Terrapin Security is Habitat Choptank’s Business Partner of the Year

Habitat Choptank has named Terrapin Security as its Business Partner of the Year for 2017. Terrapin Security is a fully licensed and insured security system agency that has been securing the Eastern Shore for over a decade.

Habitat Choptank director of construction Wayne Suggs met with representatives of the company to present the honors. From L-R: Lee Coulby, Suggs, Dale Moore, and Jack Glessner.

“This award recognizes those businesses that are ongoing partners and have provided significant support to our affordable home ownership program,” explained director of construction Wayne Suggs at Habitat Choptank’s recent award dinner.  The collaboration with Terrapin Security started in 2012 when one of Habitat’s home buyer’s lost her job just weeks before the final certificate of occupancy on her new house. With the completed home sitting empty for months while the buyer searched for new employment, Terrapin Security agreed to install a security system to keep the property protected. That home buyer eventually found a new job and she bought the home. “Today she’s making her mortgage payment each month and Terrapin has continued to donate their services. We’re now 17 homes and counting.”

The company installs high quality, non-proprietary equipment which means the home owner can, but does not have to, use them for monitoring of the system. They also generously provide in-home training to the home owners after move in. “Terrapin is a committed partner who asks for nothing in return other than a small sign by the front steps of each home,” said Suggs.

For information about buying a home through Habitat Choptank, to volunteer or to make a donation, visit www.habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.  Terrapin Security can be reached by calling 410-822-6500 or going online to www.terrapinsecurity.com.

ReStore Presents Big Check to Habitat Choptank

Habitat for Humanity Choptank volunteers, staff and board members celebrated a milestone at their ReStore’s seventh anniversary event.  A ceremonial check in the amount of $669,849 was revealed representing the cumulative net income the discount home improvement center has generated since it opened in October 2010.  Funds raised by the ReStore are invested into Habitat Choptank’s mission and affordable home ownership programs in Dorchester and Talbot counties.

“We couldn’t have done this without such a supportive community,” said ReStore manager Chris Smith.  It starts with the donors – businesses and organizations, contractors and individuals – who provide an inventory of donated goods that changes daily.  Then there are the customers – collectors, crafters and artists, do-it-yourself types, and landlords – looking to improve their properties.

ReStore manager Chris Smith (left, shaking hands) with George Fox, vice-president on the Habitat Choptank board of directors.

And just as important, team ReStore which includes an equally diverse volunteer corps of men and women of all different ages who help with every aspect of the store operation. Smith adds, “our volunteers support the Habitat Choptank mission, help keep good usable stuff out of the landfill, and have fun in the process. I encourage others who want to make a difference in their community to consider volunteering here.”

ReStores are resale outlets run by local Habitat affiliates.  Habitat Choptank’s ReStore accepts donated construction materials, home improvement items and furniture.  These goods are sold to the general public at a fraction of the retail price providing funding to the affiliate for its operating costs which represents about 5-10% of its annual budget. With this unique source of revenue, funding from contributions and grants can be invested directly into the non-profit’s program costs including building homes and preparing the homebuyers.

The Habitat Choptank ReStore, located at 8610 Commerce Drive in Easton, is open Wednesdays – Saturdays for shoppers and donations.  The store also operates two box trucks which are available to pick up larger donations with advance scheduling from around the region.

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has made home ownership possible for 75 families and currently partners with 12 local home buyers. Seven homes are under construction at this time with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory.  After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, and meeting debt reduction and savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years. Habitat accepts applications for its home ownership program throughout the year.

For more information about the Habitat Choptank ReStore, to volunteer with the store or to inquire about making a donation, call 410-820-6186, email restore@habitatchoptank.org or visit www.HabitatChoptank.org.

Habitat Choptank Expands Construction Staff to Grow its Mission

Habitat for Humanity Choptank is pleased to announce several staff changes within its construction team. This reorganization is part of the overall implementation of the nonprofit’s strategic plan for growth in Dorchester and Talbot counties. Launched in July 2015, the plan provides a blueprint toward expansion for the board, staff and volunteers. It is the result of a more than 12-month review and planning process involving input from some 100 different stakeholders.

