Habitat for Humanity
Licking, Columbus chapters merge
Five months ago, Newark resident and mother of two Danielle Cannon had no idea she and her family would be moving into a new home.
"It's definitely a blessing thrown in my lap," she said.
Cannon qualified for an East Main Street home through Habitat for Humanity.
The organization's Licking County chapter has undergone major changes. The Greater Columbus chapter of Habitat for Humanity recently expanded its service area to include Licking County in addition to Franklin County. As of July 1, the Licking County Habitat for Humanity charter was transferred to the Greater Columbus affiliate and is called Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio.
The Greater Columbus board oversees the new MidOhio affiliate under the leadership of chief executive officer E.J. Thomas. Several former Licking County board members will serve on an advisory committee. Habitat homes under construction in Licking County will be completed without interruption under the new organization.
"In Columbus, you have a very well-oiled organization," said Joe Biggerstaff, a former AirNet Systems CEO who has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Licking County since the 1980s.
On July 26, Biggerstaff was helping to put the final touches on Cannon's new home. He said the Licking County Habitat for Humanity chapter struggled for resources for several years. Even when resources weren't as tight, Biggerstaff said, the Licking County chapter still could manage to build only a couple of houses per year.
"Columbus is a much different animal," he said.
The Columbus chapter fundraises effectively and builds roughly 20 houses per year, he said.
He said the Licking County chapter sought help with administrative needs from Habitat for Humanity-Greater Columbus, but in the end the organization simply took over the Licking County chapter.
"We said, 'What if we just worked together?'" Biggerstaff said. "It lets us focus on the basics, like fundraising and helping with homeowner choices."
The Columbus chapter has two ReStores, which sell such home-improvement goods as furniture, accessories, building materials and appliances, and the chapter diverts the proceeds to building more houses.
Biggerstaff said Licking County soon might get a ReStore location.
He said even though the organization might start building more homes in Licking County, the standards for receiving a Habitat home would not change.
"We don't give families homes; families take them over," he said.
Biggerstaff said those who qualify pay a regular mortgage (the proceeds of which go toward building more homes), must have reasonable and improving credit and must complete an extensive application process.
"What we really look for is character," he said.
Qualifying families must have a strong need for better living space and conditions and are expected to contribute at least 200 hours of work, or "sweat equity," into the new home.
Cannon, who has had professional painting experience, was more than willing to take her paintbrush in hand.
"We're talking just work now," she said.
Cannon said members of her congregation, Real Life Community Church, recommended her for a house and helped her complete the application process, to which she referred as "tedious paperwork."
Cannon currently works in customer service but said she hopes having the new home would enable her to improve her life in other ways, such as returning to school.
"It's a new goal, new things in life," she said. "I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity."