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Habitat-Spokane has built more than 270 homes over its 30 years

Michelle Girardot tells how the tithe multiplies impact abroad.

The story of Habitat for Humanity is one of drawing people out of poverty, said Michelle Girardot, executive director of the Spokane Habitat for Humanity affiliate, which is beginning its 30th year.

From its beginnings, meeting in the choir room at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in 1988, Habitat for Humanity Spokane has built more than 270 homes in Spokane County.

Many grassroots people, like Spokane’s Habitat founder Grace Harris, have seen the need over the years, Michelle said.

At first, it operated out of a house on N. Napa and then an office.  The Habitat-Spokane store, which opened on Hamilton and Trent, later moved to an industrial park on Sullivan Rd. 

Since last summer, both the office and store have been in one building at 1805 E Trent, said Michelle. 

The affiliate will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 27, at the Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The featured speaker is Clive Rainey, the first volunteer at Habitat for Humanity in the late 1970s in Americus, Ga., where it was founded.

“From there, it spread like wildfire as people caught ‘Habitatitis,’ as Habitat for Humanity connects people from different walks of life to see how to make a difference,” said Michelle.

Habitat now speaks of the number of “families served” rather than the number of homes built, she pointed out, because some of its work is new construction, some is rehabilitation and some is water purification. 

“We provide a range of housing solutions worldwide,” she said.

One accomplishment has been that Habitat-Spokane’s practice of tithing has meant it has sent $1 million to affiliates worldwide. When it reached that level last June, it received Habitat’s Sam Mompongo Award.

The 10 percent that goes abroad goes to areas of the most need, including areas after natural disasters such as in Haiti, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Ten percent of a $120,000 to $140,000 two-bedroom house here translates into many more houses and a major impact in countries where costs of building are lower, Michelle said.

“Our tithing is a reminder that our neighbors in need are everywhere, she said.  “Our board has a vision and commitment to be sure to build homes for all God’s people in need, both in Spokane and around the world.

“Our move into one building has had a dramatic impact,” she said.  “We have been able to increase the revenue from our Habitat Store, which generates enough income—$20,000 to $40,000 a month—to build homes, so that two homes can be built through store revenue each year.”

The store sells reclaimed wood, appliances, paint, tile, furniture and other items.  The store may accept a rundown dresser, and volunteers remove the paint and make it “shabby chic.” Volunteers learn to reclaim items and turn them to treasures.

The move of the store and affiliate offices nearer to the city makes it more connected and visible to the community, and more accessible for volunteers.

“Our staff can work as a cohesive team, remembering what our mission calls us to do and allowing us to serve more families in Spokane,” Michelle said.

“We have 8,000 to 12,000 volunteers a year.  They help in different capacities on job sites, upcycle—creatively reusing—items in the store, advocate for affordable housing or do community relations.  If people want to volunteer, we find a niche,” she said.

Habitat-Spokane, one of 2,000 Habitat for Humanity affiliates across  the nation and 31 in Washington,  now has 18 staff.

Michelle has worked with Habitat-Spokane for seven years and has been its executive director for two years.

“I’m passionate about connecting people with generous hearts to our mission,” she said, telling how her love for the mission has grown as she has brought new people into the ministry to serve more families and invite more donors.

Habitat empowers families who are hard workers and have a strong work ethic, she said.

“I also have a passion to help pull families out of dire circumstances,” she said.  “Some volunteers maintain some contact with families, but, because it’s an empowerment program, once a family has gone through the steps, they fly off like birds leaving a nest.”

Volunteers move on to help transform the lives of the next families by giving them the tools they need.   Many volunteers have worked with Habitat for years.

A group of retirees works on Thursdays.  They previously came with company teams, and then dedicated themselves to continue building on Thursdays at job sites.

Along with individuals who volunteer, many groups volunteer year after year, such as Umpqua Bank.  Some build for a certain month, and some build all year.

“It’s hard to build in the winter, but Umpqua employees will step up in that season,” she said. 

Some faith groups have also been coming for years. 

“For congregations, it’s a strategic investment of their time, responding to the call to be like Jesus, doing team building and partnering in a Christian mission,” Michelle said.

During Lent, five congregations come.  Over a given year, about 30 faith groups or congregations support the program through volunteering or other means.

For information, call 534-2552 or email

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