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City pays tribute to Habitat’s anniversary

By Michael Barrett

Gastonia’s ongoing support of a nonprofit that strives to provide affordable housing has been demonstrated time and again over the last three decades.

But city leaders sought to reaffirm their relationship with Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County this month with a public showing of thanks and congratulations. They approved a proclamation that hails the organization for the innumerable positive effects it has had on the community, while commending it for reaching a noteworthy milestone in its 30th year of service.

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Mary Harris and a number of other key staff members were on hand to receive the declaration during a City Council meeting. And President John Lowery said there’s simply no way to overstate how much the charitable agency has depended on municipal support.

“To be honest with you, we could have never survived without the excellent partnership we have had with the city of Gastonia,” he said.

Inspiring goals

Habitat for Humanity was incorporated here on Dec. 22, 1988, and it then officially affiliated with Habitat International in early 1989.

The nonprofit’s quest to eliminate substandard housing is achieved through helping people to become homeowners, provided they are willing to work hard for it. Far from getting free homes, qualifying beneficiaries have to contribute many hours of “sweat equity,” and demonstrate they are responsible enough to take on a mortgage, among many other requirements.

Habitat’s strategy is to establish partnerships between homeowners, volunteers and sponsors, and to build relationships as well as neighborhoods. It aims to strengthen families by helping to create safer communities where property values go up and crime declines – with all of that centered around fulfilling the dream of home ownership.

Successful track record

Habitat’s achievements since its debut here have been substantial.

To date, the organization has completed construction of 116 homes across Gaston County. The majority of those, 76 in all, have gone up in Gastonia, where the population is higher and the need is greatest.

But houses have also sprung up in surrounding communities, including 19 in Belmont, eight in Mount Holly, three in Cherryville, two in Bessemer City, six in Dallas and two in Lowell.

On top of all that, Habitat has helped to build 682 homes in Honduras through its tithing program with Habitat for Humanity International.

“That is astonishing, that figure itself,” said City Councilman Jim Gallagher.

Celebration on Sept. 29

Habitat is also about more than just building homes. Its ReStore at 1840 E. Franklin Blvd. in Gastonia has become an integral part of the community, collecting donations of everything from household goods and furniture to construction materials, and then selling those gently used items at affordable prices. It provides the organization with a steady source of income, and officials say the recycling prevents more than 50 tons of material from being otherwise dumped into the Gaston County landfill each year.

People making their first trip into the ReStore are often astonished to find how much is available, and at such reasonable prices.

“I’ve been there and purchased some things, especially around Christmastime, because you get things for a really good discount,” Gallagher said.

Lowery said Habitat is planning a big 30th anniversary celebration for Sept. 29. He thanked the nonprofit’s staff for its hard work over the years, and said with Gastonia’s continued support, many more great things are possible.

“We just are very, very appreciative of the cooperation and partnership we’ve had with you,” he told city leaders. “And we look forward to many more years of success.”

You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter@GazetteMike .