Goals in the plan provide guidance and direction for increasing Habitat Choptank’s traditional self-help home ownership program and for the addition of other housing services in the target communities where it operates. In response to identified community needs, the forecasted growth is both geographic and programmatic. Habitat Choptank will work concurrently in four communities within its two county service area – Easton, St. Michaels, Cambridge and Hurlock; operate at a level to complete at least eight home sales per year; build stronger neighborhoods through quality, sustainable new construction homes and rehabs, and through Neighborhood Revitalization; and develop well-prepared home owners using right-sized financing combined with education, support and relationships pre- and post-settlement.

From L-R, Wayne Suggs, director of construction, Rhodana Fields, neighborhood revitalization manager, Jim Thomas, construction supervisor for Talbot County and Scott Baynard, construction supervisor for Dorchester County. Photo by: Jay Shotel

Since the launch of this plan, Wayne Suggs has joined Habitat Choptank’s staff team as director of construction. This is a new position for the nonprofit. Suggs oversees the pipeline of new home ownership projects including working with site acquisition and managing site development.

Once construction begins, the day to day effort of ordering supplies, working with construction volunteers, and scheduling subcontractors is handled by the construction supervisors. Jim Thomas is supervising new construction and rehab projects in Talbot County. Next door in Dorchester County, Scott Baynard has taken the lead.

Meanwhile, Rhodana Fields has transitioned off the construction team after seven years to assume the role of neighborhood revitalization manager. In order to support area renewal, Habitat Choptank generally works in neighborhoods that have higher incidences of abandoned and blighted properties, as well as homes with significant deferred maintenance, and health and safety concerns.  Working within these target area, Habitat Choptank, like other Habitat affiliates around the United States, has come to realize that ‘we cannot build our way out of the housing problem.’ In response, programming has been expanded over the last three years to include weatherization and housing repairs in partnership with existing low-income homeowners in and around the neighborhoods where Habitat build new homes.

“This talented group is committed to our mission and brings over 100 years of collective experience in construction and project management,” notes Habitat Choptank executive director Nancy Andrew. That kind of knowledge and skill translates into quality workmanship by the staff working in partnership with Habitat’s dedicated construction volunteers. “A key part of making home ownership affordable is making sure the work is durable, that it lasts. Good quality work translates into lower operating costs for the hardworking low-income home buyers and home owners that we partner with.”

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has partnered with 214 local households to improve a place they call home. Of those, 139 have been served through weatherization and repair services since Habitat Choptank initiated its neighborhood revitalization program in 2015. Seventy-five individuals and families have purchased new or rehabbed homes from the nonprofit.

Currently, 12 local home buyers are working through the home ownership program. Seven homes are under construction at this time with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory of durable and energy efficient homes. While selling its homes to mostly first time and even first generation home buyers, it continues to maintain a less than 2% foreclosure rate with only one foreclosure over its 25-year history.

Habitat accepts applications for its housing programs throughout the year. To donate, volunteer or apply, visit habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Habitat Choptank ReStore Celebrating Seventh Anniversary

The Habitat for Humanity Choptank ReStore, located at 8610 Commerce Drive in Easton, just off the bypass near Target, is preparing to celebrate its seventh anniversary with an open house on Saturday, November 11th from 9 am to 4pm.  Shoppers and donors will enjoy food, special discounts, and a wide variety of merchandise.  At 10:30am, store volunteers and staff will gather to reveal the total proceeds that have been generated to date to support Habitat’s affordable home ownership program.

The resale shop opened its doors in 2010 based on a business plan put together by a group of volunteers who saw this as an additional way to serve the community and raise other funds for the Habitat mission in Dorchester and Talbot Counties. In 2015, the ReStore relocated to a larger facility just a few doors away from its original location. “With great support from the community, we continue to grow and grow,” says ReStore manager Chris Smith. “Since our doors opened, we’ve been receiving wonderful donations of quality used and even new home improvement items, appliances, and furniture, and offering a one of a kind shopping experience to the public.”

Store inventory changes daily. The now-familiar ReStore trucks makes a couple dozen pick-ups per week, collecting donated goods from individuals, retailers and builders all over the Mid-Shore. Hundreds more items are brought right to the ReStore by donors every month. Drive-up donors are greeted by a crew of dedicated volunteers who prepare a receipt that can be used for tax purposes.

“We work with a lot of commercial donors as well as receive donations from the general public,” Smith says.  “Our single biggest department in terms of sales is furniture, which comes almost entirely from individual donors.”

