Friday, June 2, 2017

Beyond the Build: Barbara’s Transformation

Did you know babies can count? A 2013 Duke study indicated babies as young as six months old could distinguish between numbers of objects. Children notice immediately if one child receives more cookies than the other one. Counting (even for cookies) is the most fundamental basis for math.

As adults, we count the dollars that come in and distribute outgoing payments like mortgage, utilities, groceries, transportation and clothing. You can only spend what you have - just as you can only eat the number of cookies that come from the oven. The households with more cookies have more leeway on cookie distribution. Low-income households have fewer cookies and fewer distribution choices.

Barbara knows a lot about cookie math and how housing stability impacts health. Two years ago, she was homeless and couch-surfing following her divorce. She struggled daily with a physical disability and depression that grew worse as her diet of inexpensive processed foods led to significant weight gain. When she entered the Habitat homeownership program, Barbara was depressed, overweight, socially isolated and could barely walk.

Barbara’s situation echoes situations of low-income households everywhere. People in low-income households often spend half their income on housing. This leaves the other half for all the other expenses, including utilities, food and other basic necessities. To make matters more difficult, low-income housing rarely has efficient HVAC or electrical systems. Therefore, the households with the fewest resources spend a higher percentage of income for heat and electricity, leaving fewer resources for things like healthcare and food. Now this is where things get bleak for low-income households. As Barbara discovered, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables cost more than highly processed, low-nutrient food. A diet of low-nutrient food contributes to chronic diseases such as: coronary heart disease and hypertension, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporotic fractures and dental diseases, perpetuating the cycle of loss for many low-income households like Barbara’s.

But there’s good news too.

The National Housing Conference recently showed how stable housing changes things for the better. Affordable housing can improve health by freeing up resources for things like nutritious food and health care. Affordable housing also improves mental health, decreases asthma rates and lowers lead exposure.

In 2015, Barbara completed her sweat equity and moved into the first Habitat Cabarrus tiny house. She has been in her home over a year and things have changed for Barbara.

Barbara has a positive attitude and outlook now. She loves her home, the neighborhood and her neighbors. Barbara boosts her mental health with social outlets like the monthly neighborhood association meetings she attends and was pleased to help stuff backpacks with back-to-school supplies for several Kannapolis City Schools this past fall. Barbara recognizes the importance of giving back and was pleased to be able to help local children start out their school year in a positive way. In June, she will attend a CPR training class.

“I’m very happy with my tiny house,” says Barbara. “It’s a tiny house – not a tiny life.”

Barbara finds comfort having financial breathing room now.
Her tiny house is energy efficient and the zero-interest mortgage is lower than her previous rent. She knows there is a soup kitchen nearby and says, “It’s nice not to have to rely on the food pantry now. I’ll probably always be aware of the social nets that are out there even if I don’t have to rely on them again.”

Over the last year, Barbara has lost 80 pounds. Another aspect of housing stability has led to Barbara improving her health. Once she lowered her stress level and gained emotional space to breathe, she could focus on more than survival. She could finally spend resources on her physical well-being. She credits her weight loss with physician visits to monitor her progress and diet improvements such as increased consumption of healthy fruits, vegetables and foods high in fiber.  Her goal is to lose 30 lbs. more so she can have knee replacement surgery, which in turn will lead to even greater mobility.

Every Habitat House Changes Lives

With a little help, Habitat homeowners are able to achieve the strength and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves and their families.  Learn more about Habitat’s life-changing work in Cabarrus County and meet our future homeowners at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Every Student Can Make a Difference

Recently the Habitat Cabarrus ReStore had an early morning visit from some bright, young Cannon School students. Eager to make a difference, the students volunteered to help build four 8ft wooden picnic tables to be sold at the ReStore. Under the watchful eyes and direction of ReStore staff members, the students learned how to correctly measure, use tools, and ultimately, create tables that will stand the test of time.

This project was made possible thanks to a grant from Thrivent Financial. Their donation helped with the purchase of the materials needed to put together the sturdy, handmade tables. We are encouraged by the interest the younger generation has taken in Habitat’s mission and look forward to working with more students in the future. 

