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HABITAT FOR HUMANITY GOES FULL STEAM AHEAD

The heavy equipment has descended upon The Glen, Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood on Hilton Head Island, ready to begin construction on a second phase of homes.

Another 16 local families soon will join the 16 existing homeowners in the development, which provides much more than just a place to live.

“Habitat is fond of saying the only thing we give away is opportunity,” said Pat Wirth, the local Habitat chapter’s executive director. “People succeed remarkably in Habitat houses, and part of that, we think, is because we give them an opportunity to succeed.”

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And Habitat has created plenty of opportunities for Lowcountry residents over the past three decades. The Hilton Head chapter of the organization, which serves southern Beaufort County and all of Jasper County, has built a total of 108 houses on Hilton Head and in Bluffton and Ridgeland. 

The largest enclave of Habitat homes is the 62-home Brendan Woods neighborhood in Bluffton. The next phase at The Glen will bring the total number of homes in that development to 32; the land was donated by the Town of Hilton Head with an agreement that Habitat would install water and sewer service and pave roads. That work is underway, with plans to begin building homes by January. Six of the 16 homes are fully funded, but Habitat is seeking additional donors and volunteers to see the project to fruition. 

“We have had enormous support from the community over the last almost 30 years that we’ve been in existence,” Wirth said. “We definitely look forward to doing it again. We’re very grateful for the community’s support. It’s very evident here, all the way from the town down.”

Still, the work that has been done only puts a dent in the area’s need. Wirth said more than 200 families attended a new family orientation workshop to express interest in the new 16 homes in The Glen.

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“That’s the really hard part,” Wirth said. “No matter how fast we go or how many we build, there are still going to be people who need housing.”

The families who are selected have to make it through a thorough vetting process and demonstrate they can afford mortgage payments of about $500 a month, which includes insurance, property taxes, and pest control. They’re also required to put in 300 to 400 hours of “sweat equity” by working on their home, volunteering at the Habitat ReStore in Bluffton, and participating in community service projects.

Each family is paired with a family support partner to help navigate the homebuying process and answer their questions; families also are required to attend a series of new homeowner workshops, where they learn about budgeting, home maintenance, gardening and how to be a good neighbor.

Being selected for a Habitat house was a life-changing experience for Ana Johnson, who moved into The Glen with her 17- and 14-year-old daughters in March 2017, ending years of worrying from month to month about whether they would be able to stay in their apartment.

“As a single-mother, it’s so important for my family, my daughters, to have a good place to live,” Johnson said. “It makes a total difference.”

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Wirth has seen again and again the impact having a “simple, decent place to live” has on families — especially children. She points to countless success stories involving Habitat families, including numerous first-generation college students, some of whom have gone on to medical or law school.

“We know without a doubt that having a home of their own that is a simple, decent place to live, makes all the difference in their lives,” Wirth said. “That stability can’t be understated. It’s so important for them.”

GET INVOLVED

Want to volunteer?

Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteers not only for construction, but also to provide family services, assist with special events, raise funds, and work in the Habitat ReStore. For more information, contact the volunteer coordinator at 843-384-9939, email volunteer@habitathhi.org or go to habitathhi.org.

Want to be a hero?

Hilton Head Regional Habitat needs land to expand its program of bringing affordable opportunities for home ownership on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton. To donate, contact patwirth@habitathhi.org.