The net proceeds from the ReStore are invested into Habitat Choptank’s self-help home purchasing program.  Since its founding in 1992, the nonprofit home builder has made home ownership possible for 75 qualifying home buyers in its two-county service region. Seven homes are currently under construction with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to buy a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory.  After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, eliminating debit and meeting savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years.

For more information about the ReStore, to shop, donate or volunteer, call 410-820-6186.  Information about Habitat Choptank’s ReStore, its affordable home ownership program, and other volunteer opportunities, can be found at www.HabitatChoptank.org.

Habitat Choptank Hosting Home Buyer Information Sessions

Habitat home owner Nora Skiver

Habitat for Humanity Choptank invites community members to attend one of its upcoming home buyer information sessions. These events are free and open to any individuals and families who may be interested in purchasing a home in partnership with Habitat in Dorchester or Talbot counties.   On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, the nonprofit will host a session from 5:30-6:30 pm at its office in Trappe at 29350 Maple Avenue. That Saturday, November 11th Habitat representatives will also be at Hurlock Elementary School in North Dorchester County for a session starting at 10am.

“With seven homes currently in progress and plans to start additional homes in the coming months, we are looking to recruit more applicants,” notes program manager Pat Ingram.  In 2015, the Habitat Choptank Board of Directors launched a multi-year strategic plan to expand its home ownership program both geographically and in terms of the number of annual home sales. The goal is to grow from four house closings per year to eight with homes available in Cambridge, Hurlock and Easton, and construction in St. Michaels on the horizon.

Following a presentation about the requirements buyers must meet to purchase a home of their own, there will be the opportunity to hear from owners who previously purchased homes from Habitat Choptank. Habitat homes are not given away but are sold to buyers who meet the program criteria and can show an ability to make an affordable monthly mortgage payment. The homes are affordable because Habitat Choptank sells its houses at cost and at no profit, the homes are built with mostly volunteer labor, and the homes are energy efficient and constructed with durable materials.

The application process begins with verification of household income. To qualify for financing with Habitat Choptank, buyers must have an annual income between $26,320 – $48,880 (for up to a household of four; income range adjusted for larger households). Income includes gross wages and salary along with other verifiable sources of income such as child support or social security.

“These are buyers who can’t qualify for conventional financing but who also have the dream of home ownership,” explains Ingram.  In this income range, applicants can document an ability to repay an affordable mortgage for the purchase of a moderately priced house.

Habitat home buyers are partners in every sense of the word. They contribute sweat equity toward the construction of their future home and on the homes of other Habitat buyers. Homeowners also participate in a series of classes designed to prepare them for the responsibilities of homeownership.

“The first step is just talking with us to see if you might qualify,” says Ingram. Buying a home can seem like such a huge goal. “Our process is broken down into steps and it starts by simply asking about the program and discussing your circumstances. If you don’t qualify today, we’ll tell you what changes are needed to meet our criteria.”

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has empowered 75 working households from Talbot and Dorchester counties to build a better future for themselves through the stability and security of owning a home they can afford.  Currently, 12 buyers are working through Habitat’s multi-step program toward the goal of becoming successful home owners and additional applicants are welcome.  For information about home ownership, to volunteer with Habitat Choptank or to make a donation, visit www.habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Habitat for Humanity Choptank Honors its Volunteers

ReStore volunteer Jay Shotel (left) received Habitat Choptank’s Golden Globe award from store manager Chris Smith. Photo by: Jill Jasuta

Local Habitat volunteers, supporters, home owners and future home buyers came together for an evening dinner at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department to celebrate Habitat for Humanity Choptank’s progress over the last year and to mark the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary.  Over the last fiscal year, the nonprofit home builder screened 261 intakes for its home ownership program, qualified 11 new home buyer candidates, sold 3 new homes for a total of 75 homes completed historically, had 6 other homes under construction, and completed 80 weatherization projects through its expanded housing services.

These accomplishments were made possible by 528 volunteers who contributed 26,642 hours of service working in construction, helping at the office and tackling special projects, serving on committees and the Board, and volunteering at the ReStore.  It would take 13 full-time employees to generate an equivalent number of hours.

Guests at the event were treated to BBQ by Hot Off the Coals and to ice cream from Scottish Highland Creamery.  The meal was followed by a presentation of volunteer awards.

