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By Heather Kennison

In 25 years, Habitat for Humanity-Spokane has built 210 new homes and rebuilt 25 homes for low-income families in Spokane County.

Michone Preston
Michone Preston, executive director of Habitat - Spokane

Chief executive officer Michone Preston said Habitat amazes her with its ability to help people find a “fire in their lives,” given that society tries to stamp out that fire with doubt and hopelessness.

The homes restore people’s pride every day, she said. As the families have converted from renting low-income homes to home ownership, there are other less obvious effects. 

“The years have produced many college graduates, business owners and productive people, because family members could pursue their education,” she said.  “The stability owning a home brought to their lives has changed the face of their families forever.

“Habitat is a way for people to see their community at its best— in service to others,” she said.

The local affiliate has built on the momentum of people who care. Although it depends on some grants funding, she said the community is the largest contributor.

 “Habitat is a model that helps people of any faith background express their love for others and for Christians to express their love for Christ through action,” Michone said.

Established in 1987 by volunteers, led by Grace Harris, who has since moved to Colorado, the local affiliate has evolved from a $250,000 to $6 million budget, Michone said. Most revenue for Habitat-Spokane comes from donations by individuals, corporations and churches.

habitat building
Volunteer crew roofing a Habitat house

Last year, Habitat-Spokane built eight new homes and rebuilt 10 others.

“This affiliate can build 10 to 25 homes a year,” Michone said.  “We’re in a recession in terms of fund raising, and that restricts us.”

Habitat currently works with 100 active churches in the Spokane area, as well as some non-affiliated faith groups.

“We’re ecumenical, so people of no faith or people who are not part of an organized faith feel welcome on our job site,” she said.

In fact, many people consider Habitat to be like a church for them, Michone noted.

At any given time, Habitat is working with 25 to 35 families. About 3,000 volunteers work two shifts year round each year.  A van pool transports volunteers to work sites.

“I believe each of us has a responsibility to serve the poor,” Michone said. “I’m attracted to Habitat because it allows people to minister with their hands instead of their voices.”

She joined Habitat-Spokane in 1995 as development director, and later applied for executive director in 1999. As a part owner of her family’s wheat and cattle business in Mansfield, she wanted to work someplace close by. 

A Gonzaga graduate, Michone studied public relations, communications and marketing and is currently working on a master’s degree in philanthropy and development with St. Mary’s University in Minnesota.

“I came here because I saw an opportunity to serve others in a concrete way,” she said. “What I learned after working here is that building a home is just an instrument. The power of God’s love is happening through our committees, staff and hundreds of volunteers.”

Habitat-Spokane is the fourth largest tithing affiliate in the world, giving 10 percent of undesignated funds to international efforts. This year, the organization’s goal is to continue focus on fund development as well as grow in the area of faith relations.

Most Habitat homes are located in inner Spokane within the East Central and Chief Garry neighborhoods. However, the organization also works in Airway Heights, Cheney, Hillyard and Spokane Valley.

We’re intentional about not building where it’s convenient, but to build where there’s need and where we haven’t built before,” Michone said.

The current focus is a 114-home, 20-acre development in Deer Park, which Habitat plans to complete in 10 years. Six units  are under construction, along with 10 other rebuilding efforts around Spokane.

June 1 is the kick off for the annual Blitz Build, which is at Deer Park this year.  The accelerated build is one of Habitat’s most publicized annual events and helps generate enthusiasm, Michone said.

One of Habitat-Spokane’s challenges over the years has been the changing housing industry.

Housing in general has changed a great deal,” she said. “When we started it took just a few people and some dollars, but we’ve had to become much more sophisticated. The amount of regulations tied to each of our facets has compounded.”

Habitat has also been part of the Green Building Movement for about eight years.

Habitat homeowners sign up for a 30-year, no-interest loan held by Habitat. About 20 families have paid off their mortgages.

Each year, hundreds of people who live in substandard housing apply for Habitat homes. About half are accepted for interviews and about half of interviewees are accepted.

Families earn 25 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)—$62,900 for a four-person home in Spokane County in 2012. For most, their rent exceeds 30 to 35 percent of their income.

Each family must also put in 500 hours of “sweat equity,” with at least 100 hours on their own house.  Sweat equity is volunteer work in the field or office.

For information, call 534-2552 or email