Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County is celebrating a special year this year – we are turning 30 years old! Over the past few decades, Habitat NCC has grown exponentially and we are thrilled with how far we have come. Also, Habitat NCC is known as one of the most active affiliate of the organization’s in the country and is currently rated as a 4-Star charity by the Charity Navigator – a nonprofit “watchdog” that awards nonprofits who are transparent with their fiscal management. To celebrate our thirty year milestone, let’s take a look back to see how far we have come.
Habitat for Humanity International was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976 in Americus, Georgia following a dramatic shift that caused Millard to re-evaluate his direction to restore not only his faith but his marriage. Through Habitat, he was able to set his life on the path of serving families who needed adequate housing. This concept was brought to New Castle County Delaware through Howard Rudge and his wife Loie in September of 1986. The couple formed the first group of volunteers, starting the organization and established a board 17 individuals who met once a month to set policy and go over operations.
The first family to partner with Habitat NCC was Gil and Sonia Rodriguez in 1987. Excited to finally have a home of their own, the Rodriguez family was more than happy to put in the sweat equity hours required by Habitat to become homeowners – one of the three requirements prospective homeowners need to meet, along with the need for adequate housing, and the willingness to partner. Through the hard work and skills of the volunteers, as well as the family, the first renovation was completed on July 26, 1988 at 239 N. Franklin Street. The final cost to renovate the home was $30,000 and the home was acquired for only $1 – the family was required to make monthly payments to back the costs of the renovations, one of the many sources of how future homes are funded.
To keep the momentum going a full-time staff member was needed. Kevin Smith joined Habitat in 1996 as the Affiliate Manager, but he was no stranger to the organization’s mission. Kevin began his journey with Habitat for Humanity in Fresno, CA as the volunteer coordinator. Faith and his desire to eradicate homelessness has been the driving force behind Habitat NCC and he now serves as the Chief Executive Officer. Some of the major milestones that have taken place over the years include partnering with the Homebuilders Association of Delaware to construct four houses in a week in 2000, buying Habitat’s permanent headquarters in 2001, opening the first Restore in 2004, and raising almost $6.1 million in 2006 for the first capital campaign. There have been many other events including Bike 2 Build, the Art Auction, Habitat in Motion 5k Run/Walk, and an Annual Dinner. We have also held other fun events such as the Collegiate Challenge, Red, White, and Brew, and an Annual Women Build Week.
Over the past thirty years, the organization has grown to 27 staff members including four different departments: construction, family services, development, and staffing at both ReStore’s in Wilmington and Middletown. We also have over 3,200 volunteers who work on site, at the ReStore’s, and in the office and 3,500 donors who help assist us with our mission. Since 1986 we have served more than 300 families throughout New Castle County with projects in the city of Wilmington, Newark, Newport, New Castle, and Middletown. Currently, we have over 400 individuals who apply for Habitat housing and are able to serve between 15 – 20 families a year. Right now, we have 19 homeowners who are going through the program waiting for housing in Faith Way II, Walnut Ridge, Spring Lake, and 2207 Lamotte Street. The goal of revitalizing neighborhoods and restoring hope is making a huge difference in the lives of those who have faced challenges in providing adequate housing for their families. We will continue to work hard towards our mission of seeking to put God’s love into action by building homes, communities, and hope.