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Habitat ramps up goals

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On July 13, Hugh McColl, retired chairman and CEO of Bank of America, was driving nails for a new house being built in the Druid Hills neighborhood by Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte.

The house was the 100th constructed in a five-year effort the bank launched in April 2002 to build 120 Habitat houses throughout the United States and 100 abroad to honor McColl’s retirement.

It also was one of 38 new houses that Habitat Charlotte has begun this year in its drive to build 70 houses, up from 45 on average for each of the past five years.

Recognizing that the need for affordable housing was outstripping its production pace, the nonprofit’s board early this year set a goal of increasing production to provide housing for 100 families a year by 2010, says Kelli Moles, director of development.

In addition to continuing to build single-family homes, she says, Habitat’s plan for boosting its output includes beginning to repair homes and construct multi-family housing, two strategies adopted by other Habitat affiliates.

To fuel its production increase, Habitat will add a third person to its fundraising staff, develop partnerships with other organizations, particularly in the area of home repair and multi-family housing, and count on mortgage payments from a growing number of Habitat homeowners and revenue from its two ReStores that sell donated building materials, appliances and home furnishings.

Combined revenues from the stores, including one at 3326 Wilkinson Blvd. and another at 1133 N. Wendover Rd. that opened last year, should pay for nine to 12 houses a year by 2010, Moles says.

Formed in 1983, Habitat Charlotte has built over 670 houses, generally raising the $60,000 sponsorship fee for a house from churches, businesses, foundations or groups of individuals.

Habitat also raises money from individuals through an annual-fund campaign that aims to raise roughly $2 million this year.

Habitat is a favorite charity of McColl, and Bank of America’s five-year commitment to Habitat reflects the bank’s philanthropic strategy of promoting neighborhood excellence in communities in which its associates and customers work and live, says Brenda Suits, senior vice president in the bank’s corporate philanthropy group.

McColl has been active in the initiative, rolling up his sleeves and participating in 50 to 60 of the houses that have been built so far, including two week-long trips to Mexico to build houses there, Suits says.

By the end of this year, she says, the effort will have built over 120 houses in the United States and 100 abroad, mainly in Mexico, Central America and Latin America.

That will represent an overall donation of roughly $10 million, plus the hands-on work of over 20,000 Bank of America employees, she says.

“Our focus is really on the engagement of our associates and the experience of associates,” Suits says.

The Habitat initiative, she says, honors McColl, involves employees and “ties in with our philanthropic strategy of supporting communities in which our customers and associates live and work.”

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