Sometimes with the busyness and routine of daily life, it’s easy to take your home for granted. A home is not simply a roof over your head. It is the hub for gathering family and friends, a space to unwind and recharge at the end of the day and a place that makes us feel safe and comforted. The word ‘home’ often invokes words like stability, warmth and personal space. A home brings a sense of peace that unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have. This is where Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County (Habitat CFC) comes in.
“Habitat CFC is a nonprofit organization that creates strength, stability and self reliance for families in Fairfield County through homeownership,” says Dr. Cathy Collins, CEO of Habitat CFC. The organization, started in 1985, eliminates substandard housing by building new homes for community members in need in Coastal Fairfield County, with a primary focus in Bridgeport. Fairfield County has a severe need for affordable housing. “Because there is such an income disparity across the county, we provide a really important service to address some of those very specific disparities,” Dr. Collins says. Dr. Collins, who has been a nonprofit executive for most of her career, has a passion for giving back, creating sustainable solutions and bringing positive change to communities. “Habitat CFC gives families a sense of stability,” Dr. Collins states. “When these families know they have an affordable, safe place to live their health tends to improve, both physical and mental. Educational attainment grows for children, and even adults. While each home supports a family, together those homes become leverage to support a community.”
Habitat CFC provides a “hand-up,” not a hand-out. “We don’t give houses away,” Dr. Collins states, “Our families go through a strenuous application process and actually purchase their home themselves.” The organization mostly works with families who could become homeless without a stable living situation. “We do work with families ranging from low-income to some very low-come, but we are not moving people from homelessness to homeownership,” explains Dr. Collins. She continues, “[The people we work with] are hardworking individuals who we believe can be successful homeowners, but who do not have the pathway to get there on their own.” Habitat CFC homeowners receive a 0% mortgage from the organization. They demonstrate their ability to be a successful homeowner by partnering with Habitat CFC through sweat equity and taking educational classes on topics such as financial literacy, budgeting, home maintenance, home security and more.
Building skills are not needed to volunteer with Habitat CFC - so don’t be afraid to lend a hand! The organization is grateful for volunteers of all skill ranges who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Volunteers, guided by professional construction staff work alongside Habitat CFC families. Anything that requires a license, such as plumbing, electrical work and foundation work, is handled by subcontractors who are specifically trained for the job. “There are tremendous opportunities for people to volunteer and be a part of this process,” Dr. Collins says. “When volunteers work alongside the Habitat CFC families and can see what they are doing, the stereotypes we have tend to fall away...I think all of our spirits get lifted in a very different way.” The organization offers corporate build days, individual volunteer opportunities, women’s group builds and more. More information and sign-ups can be found on the Habitat CFC website (see web address below).
You can also help by donating funds or furniture. ReStore, a division of Habitat CFC, takes donations of new or gently used home decor, furniture and building products. “We resell the donated items to the public, the same way that Goodwill does with clothes,” Dr. Collins says. “We are not only diverting many items from landfills, we are also using the proceeds from donations to help us build homes.” ReStore is located in Stratford, where anyone can drop their items during business hours. They are also able to pick up larger items that might not fit in the back of your car, although drop-off is preferred so as to preserve the nonprofit’s valuable resources. Even corporate offices that are remodeling are encouraged to donate their furniture and decor. Restore welcomes anyone looking to discover hidden gems for their home or looking to shop for affordable, used home furnishings in general.
“When we have experienced having a home or being in a home-owned situation most of our lives, it is easy to take for granted some of the simple things that come with having a home, like having a quiet place to do homework or a place to have everyone gather for a meal,” Dr. Collins states. “Our Habitat homeowners re-teach us on a daily basis the value of home and how much a stable home affects one’s health, happiness and education.” Dr. Collins is grateful for everyone who donates their time, talent and resources. She says, “I am very grateful for all the ways in which people support our work. And we always need more. The more we have, the more we are able to do.”
*For volunteer opportunities, please visit: https://www.habitatcfc.org/