Sandy Holicky and Terri Spence were each awarded a Golden Hard Hat which honors special construction volunteers. While they live in Queen Anne’s County, Holicky and Spence have been regular volunteers on Wednesdays and Thursdays with the building crews in Cambridge for over five years. During the construction of the Women Build House in 2016-2017, the two added another build day to their schedule in order to be part of that special project. Most notably, Holicky and Spence were recognized for their welcoming spirit. “When they arrive on the jobsite, Sandy and Terri are quick to grab a task and a less skilled or totally new volunteer and head off to make that task appear on the completed list,” said construction supervisor Scott Baynard. “I haven’t seen a time when they didn’t have a smile on their faces and they make everyone else smile.”

The Golden Hammer, an award to recognize a general affiliate volunteer who serves in more than one role, was presented to Skip Wrightson. Wrightson is a longstanding and faithful member of the Thursday construction crew. He also lends his time and support to Habitat Choptank’s building and safety committees. “Skip offers sound suggestions for our construction planning and procedures while bringing his personal experience of safety implementation to our affiliate,” explained Jim Thomas, construction supervisor in Talbot County. “Also on the jobsite, he has joined with a few others in leading Morning Prayer helping to keep God at the center of our mission. While this is not a requirement of any volunteer, his involvement is appreciated.”

The Golden Globe award for outstanding ReStore volunteer was presented to Jay Shotel who joined the store’s volunteer crew in 2013. “This gentleman is the true definition of patience,” said ReStore manager Chris Smith. Jay is a regular member of the ReStore Tuesday Crew serving as a leader of the 10-12 shift. “He works side by side with our community outreach volunteers. They absolutely adore him and so do we. He keeps the whole crew motivated.” He also keeps the staff and volunteers fueled. “His wife bakes us the most wonderful treats and he makes sure we all sit down to enjoy lunch.”

Fellow ReStore volunteers Rory Callahan and Nathan Kish were recognized for the exceptional number of volunteers they contribute annually. Each serves over 1,000 hours per year helping with the store operations

Habitat Choptank welcomed four new directors onto its volunteer Board. From L-R, new directors Eric Lowery, Paul Brandt, Larry Neviaser, and Phyllis Rambo with Board president Charlie Bohn. Photo by: Jill Jasuta

The program concluded with a mortgage burning celebration. Three home owners made the final loan payments on their homes during the last year. Reverend Dartanyon Hines, of Scotts United Methodist Church in Trappe, led a special service to honor the occasion. One by one Glenda Dawson of Easton, Lillie Mae Mundy of Bellevue, and Mickey Hynson and Rasheme Chester of St. Michaels stepped forward for the ceremonial lighting of a copy of their original note.

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has partnered with 214 local households to improve a place they call home. One hundred and thirty nine of those families have been served through weatherization and repair services since Habitat Choptank initiated its neighborhood revitalization program in 2015. Seventy-five individuals and families have purchased new or rehabbed homes from the nonprofit and currently ten local home buyers are working through the home ownership program.  Seven homes are under construction at this time with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory of durable and energy efficient homes.  After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, and meeting debt reduction and savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years.  While selling its homes to mostly first time and even first generation home buyers, it continues to maintain a less than 2% foreclosure rate with only one foreclosure over its 25 year history.

Habitat accepts applications for its housing programs throughout the year. To donate, volunteer or apply, visit habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Habitat Choptank Celebrates Three Mortgage Burnings

Habitat for Humanity Choptank marked a major milestone at its annual volunteer appreciation dinner with a mortgage burning celebration.  Three home owners, having made the final loan payments on their homes during the last year, joined with Habitat volunteers, staff, and future home buyers for the ceremony. This milestone coincides with Habitat Choptank’s 25th anniversary.  The first mortgage burning was celebrated in 2014 and every year since at least one home owner has paid off.

Reverend Dartanyon Hines, of Scotts United Methodist Church in Trappe, led a special service to commemorate the occasion. One by one Glenda Dawson of Easton, Lillie Mae Mundy of Bellevue, and Mickey Hynson and Rasheme Chester of St. Michaels stepped forward for the ceremonial lighting of a copy of their original note.