Know someone who would be interested in volunteering at the Habitat Cabarrus ReStore? Get in touch with us on our website or give us a call at 704-786-4000.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Give Back with Your Family This Easter

By: Paul Denikin

Easter is celebrated as a Christian holiday and is often seen as a wonderful time to give back to others. This holiday occurs every spring, which is a season often associated with transformations and self-awareness, so even if you’re not affiliated with Christianity, it’s still a great time to contribute to your community through service-related projects. If you’re a teacher or a tutor, the season also provides a great opportunity for educating your students on the importance of being involved in their community, and you can even tie in your lesson plans with your message of civic engagement. Whether your family spends time at a local homeless shelter or volunteers through a program like the YMCA, use this Easter and spring to exemplify the value in giving back.

Children often wake up to the joy of an Easter basket on Sunday morning, but some families cannot afford an Easter basket. Other families have children who will spend Easter in the hospital, and these children may not receive a basket either. Consider getting a group together to host an Easter basket party for disadvantaged families in your community. You can also make baskets to bring to the children at your local children’s hospital.

For the adults this Easter, consider making an Easter-related craft to bring to the residents at a nursing home, such as a bunny bookmark or a wreath for their door. You can also donate your time at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, as many of them will serve a large hot lunch or dinner on Easter Sunday. Help by setting up, cleaning up, cooking, or serving the meal.

If the weather is nice, have a cleanup/picnic party at a nearby park. Take trash bags and have family and friends fan out to pick up litter before you sit down to a holiday meal.
holiday goodies. The treats might not get there in time for the holiday, but these service members will be grateful for the acknowledgment.

Animal Help

Don’t forget about the animals at your local animal shelter. Many animal shelters depend on volunteers for a variety of tasks. If you’d like to be involved without directly dealing with animals, volunteers can help with the adoption process by helping customers who are interested in adopting an animal. You can also help at events throughout the community that raise awareness about adoption. If being more hands-on with the animals appeals to you, help is needed to clean cages, walk dogs, give animals baths, and more.

If you’d rather help shelters from your home, consider building beds for dogs and cats. From repurposing old drawers to utilizing an old sweater, there are a variety of ways you can DIY a dog bed to donate to your local animal shelter. Many shelters also accept donations of food, leashes, bowls, and more.

Giving back to the community gives you a sense of purpose and meaning. It also boosts your mood and self-esteem. Even better, it helps someone (or an animal) in need. Many of these programs couldn’t be successful without the contributions from volunteers. This spring and Easter, make it a point to give back to your community with your family.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Faithful Persistance

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." – Dale Carnegie

There’s a story in the bible about a woman who had suffered for 12 years from a health issue that impacted her entire life.  One day this renowned healer named Jesus came through her town.  She just KNEW if she could reach him and touch him that her affliction could be cured.  So she braved the crowds and slowly but determinedly inched her way closer and closer until she touched the edge of Jesus’ clothes.  Even though Jesus was surrounded by people he felt the healing power leave him and asked who had touched him.  Trembling, the woman came forward and admitted it was her.  Jesus looked on her with compassion and told her that her faith had healed her.

The above story is Shanell Smaw’s favorite because she admires the woman’s faith and her tenacity.  Shanell is Habitat Cabarrus’ new Resource Development Director (Welcome Shanell!)  She plans to direct her own faith and tenacity to help Habitat Cabarrus further its mission to eliminate substandard housing.  Faith and tenacity are tangible tools here at Habitat Cabarrus so Shanell already fits right in.

Shanell comes to Habitat Cabarrus from Raleigh where she worked with NC REALTORS®.   She was a successful fundraiser for the association but she recognized that the sense of fulfilment from knowing that her actions helped someone was missing.  Shanell previously worked and volunteered with a non-profit credit counseling agency, Urban Ministries, Durham Rescue Mission and various non-profits through her church outreach group so gradually came to the realization that non-profit work was her true calling.

Shanell believes that, “Ultimately our purpose is to do what we can to help others.”  She continues, “I feel passionately that a safe home builds the foundation for the rest of an individual’s life.  Basic safety, security, shouldn’t be a daily worry.”

Dave Zablotny, Executive Director points out that “Shanell is a perfect fit for our team at this time. She has a proven track record of fundraising utilizing innovative approaches and also has a great passion and enthusiasm for the work we do, as demonstrated by the volunteer work she has done in the past.  We feel she will continue to build on the excellent resource development work done by Katie Page over the past few years and we are so happy she is part of the team.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Life-Changing Moments

Alida Zimmerman already recognizes the power in life-changing moments.  Alida is Habitat Cabarrus’ new volunteer coordinator.  (Welcome Alida!)  She joined Habitat Cabarrus in early December and her path to nonprofit work began with a chance interaction that would yield big results.

