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HABITAT: Schmoozing at the Chamber. . . .and a veggie tale

It is usually fun and always interesting to hear what people have to say about Habitat for Humanity – out there in the world. Many people recognize the name.

Matter of fact, according to a 2009 report by The Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 listing, Habitat is ranked in the Top 10 leading American nonprofit brands – No. 4, to be exact, in brand image ranking.

So – folks know us.

But, they also seem to like us – or even love us, especially when they get to know us better. All of us here at Indian River Habitat hear Habitat-related comments as we go about our various lives.

In my experience, the comments are mostly positive, and are most frequently along the lines of, “I think that’s a great organization!” or “Oh, I worked on a Habitat house with my Rotary Club (Exchange Club, sorority group, Realtors Association, church group, bank group, etc.)” or “That’s the organization Jimmy Carter started, right?” or “I love your Home Center. I got the nicest fridge (desk, dresser, stove, painting, set of napkins, window, mirror etc.) there.” or, “Oh, yeah. That’s the group that gives home to poor people right?”

Did you spot the pair of comments that are – not accurate?

No?

WELL – President Carter did not actually start Habitat; that was the brainchild of Millard Fuller, a self-made millionaire who, with his wife, Linda, gave up their wealth and moved to Georgia to refocus on Christian service.

Pres. Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, became involved in 1984 and are certainly Habitat’s most high-profile proponents. They are hands-on active in Habitat to this day, lending their celebrity to fund-raisers and their elbow grease to many national and international Habitat builds.

Another frequent misconception is that Habitat builds homes and gives them to families in need.

In reality, Habitat home buyers are required to meet specific requirements: they must be within certain income levels, have no debt other than medical, they must be able to make mortgage and insurance payments and must put in several hundred hours of Sweat Equity, which mostly means they work on the jobsite, side by side with staff and volunteers, first building other people’s Habitat homes and then, finally, their own home. Classes in financial management, homeownership and others necessary subjects are also required on their journey to becoming homeowners.

SO – aren’t you glad you asked?

At the monthly Sebastian Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting this afternoon, the schmoozing, informal networking and biz card swapping was fun – as always – and I got the usual “Oh, I love your organization” comments.

Our speaker was Carol Hawk, Executive Director of the Realtors Association of Indian River County, who gave us some slightly startling market figures, clearly showing the nutty fluctuation – in median and average home values – over the past several years.

Fortunately, we were all sitting down. It wasn’t as if we weren’t already aware, but to actually hear those numbers – spoken out loud. Yikes.

Association members are EXTREMELY community active: Carol told us they have built nine Habitat houses here in Indian River County – providing both the financial support and the volunteer labor. Honestly, we are so fortunate to get such terrific support from our community.

On a more vegetable note: conversation at our table focused for a while on – asparagus. None of us had ever seen asparagus on a luncheon meeting menu, but there it was.

It was good, too – not stringy or boring. Asparagus, I expect you are longing to know, is an herbaceous, flowering, spring vegetable, once classified in the lily family.

Can’t you just picture a beautiful bride floating down the aisle with a bouquet of asparagus cradled in her arm? So – whichever lucky gal catches the bouquet is going to marry – a vegetarian.

Our lunch meeting usually takes place at Capt. Hiram’s, along Indian River Drive in Sebastian. It’s a kick to hang out up there, whether it’s business or just for fun. I’ve been going up there, usually on Sunday afternoons, for years. They’ve made a ton of changes and additions through the years but, happily, its still kept that Key West-y, Bahamian feel.

The food’s good, they bring in some really hot bands – and people actually kick off their shoes and dance in the sand.

Have a good one.

Sam Baita, Public RelationsIndian River Habitat for Humanity (772) 562-9860 x220sbaita@irchabitat.org

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