Most people probably assume Habitat for Humanity is all about building houses.
“True,” says Justin Berger, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne. “Housing is our mission, but ending poverty and building a stronger community is our goal.”
Berger describes Habitat for Humanity as a big umbrella encompassing dozens of programs and projects that not only help to put a roof over the heads of people in need of affordable homes, but also serves as a resource to pull the community together to lift it up in ways most people never thought possible.
“It all has to do with our foundation which consists of three pillars: Build on Faith, Build up Families and Build Community Together. Most people don’t realize that we’re a Christian organization. We have an annual event called ‘Build on Faith’ and it’s all about strengthening churches. We believe we’re only as strong as our churches – churches make the community stronger. So, if we can build stronger teams at our churches and give them opportunities to serve, then we’re continuing the building on faith pillar.”
Berger says the second pillar, Build up Families, is what will define the community in the future, because it ultimately creates better opportunities for the children in families Habitat serves.
“We have 25 families who are working through our program right now to build homes. However, we have more than 1,100 families on a waiting list to apply to build a home. The need is really, really high. We know we can’t help everybody, but we can help to empower families by educating them through our classes. We tell them, ‘You can get a home, you can get a better career, you can go back to school,’ and it gives them confidence.”
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne provides classes open to the public that show people how to become sustainable homeowners. The classes cover topics like financial literacy and home maintenance. Berger says having skills like that helps not only those individuals, but the community as a whole.
“Our third pillar, ‘Build Community Together,’ focuses on engaging as many people as possible through volunteerism, be it individuals or corporate volunteers, looking to donate their time or treasure. We’ve developed many partnerships in the 30 years we’ve been in Allen County. We work closely with the Health Department for our ‘Healthy Homes’ initiative because health, both physical and mental health, begins at home. If you have pride in your home, you’re going to maintain it and have more self-confidence and that can lead to a better job for that person. Healthy homes mean less work absenteeism, less depression and anxiety and it strengthens kids who then have a better chance of breaking that poverty cycle.”
Habitat is excited about partnering with the Allen County Department of Health, and expects to be able to offer safety items like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors at an extremely low cost at the new ReStore on Lima Road this summer.
The facility officially opened last month and is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center selling everything from kitchen appliances to couches to floor tiles.
“Our ReStore is one of our largest sources of revenue and is what makes us sustainable,” says Megan Hubartt, communications and grants manager for the local Habitat. “For many years, we were located on Wells Street and had very little room to display items in the store. Now, we’re off Lima Road, just down the street from Costco. We not only have lots of space for the store, but also amazing visibility. And we carry both new and gently used items in our store. You can find some beautiful things here.”
“For us, the new ReStore is a beacon of hope for the community,” says Berger. “People can shop here, people can donate here and it allows us to continue serving families. It’s just another way to keep our community strong for today and tomorrow.”
Address: 2020 E. Washington Blvd. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46803
Phone: (260) 422-4828
Years in Business: 30
Number of Employees: 45