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