It is an often-used adage and in this community it is an appropriate one, especially for organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc., one of the area’s most recognized — and respected — nonprofit organizations whose outreach has now directly touched 100 deserving families of diverse culture, race and size.
It is difficult to imagine that this people-first initiative has been helping to build decent, quality houses for qualifying families in Cleveland and Bradley County for 22 years. Truly, the agency has come a long, long way since its 1990 birth when a handful of good men from Broad Street United Methodist Church saw the work of Habitat for Humanity in action in another community and brought the concept home.
In its fledgling years, Habitat for Humanity — like any new nonprofit — struggled to carve its niche into the landscape of a busy community. Its early leadership came strictly through volunteers. Their hearts were in the right places. Their skill sets were plentiful. But their numbers were few.
Limited resources meant they could build only one or two houses per year, perhaps every two years. But these fine Samaritans — men like Bob Sain, Jim Tucker, Elwood Sperry and several others — persevered.
Their fever for helping others became a contagion. Their zeal for volunteerism captured the imagination of goodwilled individuals, churches, businesses and industries.
Legions of volunteer workers multiplied.
Monetary donations increased.
Word of their good work spread throughout the community.
News outlets picked up their stories of humanitarian outreach.
Deserving families who struggled under the burden of rent, yet who were willing to work hard to better their lives through homeownership, stepped forward.
Property owners became gracious land donors.
More and more houses sprang up.
The first exclusive Habitat for Humanity subdivision — Century Village on 20th Street — was launched, and now two others are under development.
A Habitat ReStore was built, and just a month ago a second one opened.
Staff size, both full- and part-time, has increased.
Volunteer support is at an all-time high as more and more businesses, churches and organizations are hopping aboard the Habitat bandwagon, and are now serving as longstanding partners by providing free labor, material donations and financial contributions.
What began as a Sunday School group’s birth child has matured into one of the most admired Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the state of Tennessee. Only a few weeks ago, the local group earned the Tennessee Habitat for Humanity’s coveted “Affiliate of the Year” award.
The honor came with good reason and as a fitting tribute to an organization that not only is helping new families to achieve their American Dream, but also has served as an integral partner and leader in the community’s rebuild and recovery from the tragedies of April 27, 2011.
It is a long history of community stewardship yet only a few years on the calendar. But in that moment in time, in 22 years of helping others, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland has constructed 100 houses.
Home No. 100 was dedicated recently in a fitting Christmas luncheon where keys to a door of hope were presented to the Sylvester Hetiback family. In like manner, Habitat offered its “thank you” to a hometown community whose hearts are filled with compassion and whose drive for helping others is unparalleled.
It was a milestone.
It was a marvel.
It was history of a humanitarian making.
Much was said and done in the inspiring celebration. We will have more to say about it later.
Until then, may we offer our own, “Happy 100th, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland!”
Your success is not the number of houses built.
It is the direction in lives you have changed.