It was spring break and Alida had come home to nurse a few emotional wounds from a bad breakup.  Alida’s aunt knew an inspirational speaker and began to urge her to attend his next engagement.  Her father soon joined in and they eventually were able to convince her to attend an event.  The speaker, Chris Rosati, learned about Alida’s situation and went off script for five minutes and shared how his own experience with a broken heart led him to find a deeper, truer life and love later. 

Mr. Rosati leads Inspire Media Network which spreads kindness.  He began this non-profit after his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS.  Chris chose not to wander the unknown path of his disease with fear but to live with hope and to spread positivity.  Alida felt honored that he took the moment to address her in the midst of his own large issues.  She was so moved by his story and approach to life that she offered to help Chris with his nonprofit and he accepted her services. 

Alida took on a lot of responsibility in her two years with Inspire Media Network.  She created content, planned events, performed marketing tasks, and acted as the voice of the organization.  As Alida expanded her professional capabilities she nourished her soul.  After graduation from Elon University she accepted a job in Charlotte with an advertising agency. She enjoyed the work and appreciated the skills of her co-workers but at the end of the work day, her soul felt tired and flat instead of full.  She recognized that she needed to return to non-profit work to feel the soul-deep satisfaction that comes from creating positive impact on human lives.  That’s when she found Habitat Cabarrus. 

Alida had previously volunteered with the Habitat for Humanity in Durham so she understood how Habitat helps families with a hand up, not a hand out.  She began Googling nonprofit jobs in the Charlotte area and the Habitat Cabarrus position almost magically appeared.  Soon after discovering the position, Alida joined the Habitat Cabarrus team with an eagerness to learn and support our efforts to build community. 

Since joining the Habitat Cabarrus team last month, Alida has learned a lot about our programs and the community we serve. 

“It is so amazing to see how many people and pieces go into building a habitat home, I truly had no idea before I started. My favorite moment so far has been meeting the families and watching them interact. It is a true community that Habitat has built for them; one that is supportive, loving and inspiring and shows that getting a new home is nothing short of extraordinary.”

We are thrilled to have Alida on our team at Habitat Cabarrus and look forward to working with her as we begin our first build of 2017 – the Collegiate Challenge Build sponsored by Publix.  If you would like to volunteer with Habitat Cabarrus, you can contact Alida at

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Community Collaboration Keeps Families Safe at Home

There’s a story behind every home and every project that Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County undertakes. What starts as a routine initiative for our volunteers and service personnel often turns into a heartwarming feeling of community and comradery.

Christy walked into the Concord Fire Department one morning with one goal in mind: to find a way to make her home safer for her family. Her husband’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and her own battle with Epilepsy had already established them as survivors in the face of illness that made life a little more difficult. However, that didn’t inhibit their desire to continue building their family and living their life to its fullest.

Their home, however, was inhibiting their quality of life.

Every day, Christy and her husband lived in fear of what may happen were one of them to fall on the steps outside of their home that were in desperate need of repair. What would seem like a small issue to the average homeowner was presenting a challenge to the couple, and rightly so.

Multiple medical emergencies had been halted or challenging due to EMS personnel being unable or apprehensive in bringing equipment up those stairs. “I knew I needed help,” says Christy, who initially was unsure about asking for assistance. That’s when she reached out to the fire department who directed her to Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County.

Resource Development Director Katie Page and Concord Police Chief Ray Allen, both Rotarians in the Concord Rotary Club, took this project to their group and put together a of team of people to help this family. Habitat helped put together the plan and secured materials and Rotarians and the fire department took care of the labor.

“It was an excellent opportunity for Rotarians to fulfill their obligation to give back to the community in a way that makes an immediate impact on someone’s life,” said Rotarian and Concord Police Chief Ray Allen. From the fire department’s perspective, by helping take care of this problem, they may actually be preventing a need for their service in the future and keep homeowners safe.

Not only did Habitat do the requested repairs making sure the steps were secured and safe, but this team of volunteers also built a covering over a portion of an already existing wheelchair ramp for additional safety.

There were many tears of thanks from the family after the project was completed. With a safer walkway for themselves and guests, Christy feels confident in going about her life as fully as possible--and her idea of reaching out for help has changed as well. “It feels good to know that there are people you can turn to in a time of need,” says Christy, adding, “It has made me look at asking for help in a whole new way.”

