Habitat stepping up pace

By Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity has a new executive director and plans to double the number of houses it builds each year and hire a resource development director to enlist more support from churches and businesses.

The group also is considering holding a golf tournament to get more women involved in Habitat, says Lee Russell, executive director.

Russell, who joined the Fayetteville affiliate in June, previously headed Crystal Coast Habitat for Humanity in Morehead City, where in four years he increased annual production to seven houses from three.

Now, thanks to a “capacity-building” grant from Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Ga., the Fayetteville affiliate will add a resource development director to its four-person staff.

The goal is to increase Habitat’s annual budget to $700,000 in the fiscal year that started July 1 from less than $400,000 the previous year, says Russell, who most recently helped create a steering committee to launch the first affiliate in Nassau, The Bahamas, which will be the 101st country to have a Habitat affiliate.

Formed in 1988, the Fayetteville affiliate has completed 79 houses and has eight more under construction.

The affiliate, which has housed 105 adults and 230 children, currently is building 10 houses a year and plans to double that rate over the next two years, Russell says.

Habitat receives support from United Way of Cumberland County, gets grants from foundations and government, and also has a revolving fund, known as the Phoenix Fund, that consists of mortgage payments from Habitat homeowners, who pay zero interest on 20-year mortgages.

With volunteers and funds typically raised by churches, Habitat has built 55 houses in Habitat Village off Old Wilmington Road just east of downtown, and is developing a 30-house Habitat Village off Cedar Creek Road in East Fayetteville.

Habitat is completing the last six homes in the first 15-house phase at Cedar Creek, and will build another 17 over the next two years.

Business partners that support Habitat include Fayetteville Technical Community College, whose carpentry-trades students build all floor systems for Habitat houses and also build entire houses, one at a time, and Black & Decker, which has sponsored Habitat houses.

An annual spring “Habitour” bike race this year raised more than $7,000 for Habitat, which also takes part in Habitat International’s “Collegiate Challenge” each spring that assigns college students to build houses for individual Habitat affiliates.

Habitat, which receives government funds through the Cumberland Community Action Program, a nonprofit that works with the community development department for the city of Fayetteville, also is working with the city to assemble lots in clusters near Habitat Village.

“We’re making the transition from being a scattered-site builder to being a developer in those neighborhoods,” Russell says.

President of the Fayetteville affiliate is Al Franco, a sales agent in the Cliffdale office of Prudential John Koenig Realtors.

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