars are either sold at auction or recycled for their steel. Monroe County Habitat for Humanity receives all proceeds, less a processing fee.
Monroe County Habitat for Humanity also needs help spreading the word about our programs, need for donations, and need for volunteers!
It is only with the support of community members like you that Monroe County Habitat for Humanity can continue to build better lives in Monroe County!
Monroe County Habitat for Humanity
354 Memorial Blvd., Tobyhanna, PA