In 2015, Habitat Cabarrus helped 35 families with repair projects. If you or someone you know is in need of critical home repairs , visit our website to learn more about how to apply for services at under What We Build/Home Repairs.

Look for the Helpers

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." — Mister Rogers

I used to LOVE to watch the opening sequence to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Each episode showed Mr. Rogers walk into his home and get comfy by changing into his sweater and sneakers. Mr. Rogers invited viewers into a personal relationship with him and provided a safe space to discuss life and childhood.  A significant part of the show’s opening included Mr. Rogers singing a song that invited viewers to be his neighbor.

Who or what is a neighbor?  Well that depends somewhat on your definition doesn’t it?  The family who lives across the street from my home in Concord is most definitely my neighbors.  They have a key to my house. We’ve watched pets during vacations, met each other’s kids at the bus stop, leant and borrowed tools and ingredients, traded stories, shared joys, and carpooled to endless school events.

Luke 10: 25-37 is the passage most people refer to as the parable of the Good Samaritan but the question that led to the story was, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answered the question by telling of a man who was set upon by robbers and beaten badly.  Two respected members of society ignored the man’s needs but the third passer-by, a Samaritan, helped.  The Samaritan tended to the man’s immediate wounds, took him to an inn to rest and recuperate, and paid the innkeeper to continue care.

Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” and then told the questioner to, “Go and do likewise.”  The story makes it clear WE are to be active helpers to our fellow man.  Our role of helper is a fluid one because each person’s needs are unique AND because each Samaritan’s abilities are different too.

On a cold March morning dozens of volunteers affiliated with the Joey Logano Foundation labored
on Coni Bennett’s future home.  Joey Logano, a very successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver, worked alongside his enthusiastic team.  Joey hammered nails, raised walls, and teased to keep spirits high.  He and his group were being very good helpers that day.  But like the Samaritan - Joey Logano did more.

Joey asked Site Supervisor Bob (the Builder) LaMarche for more information about Habitat Cabarrus.  Bob mentioned casually that Habitat Cabarrus had outgrown its trailer and that it was becoming unsafe to keep using it.  A few weeks later the Joey Logano Foundation contacted Habitat Cabarrus and asked how to go about replacing that trailer.  

And then they replaced it.  Just like that.

I don’t know if the Joey Logano Foundation understands the positive impact their gift will have on Habitat Cabarrus and our ability to help build community - but it’s terrific.  The Habitat Cabarrus trailer is a mobile construction unit and shifts nails, screws, gloves, hammers, and other building implements to the job site each work day.  It’s a workhorse that performs in heat, cold, sun, and rain for years.

Did you know one box of 16 penny nails weighs 50 pounds?  A single box of 8 penny nails also weighs 50 lbs.  It’s quite common to have several boxes of both nail sizes in the trailer.  One hammer weighs about 20 oz.  If we have 50 hammers out on a typical Saturday that’s over 100 pounds in hammers alone.  We use 20 different types of screws constructing one home - sheet rock, deck, door screws just to name a few.  The boxes are of similar weight as nails.  It takes dozens of rolls of tape to build a single house including window tape, electrical tape, and masking tape.  The weight of all these small essentials adds up quickly.  Then there are the larger tools and materials transported to the construction site as needed…

Sometimes materials (like windows) break or need to be resized.  Previously one of our Weekday Warriors would utilize his personal vehicle to transport trade-out materials to and from the supply store because the old trailer was too small to hold both supplies and large materials.  Now the materials and tools fit in the trailer.  This will not only be safer but will increase efficiency to Habitat Cabarrus construction activities.

If you read this Joey Logano, a few of our Weekday Warriors would like to offer a few specific thank you’s for your foundation’s gift. 
  • Paul Meyer is grateful because the new trailer will permit greater organization and efficiency.
  • Brad Fisher is excited because your gift will make it easier to get started each day. 
  • Paul Jordan says the larger size will enable volunteers and Warriors to actually SEE the materials they need. 
  • Jim Rockel is thankful for the increased safety the trailer provides.

That rolling metal cube is a beautiful blessing to us, the Weekday Warriors and the volunteers who give their time and talents to help our partner families attain home ownership. That trailer is a visible reminder to our partner families that a community of neighbors (including a successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver) cares about their success.

Sometimes a neighbor helps you up off the ground and bandages your wounds. Other neighbors help by collecting the mail when you’re out-of-town.  Sometimes a neighbor’s help is the key to a trailer.

Thank you to ALL our helpers who give time, talents, and treasures to build families and community.