The feeling of joy is evident for Lillie Mae Mundy as she burns a copy of her mortgage. Photo By: Jill Jasuta

While many will recognize Habitat for building and rehabbing homes, it is often less well known that Habitat affiliates serve as the primary lender for their home sales. In 2015 and following the lead of other rural Habitat affiliates, Habitat Choptank expanded its financing program to include the 502 Direct Loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in addition to traditional Habitat mortgages. Of the 75 homes that Habitat Choptank has completed since 1992, 71 were purchased with a zero-percent interest Habitat mortgage while four have been financed by USDA.

The use of no-interest or zero-equivalent low-interest loans is central to Habitat’s work of making home ownership affordable for individuals and families who cannot qualify for conventional financing. It is worth noting that while most Habitat home buyers are generally first-time and even first generation home buyers, the nonprofit continues to maintain a less than 2% foreclosure rate with only one foreclosure over its 25 year history.

However their loan is financed, Habitat home buyers assume the full responsibilities of home ownership: making monthly mortgage payments, paying home owner’s insurance and property taxes, and maintaining their homes. While the dream of home ownership has been made complete for the Dawson, Mundy and Hynson-Chester families with their final payments, their responsibilities as home owners continue.  Education and support are core components of Habitat’s housing program.  Volunteers from the Mortgage Servicing Committee have developed an educational workshop to help these and the other home owners who will be paying off their notes in the coming years to make sound financial and home maintenance plans for the future.

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has empowered 75 working individuals and families from Talbot and Dorchester counties to build strength, stability and self-reliance through home ownership. Each buyer today contributes 300-400 hours of “sweat equity” in building houses in lieu of a down payment, attends education classes, eliminates any outstanding collectible debt, and saves $4,500 for costs at settlement.  Currently, ten buyers are working through Habitat’s partnership program toward the goal of becoming successful home owners.  Applications for home ownership are accepted throughout the year. For information about home ownership, to volunteer with Habitat Choptank or to make a donation, visit www.habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Sweet: Habitat Choptank Sells Homes 74 and 75

The United Voices of Scott’s United Methodist Church provided music for the Templeton family’s home dedication. Templeton, a member of the congregation who also sings in the choir, bought the rehabbed house on Port Street after meeting Habitat Choptank’s partnership requirements for sweat equity, education classes, savings and debt elimination.

The back to school season was even more exciting this year for two local families who partnered with Habitat for Humanity Choptank to buy homes in Easton. Kristan Green and family moved into a new construction house on Hammond Street in Easton. Green is employed with Wal-Mart in Easton. Over on Port Street, Lakeisha Templeton, who works at Harris Teeter, purchased a rehabbed house as the new home for her family. Both of these houses were completed using durable materials and with additional energy efficiency features so that the finished homes are affordable in both purchase price and in long-term operating costs.

Habitat Choptank construction supervisor Jim Thomas presents Kristan Green with the keys to her family’s new home. Green invested her own sweat equity in the construction of Habitat homes and has now purchased the Hammond Street house with an affordable mortgage.

With the sale of these homes, Habitat Choptank has created a total of 75 new home ownership opportunities since concerned community members began organizing around the local need for affordable housing in 1992. That effort continues as six more Habitat homes are in progress now between Dorchester and Talbot Counties. These houses located in Easton, Cambridge, and Hurlock are a mix of new construction and rehab projects.

Habitat home buyers are hardworking people who cannot qualify for conventional financing but who earn enough to assume the responsibilities of home ownership when provided with ‘right-size mortgages.’ Homes are sold with no profit to Habitat. Each house must serve as the buyer’s residence during the life of the mortgage.

Following settlement, each buyer assumes the full responsibilities of home ownership: repaying a mortgage over the next 30-33 years, maintaining the home, and paying home owner’s insurance and property taxes. With these responsibilities, also come joy and a sense of accomplishment for Green and Templeton, both first-time home buyers, who have now achieved the dream of home ownership.

In keeping with Habitat tradition, a home dedication celebration was hosted at each home. Both families expressed appreciation to Habitat Choptank volunteers, staff and donors for their support.

“I remember being asked at one of the Habitat education workshops what am I most excited about in becoming a home owner,” Green said. “I answered space, comfort and stability. Thank you Habitat Choptank for giving my family a brighter and more secure future.”

