Rachel Gratz was a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity MidOhio until something caught her attention -- the organization started a group for young professionals.

She quickly joined, hoping others would follow.

"I had been involved with Habitat for quite a while and really wanted to see more young people involved," said Gratz, a social worker. "When this formed I thought what a great way to continue to volunteer and enjoy and meet young people and form that community."

It has been about 18 months since the creation of Habitat Young Professionals MidOhio and the organization has recruited 40 members, whose ages range from 21 to 40 years old. Annual dues are $25. For information about the group and how to get involved, go to habitatmidohio.org.

E.J. Thomas, president and CEO of the local Habitat for Humanity organization, said he was excited to inject some new life into the nonprofit.

"First of all, it's always great to have new folks come into the fold," Thomas said. "And I don't think it's any surprise that across the board folks who have been involved with philanthropy or certain nonprofits over the years either retire or (move to a southern state).

"So, I think it's a good idea to bring new people in."

Habitat for Humanity was formed in 1976 in Atlanta as a way to create affordable housing, either through rebuilding or renovations.

The global nonprofit housing organization is working in nearly 1,400 communities throughout the U.S. and in about 70 countries around the world, according to the organization's website.

Thomas said new members are encouraged to go to a Habitat building site and assist with a construction trade. Habitat assists volunteers in five core areas: service, education, advocacy, fundraising and professional development.

"We thought that the Habitat Young Professionals concept was one that might really have some appeal to people who have started their careers and have some extra time that they can dedicate for giving back to their community," said Thomas, a former Ohio legislator.

Adam Noel, who runs the program, said he would like to more than double the number of people in the young-professionals group.

"Starting a new organization has its moments," he said. "I think the second year the organization will be much more productive and provide a greater impact on the community."

The young professionals are engaged through several social-networking events throughout the year. They're also responsible for raising money for "Rock the Block," an effort in which they target a neighborhood for a new build and exterior repairs for other properties in the area, Thomas said.

Gratz, 33, said she plans to continue to volunteer with Habitat.

"The organization overall is fantastic," she said. "The work we do doesn't just benefit the recipients, the homeowners.

"Part of the reason I like it is I think it's very empowering. It's a great way not only to support the beneficiaries of the program; there are certainly personal benefits, such as meeting new people and learning new skills."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary