Recently Habitat For Humanity Summit County completed their 200th home in the Akron area. Akron Today Magazine interviewed Habitat For Humanity Summit County CEO and President, Rochelle Sibbio. Here is the Q&A.
1) In 2018, Habitat For Humanity Summit County is building it’s 200th home. How does that feel and what are the goals for the next five years?
It feels amazing to know that we have helped 200 families become homeowners in our community! From the beginnings of the Summit County Habitat affiliate to today I don’t know that the founding board members thought we would get this far in our history. Our very first project was a rehab of a home on Sylvan Avenue and Dorothy Connelly is still the owner of that home today. In the next five years aggressively we would like to build 10 new homes a year, repair 20 homes a year and continue our deconstruction program as a leader in the industry and with Habitat around the US. We are projected to grow our ReStore to $2 million in gross revenue in the next five years and we started that this April by opening an additional day a week.
2) How has your mission changed over the years and what is the primary focus now?
Habitat’s mission has been steadfast for 42 years since it was founded in Americus, GA in 1977; to eliminate substandard housing and a vision where everyone has a decent place to live. While the language and sentencing may have changed over the years the mission and vision remain rooted in homeownership. In the last several years, many affiliates, including ours, began an exterior home repair program. Our goal is to keep families warm, safe, and dry in their homes which many times can lessen the utility bills and maintain the home as an affordable place to live and raise a family. The Summit County affiliate was more of an in-fill builder (one home here one home there) and over the last five years we have focused more on specific neighborhoods where we can do Neighborhood Revitalization which can mean building new construction homes, home repair and deconstruction/demolition work to make way for development once the blight is removed. With the opening of the Summit County ReStore in 2007 the community has supported this venture to provide the necessary funding to continue our mission and expand our mission to do more. But there is always more to do!
3) What does your organization need most? Money? Volunteers? Donated Items?
I would say all of those are highly needed by our affiliate. The funding is needed to build each home, repair each home in advance of the project completion. Habitat is not made whole at the closing of a mortgage since we act as the developer, general contractor, and mortgage holder and servicer. Our families pay us back over the 30 year life of the zero interest mortgage but our building materials have to be paid for as the home is built. Volunteers build nearly 80% of each home from raising walls, hanging siding, installing insulation, putting up drywall – mudding it and finishing it, prime and paint walls, to installing windows and doors and completing the landscaping. It’s a heavy lift! Approximately 2,500 hours to build a home with volunteers and generally over 300 volunteers per project. The donated items that aren’t geared for new construction are placed in our ReStore for sale to the general public. Those dollars fill our gaps in construction and keep the lights on and a roof over the head of the staff that work side by side with families.
4) How do your homes help the greater neighborhoods they are in?
Habitat homes raise property values, especially when we are blessed to build more than one or two homes on a street or in a particular neighborhood. For example, we recently completed two homes side by side in Cuyahoga Falls on Magnolia Street. They were the first two new construction homes on the street since 1987 and prior to that one house built the housing stock on the street dated into the 1940’s and 1950’s. The homes appraised at $145,000 each and will help to increase property values of the neighboring homes. We inspire in neighborhoods as well especially when we do Neighborhood Reborn projects which are our exterior home repair which takes place in specific neighborhoods. We are highly focused with this work in Akron’s Middlebury area and will be doing NRVII in May and moving up to the University Park Neighborhood for the August and October NRVIII and NRIX. While we may be able to complete upwards of 10 home repair projects for homeowners we work with the tenant occupied properties to install solar powered security lights, plant flowers and flower bulbs, and some other general landscape and empower all residents of the street whether homeowners or renters to come together for the betterment of their neighborhood.
5) How can people find out more about you and get involved?
Our website is a wealth of information on being a volunteer on the job site or in the ReStore. We also have a weekly electronic newsletter that is pushed out to our subscribers every Tuesday afternoon that is filled with information about what’s coming up and items that are new in the ReStore. We are also happy to come to workplace, church, service club or community meeting and tell our story and offer ways that people can sign up to join our efforts in making sure that everyone has a decent place to live.