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has empowered 75 individuals and families from Talbot and Dorchester counties to build a better future for themselves through affordable home ownership. Each home buyer contributes 300-400 hours of “sweat equity” in the building of those houses, attends education classes, saves $4,500 for costs at settlement and eliminated any outstanding collection debt for the opportunity to buy a home with an affordable mortgage. While selling its homes to mostly first-time and even first-generation home buyers, Habitat Choptank continues to maintain a less than 2% foreclosure rate with only one home foreclosed over the 25 year history. Currently, 10 buyers are working through Habitat’s multi-step program. Additional applications are welcomed. For information about home ownership, to volunteer with Habitat Choptank or to make a donation, visit www.habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Habitat Choptank Celebrates 25 Years

This July Habitat for Humanity Choptank celebrates a quarter century of building strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable home ownership. Since its founding in 1992, Habitat Choptank has made home ownership possible for 72 families with only one foreclosure over the 25-year history.

“The homes we build and rehab are the most visible part of our mission,” notes Charlie Bohn, president of the Habitat Choptank board of directors. The success of the mission, however, extends beyond home construction to include developing well-prepared home buyers with education, support and relationships from the first contact to that moment when the keys are handed over to the follow-through on into home ownership.

In 2014, Habitat Choptank celebrated its first mortgage burning. Home owner Diane Satterfield, who purchased Habitat’s first home in Easton, joined with Habitat supporters to mark this milestone.

Cultivating new skills and getting one’s financial house in order are key elements in Habitat’s program. Each buyer, paired with a volunteer Habitat coach, attends education classes, saves thousands of dollars for costs at closing, and contributes hundreds of hours of sweat equity.

“Our home buyers are partners in this work,” says Bohn. “These are individuals and families who can’t qualify for a conventional mortgage but who have the dream of home ownership.” Through an extensive application process, the future home buyers document an ability to repay an affordable mortgage for the purchase of a moderately-priced house.

Habitat Choptank’s roots go back to the early 1990’s when concerned citizens came together to consider the state of low-income housing within the affluence of Talbot County and to investigate alternatives. In St. Michaels, Union United Methodist Church and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church had been meeting as covenant churches.  After a year of dialogue, the two churches knew they wanted to continue meeting together and decided to organize around the need for affordable housing in the town.

Hugh Smith (left) and Jo Merrill were founding board members for Habitat for Humanity of Talbot County.

At the same time, Easton resident Hugh Smith was troubled about the state of substandard housing in the county.  Smith met with the St. Michaels church pastors – Rev. Ray Hopkins and Rev. Joe Henry – and participated in a series of town meetings.  “Habitat was a simple idea that made inherently good sense,” Smith recalls. “It all came together quickly and a Board of Directors was organized.”  Smith was the founding president.  In 2003, he was named an emeritus member of the Board in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the Habitat mission in Talbot County.

The first Habitat home was built on Lee Street in St. Michaels.  Construction began in the fall of 1992.   The single family house was dedicated in April of the next year.

Construction on the second home began shortly thereafter in Easton.  “It was important that we go to Easton,” explains Jo Merrill.  Merrill was another one of the early leaders, serving as the second president of the Board of Directors of which she is also an emeritus member. “It was our first two-story home which created some anxiety. It was our first time using scaffolding to do the siding and the roof was steep.”

In 2010, Habitat Choptank celebrated its 50th home with the sale of a home in its 10-home development on Clay Street in Easton.

Nervousness aside, the home was completed in February 2014 and purchased by Diane Satterfield. Fast forward 20 years to 2014, Habitat Choptank supporters joined with Satterfield to celebrate her mortgage burning. Her final mortgage payment represented another opportunity for Habitat to offer support and education. Volunteers developed a new educational workshop to help Satterfield and the other home owners who are beginning to pay off their notes in making sound financial and home maintenance plans for the future.

“We started with a vision and some very special people,” recalled Merrill.  “Since then, Habitat has grown and grown.  In the beginning, we didn’t talk in these numbers.  We built one house and then when that was done, we said ‘let’s build another.’  It’s very exciting to see where Habitat is today.”

The original Talbot County Habitat affiliate has grown into a regional organization.  A financially autonomous Dorchester County branch of Habitat was initiated in 2004 and began building its operations under the guidance of Habitat Talbot County.  Ultimately, the two groups recognized their shared mandate and joined together to include both counties under the new name Habitat for Humanity Choptank.

