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More volunteers mean more people have homes

By Brandon Johnson

Michone Preston believes that decent, safe housing is a right, not a privilege.  It stems from her faith.  It’s her work, too.

Michone Preston

Michone Preston

As Habitat for Humanity-Spokane director, she is committed to building homes as long as people need them. 

Her desire to spread God’s love to families in need sustains her for the ongoing tasks of raising funds and recruiting volunteers.

“Habitat makes life more comfortable for those who are less fortunate,” she said. 

In her 11 years with Habitat-Spokane, she has seen that some apartment complexes look good on the outside, but are not nice inside. 

“Too many families who work every day are barely surviving.  They live in low-income neighborhoods in constant fear of robbery and other crimes,” said Michone, who moved to Spokane from Mansfield  to attend Gonzaga University in 1988.

She started as the development director at Habitat for Humanity-Spokane in 1995.  Four years later, this member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church became the director of Habitat-Spokane.   

Believing the difference Habitat makes around the world and in Spokane has a lasting effect, she urges more upper- and middle-income people who have decent homes to help “our community build more homes for those who are in need, to improve the lives of everyone in the community.” 

Michone sees Habitat as a vehicle for bringing together people who might never meet and allowing them to care for each other in a way few do.

Since it began in 1976, Habitat  has created awareness of poverty in the 100 countries, where it has built more than 175,000 houses for more than 750,000 people.

Habitat-Spokane achieves its mission through a partnership, according to its mission statement:  “Faith is the foundation. Volunteers are the walls.  Donors are the roof.  Families are the heart of the home.” 

The more volunteers there are, the more homes can be built, more funds can be generated and more people can become homeowners, Michone said.

Owners of completed homes now pay taxes and support city programs,” she added.

Families qualify if they earn only 25 percent to 50 percent of the median income in Spokane, which is usually not enough to qualify for a conventional bank loan. They do have enough, however, to make monthly payments to Habitat, because the loan  Habitat provides is for the cost of the home at no interest.  Another qualifying factor is that a family must be living in substandard housing when they apply.        

Along with working for Habitat-Spokane, Michone volunteers to help other organizations with public relations and fund raising. 

She serves on the board of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, which she said is “a key to Habitat’s success.”

“The consortium keeps its eye on legislative activity and funding sources,” she said. “Many housing organizations partner to write grants and administer services.  Habitat has used a revolving loan fund through the consortium to buy land and put in infrastructure.”

For information, call 534-2552.

Written for The Fig Tree as part of a Whitworth College journalism class.

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Habitat-Spokane, one of 20 affiliates in region, hammers on its 150th home

With construction on its 150th house underway, Habitat-Spokane has doubled its capacity to build homes since 1999.

During Building on Faith Week, for example, 25 volunteers from several churches and businesses worked each day on two duplexes at the corner of Cochran and Dean in Spokane.  These houses are among 10 being built in the West Central neighborhood.

Mike Ohlsen

Mike Ohlson

Habitat-Spokane has expanded its structure with more fund raising, expertise and people.

“We must keep nimble to take opportunities to raise awareness about Habitat, both reactively and proactively to create a multifaceted relationship with the community.  Our speakers bureau increases our visibility and presence at community fairs,” Michone said.

The rate of return among volunteers is high.  A core of skilled volunteers are the “lifeblood of the building programs” along with a flow of new unskilled volunteers who gain skills, she added.

Habitat has volunteer opportunities for people with a range of skills and interests, with as many in other phases as in building. 

Some volunteers specialize.  They paint, hang doors, do finishing work, provide support services, raise funds, select families, serve on a committee or speak about the program.

“Some churches partner with other churches, and others build homes as full sponsors.  Most work in clusters based on denominations or neighborhoods,” Michone said.

Dia Maurer

Dia Maurer

Speaking at a Building on Faith Week event, Dia Maurer, who has served as an affiliate support manager with Habitat for Humanity International since 1999, said the Spokane affiliate has built the most homes in Washington state. 

“Hundreds of people are homeless in Spokane and millions in the United States,” she said, adding that Habitat is involved in relief and recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  They are determining the best ways to respond.

“We are in the process of deciding how to help in a responsible manner.  Right now, we pray for families, just as we pray every day for people around the globe who are voiceless, homeless and hopeless,” Dia said.

Habitat’s Disaster Response Office is assessing the status of Habitat families and overall housing needs created by the hurricanes, she said, with information at www.habitat.org.

Many homeless people globally rely on affiliates’ tithing through Habitat’s Global Building Projects.  Habitat-Spokane has contributed $566,000 worldwide.

“It’s an example of the church community loving neighbors, even enemies, bringing together rich and poor, liberal and conservative, skilled and unskilled, people of all faiths, colors and ages to show they care,” Dia said.

Jerry Sittser, professor of religion at Whitworth and a member of the Habitat-Spokane Board of Directors, likened Habitat’s approach to the father of the prodigal  son who took his inheritance and lost it.  Habitat goes out to find people and give them homes, believing no one deserves to be homeless.

“The longing for home is universal,” he said.  “Home is a psychological center, a place of community, as well as bricks and mortar.  Habitat helps people build homes not just houses.”

For information, call 534-2552.



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