CEOs step up for Habitat

Kevin Campbell
Kevin Campbell

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — On April 12, CEOs from 21 local companies will buckle their tool belts, roll up their sleeves, and join hands to frame a new house for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

Then, through the spring and summer, employees from their companies will pitch in to build the rest of the house, with each company taking turns at the construction site on a particular weekday or weekend.

“We have in our region inadequate access to housing for too many people,” says Kevin Trapani, president and CEO of The Redwoods Group and chair of Habitat Wake’s CEO Build. “This will advance the construction process but also bring people together in a way they don’t typically interact, bring them more deeply in touch with the community in way they wouldn’t normally get exposed to.”

The house the CEOs and their employees will build, and also finance with $5,000 from each company, is one of 21 houses Habitat Wake plans to build in the fiscal year that begins July 1, up from 16 in the current fiscal year.

Founded in 1985, the affiliate is about to complete its 374th house, and expects to have built its 400th house in the next fiscal year.

As part of its “tithe,” the affiliate also tries to build one house abroad for every house it builds at home.

While in the past it has been somewhat random in selecting where to build those houses abroad, it recently decided to focus its tithing work in Honduras, mainly because Habitat for Humanity of Durham County builds houses there.

The two affiliates also are talking with their counterparts in Chatham and Orange counties about partnering in Honduras.

The CEO Build also builds on previous efforts at Habitat to enlist groups of companies to build houses.

An effort spearheaded by Tom Gipson of Thomas Gipson Homes, for example, enlisted other homebuilders in a local building blitz, an effort that Habitat for Humanity International then adopted as a national homebuilders’ building blitz that built 459 houses in 2006 and 263 in 2008.

Campbell, who joined Habitat Wake last April 12 as executive director, moved to Raleigh in 2004 as an employee of Habitat International to expand the local homebuilders’ blitz to a national effort.

Operating with 34 employees, including 13.5 who work in its ReStore that sells mainly used building materials, furniture and appliances, and an annual budget of $4.3 million, including $1.25 million in annual gross sales from its ReStore, Habitat Wake also is partnering with the city of Raleigh to build houses, and is launching home-repair and home-renovation efforts.

Those new efforts will focus in the Long Acres neighborhood in Southeast Raleigh bounded by Poole Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Raleigh Boulevard and Peyton Street.

With federal stimulus funds it received through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the city is teaming with Habitat to build nine new houses.

And through a new Habitat International program to encourage a more strategic approach to boosting neighborhoods, Wake Habitat will be launching its effort to repair and renovate houses in Long Acres, which is home to older residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

Trapani says he hopes to expand the initiative next year to 100 CEOs and their employees building a total of four houses in Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

“So hundreds of people will be aware, not only of the need but also the solution, which is a great way to leverage social capital, he says.”

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