From 2014, volunteers in Cambridge work to raise the walls on the Dorchester County Ecumenical Build Home. Area churches raised the money to fund the construction of this house and helped provide construction volunteers.

Beyond expanding geographically, Habitat Choptank has expanded its mission. Operational capacity has increased thanks to a volunteer crew that now numbers more than 500 people annually. Currently, the nonprofit has six homes in progress between Cambridge, Hurlock and Easton with a project in St. Michaels on the near horizon. Habitat Choptank has also implemented a variety of green construction techniques to create more efficient, durable and healthier homes. The benefits of these strategies to the home owners include saving money on utilities, lower maintenance costs, and a home that a family can age into.

The nonprofit has expanded its toolkit of housing services as well to include housing repairs. In 2015, Habitat Choptank became one of 250 Neighborhood Revitalization affiliates from among the roughly 1,400 independent Habitat affiliates in the U.S. This program will assist income-qualifying home owners, many of whom are seniors, to safely and affordably stay in their homes. In just three years, 118 of households have been served through this expansion. “The combination of new home ownership and services for families already living in the neighborhoods where we work helps build stronger communities,” says Bohn.

In celebrating 25 years of service, it is also important to recognize there is much more to do. Housing affordability in the United State is at its worst point since experts began measuring it. In just the last 12 months, Habitat staff and volunteers have screened over 235 possible applicants, a 20% increase over the prior year. “We regularly talk to people who are working multiple jobs but can’t get ahead because they’re paying 40%, 50% or more of their monthly gross income for their housing,” says executive director Nancy Andrew, a former Habitat volunteer who joined the staff in 2009.

“Opportunity needs a place to knock,” notes Andrew. There are a lot of different avenues for creating change in a community but ultimately, if people don’t feel secure where they live, it may be impossible to promote long-term improvement. Better affordable living conditions can take a family from living day to day and create a foundation from which to make more forward-looking choices.

Not every applicant is ready to make the commitment that Habitat requires. For those that are and who meet the financing requirements, partnership with Habitat can remove barriers to opportunity that may have been a part of a family’s life for years, if not generations. “Our home owners take pride in having been part of their own housing solution and that’s a powerful feeling that they can carry forward into other aspects of their lives.”

To learn more about Habitat Choptank, to volunteer or to make a donation, visit www.habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

Golfers Tee Off to Support Habitat Choptank

Over 110 golfers came out in June to swing their clubs and help build quality, affordable, energy efficient homes in Dorchester and Talbot Counties at Habitat Choptank’s 10th annual Golf Outing. Registration fees combined with sponsorships from over 50 businesses and individuals resulted in over $25,000 being raised. Resource Asset Management Solutions, a premier provider of reliability and engineering services for the utility industry operating out of Cambridge, served as the title sponsor for a second year.

Funds raised from this event hosted at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay support the nonprofit’s home purchasing program through which qualifying low-income individuals and families can purchase homes, which they helped to build, at a monthly mortgage cost they can afford.

The team from Preston Automotive Group took the prize for first place gross. From left to right: Garver Cheeseman, Tony Worm, Jamie Neal and Dave Wilson, Jr. Photo by: Jay Shotel

Since 1992, Habitat Choptank has partnered with 190 local households to improve a place they call home. One hundred and eighteen of those families have been served through weatherization services since Habitat Choptank initiated its neighborhood revitalization program in 2015. Seventy-two families have purchased new or rehabbed homes from the nonprofit and currently 11 local home buyers are working through the home ownership program. Six homes are under construction at this time with plans to start at least six more over the coming year. Income qualifying home buyers are offered access to affordable mortgage financing in order to purchase a new construction or rehabbed home from the nonprofit’s project inventory of durable and energy efficient homes.

After completing “sweat equity” hours, attending pre-homeownership classes, and meeting debt reduction and savings goals, these individuals and families will purchase homes that they helped construct and assume the full responsibilities of home ownership including maintaining their home, paying property taxes and repaying their mortgage over 30 to 33 years. Habitat accepts applications for its housing programs throughout the year. To donate, volunteer or apply, visit habitatchoptank.org or call 410-476-3204.

For information or to make a donation, call 410-476-3204 or visit www.habitatchoptank.org.