During today's Tuesday Morning Coffee, I have the privilege of talking with Beth Smith, Executive Director for the Rutherford County Habitat for Humanity. Tune in to learn how they have helped over 130 families afford a home just in Rutherford County, and see how you can help this wonderful organization!
JOHN: Hey, guys. This is John Jones, honored to have Beth Smith, the executive director with Habitat for Humanity, which is a fabulous non-profit, international organization that we are lucky to have just an unbelievable chapter here in Rutherford County. And Beth runs the show. Thanks for being with us.
BETH: Thanks for having me.
JOHN: The first question I have is obviously I think most of us know out there that home ownership is such a vital component to people’s lives. We’ve seen all kinds of studies where the sense of pride of owning a home is carried over to the kids, and people just do so much better with stability and parental support inside of owning a home, so we know it’s important.
I think there’s probably a misconception out there or not a really good understanding of what Habitat actually does for people in home ownership. So give me kind of a briefing of what Habitat does for folks.
BETH: Okay. Well, there are a lot of misconceptions about Habitat, and the biggest one is that we give the houses away.
JOHN: Free houses, right?
BETH: Free houses, and the families don’t pay for them. And in fact, that’s not what we do. The family is deeded the home. They make a monthly mortgage payment.
BETH: And they pay that to us. The biggest difference, and really probably one of the only differences, is we don’t charge interest.
BETH: So it’s an interest-free loan, and it just really gives them the opportunity to take a step that they wouldn’t have been able to afford with a conventional mortgage. And it puts them on the track to be more stable and to provide more for their family.
JOHN: Well, I was going to ask you to give me an example of maybe a neat story of somebody you’ve helped. And we were talking earlier, so tell the audience about this person. In fact, you’re on home what number right now?
BETH: One hundred and thirteen.
JOHN: A hundred and thirteen people that this organization’s helped right here in Rutherford County. But this particularly family, tell a little bit about them. Immigrants to—
BETH: Yes, actually, the husband and wife came over from Africa and wanted to start a life over here. She worked while he went to school. They ended up having three children. He ended up getting his degree and went on to get his master’s, got a really good job, and then left.
BETH: Deserted the family and there she was left with the children, not speaking great English. She did speak some, but couldn’t afford to go back to where she was. And so she had to just really take over both roles of the family, get a job, and she has a very stable job. She’s been there for many years now.
JOHN: And a very good person it sounds like.
BETH: Very good person.
JOHN: Very sweet person.
BETH: Just very humble and very sweet and just very excited about the experience and excited to be able to be a homeowner and provide that for her children. And so it’s like that with just every family. Every family has a great story.
JOHN: There’s a story. How much time do they actually have? I know they have to go through classes. They have to learn about homeownership.
JOHN: And how to make utility payments and home maintenance and things like that. But they also actually put in some sweat equity. How many hours do y’all require that they be involved with the home?
BETH: They have to work at least 300 hours of sweat equity if there’s one adult in the family. If there’s two adults, it’s 400 hours.
BETH: And if you think about it and break it down, if you work a 40-hour workweek and then you think about working 300 or 400 more hours, that’s a lot of time.
BETH: And the average amount of time to work through the program is about a year and a half.
JOHN: They’ve got skin in the game, so to speak.
JOHN: To me, that would make the home even more special.
BETH: It does. And the financial classes really help them also on two degrees because they learn about budgeting and how to save for the future and how to avoid predatory lending, a lot of things they’ve fallen prey to before. But also, they build a sense of community there because the people they’re going to class with are a lot of them going to be neighbors. So they’re going on and building those relationships and getting got know their neighbors. And I have had families tell me before, “Nobody’s really cared about me before.”
BETH: “And cared about my welfare.” And that’s hard to hear when you come from a background where you can’t imagine that.
JOHN: Sure. Right, right.
BETH: And to know that habitat is able to provide that and help people through that process is just a very rewarding thing.
JOHN: Well, I’m sure it is. And I know like with any nonprofit, there’s always challenges.
JOHN: But when you get to see those smiles—I was lucky enough to be at one of the—
JOHN: —dedications a couple of years ago, and there was four families involved. And I walked away there just teary-eyed because it was such a special day. All right. What are some of your biggest challenges right now with Habitat?
BETH: Well, land is always a challenge—affordable land I would say—and money for construction for the homes are our biggest challenges.
JOHN: So if people want to help you, what are some ways people can get involved with Habitat because I think a lot of people would love to get involved.
BETH: There are lots of ways. Some of them don’t cost anything. You can always come out and volunteer, call our office and get set up for that. You don’t have to be skilled. Very few of our volunteered. But we have the skills.
JOHN: Is there a certain age?
BETH: But we have skilled construction staff that are always out there. So volunteering, donating things to the ReStore.
JOHN: Right. And the ReStore is a store that is on Mercury, and basically all the proceeds or profits from that store go back to help fund our chapter here, correct?
BETH: Right, right.
JOHN: You can get some cool things, some good buys.
BETH: Very cool things.
JOHN: Most of the things have to do with components to a home.
BETH: Anything from sinks, lighting, rugs, anything….flooring. So donating things to the ReStore. Also donating money.
BETH: You can never overlook the importance of that.
JOHN: Yes. I’ll go ahead and say that. If anybody out there is so led to write a check, they will gladly accept it. And about every dollar is going to help this chapter.
BETH: Goes to construction, yeah.
JOHN: Construction here in Rutherford County, and that is a huge, huge component to this thing.
BETH: We’re very, very proud to be able to say that.
JOHN: Right. And that’s awesome. Well y’all have helped—one your 113th family here in Rutherford County. And I will say this too. a lot of people have this —I think and I had for years—misconception that these little institutionalized houses that you might you see—
BETH: On a cracker box.
JOHN: Yeah. Something you would see in a housing authority or a project-type area. They’re not. You wouldn’t even know. If you drive down the street, they are cute; they are coming up with better designs every year. I’ve seen you do the craftsman style. In fact, some of them I think look a lot better than some of the new construction homes going up today.
BETH: We have brick front. Yeah, they’re really nice and another thing is we are Energy Star. All of our houses are built to Energy Star standards, green standards, so you’re going to get a lot better utility cost. And this helps the family tremendously too because they’re usually coming a place where their electric bills just soar because of insulation and things like that.
JOHN: Keeps the cost down. Well, cool deal.
BETH: We want to set them up to succeed.
JOHN: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
BETH: Thank you.
JOHN: I love what you do. Thanks for doing it.
BETH: Thank you very much.
JOHN: Because you’re a talented lady, and there’s probably ways that you could make more money in the real world, but you do what your passion is.
BETH: This is my passion.
JOHN: That’s very important. That makes a huge impact on our society.
BETH: I am very blessed to be in Habitat. Ya’ll come see us.
JOHN: We’re glad to have you. We’re lucky. On the screen, obviously, you can see a website if you want to reach out to them and also the phone number if you want to reach out. Please do it. It’s a worthy, worthy cause and something that would be great for you to be involved with.