Giving Back with Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity
Photo: Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity

By David Hoekman

About the organization

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1990 to unite the community around bringing stability to local families through homeownership. The organization’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. In the past 30 years, it has built 151 Habitat homes and served 222 adults and 396 children through its signature homeownership program. Habitat builds and sells affordable homes to families that are willing to partner with it. The process is called a partnership, because it involves time and commitment from both parties.

Don Wilkinson
Meet Don Wilkinson, executive director
Photo: Don Wilkinson

How did you get started at Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity?

I ended up at Lakeshore Habitat after 40 years in private industry. I volunteered for Lakeshore Habitat several times with various companies I was working for. I really liked the model that Habitat has of being a “hand up, not a handout.” When the executive director position was available, I decided to apply. I knew nothing about working at a nonprofit, but I felt like my engineering background and many years of experience relocating and constructing new manufacturing plants made me uniquely qualified.  I never had any idea what a profound impact working at Lakeshore Habitat would have on me. To see the tears on a homeowner’s face when they receive the keys to a home they never dreamed they could own, or the smile on a child face when they show me their new room never gets old. 

What impact does Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity have on the community?

Habitat knows that safe, decent and affordable shelter plays a critical role in helping families to create a new cycle — one filled with possibilities and progress. Affordable homeownership frees families from the renting cycle, thus allowing them to foster the skills and confidence they need to invest in themselves and their communities. The outcomes are long-lasting, life-changing and have a generational impact.

To better understand how lives have been transformed in our local community, we launched the Voices of Habitat Homeowners Project in 2018. Here are some of our findings:

•93% believe they would not be where they are today without Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.

•89% spend more quality time with their families since becoming a Lakeshore Habitat homeowner.

•86% participate more in groups or activities in the community since becoming a Lakeshore Habitat homeowner.

Why this matters

Homeownership is a crucial foundation for helping low-income families find a path out of poverty. When they move out of substandard housing into simple, decent, affordable homes, homeowners and their families frequently improve in health, educational attainment, safety and personal wealth. When people have ownership of their property, they have ownership of their community and they own the outcome of their future. A stable home is a community-level intervention. We all benefit.

How you can help

This summer, we will be building a home for a family in the city of Hamilton as well as beginning to build five Habitat homes as part of a development on the south side of Holland. It takes about 1,500–2,000 volunteer hours to build a single Habitat home. If individuals, churches or businesses are interested in volunteering with us this summer, they can email volunteer@lakeshorehabitat.org. It also takes financial resources to build a Habitat home, and we are actively raising funds for these six homes. Individuals wishing to make a donation to can do so at lakeshorehabitat.org/ways-to-give.

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity
616-393-8001
lakeshorehabitat.org

David Hoekman
David Hoekman, editor at Urban St., at the Habitat & Thrivent Faith Build Photo: Ben Shank

Our Experience

It was an honor for me to volunteer with fellow 14th Street Christian Reformed Church members at the Habitat & Thrivent Faith Build in Holland. I helped dig — and then fill in — a ditch for the electrical service and was part of a “glue and screw” drywall installation crew. What a great opportunity to be a part of the body of Christ.

—David Hoekman, editor at Urban St.

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