Habitat for Humanity helps improve our community

Matthew L. Self

As winter gets closer and the holidays approach it is important to remember the local organizations in our community that help make Topeka a great place to live and give families a home during the winter season. One such organization, Habit for Humanity, helps improve our local community by offering donated home improvement items at a discount in their store locations, home repair options and the construction of affordable homes. Hundreds of people in our community have benefitted from one of the many programs that Habitat for Humanity offers and their house building program has provided many families in Topeka with a decent place to live through volunteer efforts.

The Topeka Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, non-denomination Christian housing ministry that focuses on providing affordable housing to needful families in our community. Since the organization first became active in Topeka there have been 104 new houses built through the efforts of volunteers and generous donations. Families who apply to the organization to build a house receive home ownership education and participate in the construction of their new home alongside volunteers. Over 500 “sweat-equity” hours must be worked by families who are looking for an opportunity to own their own home. Those who put in the effort are rewarded by an interest-free loan that allows them to own their new home and give their family a home that they helped to build. Once a house is built it is placed on donated land in the Topeka city limits.

In addition to helping families build affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity also has several other programs to help the needy in our community. The Senior Home Repair, Brush with Kindness and Accessibility Modifications programs have all benefitted those who have trouble making ends meet in our community. The Senior Home Repair program aims to meet the needs of our community’s aging population by offering volunteer to help them make repairs on their houses that they couldn’t make themselves or couldn’t afford. The Brush with Kindness program offers the paint, materials, resources, and volunteer labor needed to paint a house belonging to low-income families that cannot maintain the exterior of their house without help. Lastly, the Accessibility Modifications program helps to make the daunting cost of housing modifications more affordable to families who have a disabled member or an elderly member who has difficulty getting into their house.

Habitat for Humanity also accepts donations of cash or a variety of other household items such as furniture, plumbing fixtures, tools, windows, cabinetry, hardware, doors and more. These donated items will be sold at a steep discount at the Habitat for Humanity’s location in North Topeka at 121 NE Gordon St. Selling the donated items helps to fund the organization as well, allowing Habitat for Humanity to build new houses in the community.

Nikki Macmillan, the director of community engagement, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity since she began volunteering in high school and believes that the organization offers great opportunities to young people to learn some valuable life skills while helping to improve the community.

“There are lots of ways to get involved. Individuals can volunteer at one of our construction sites or at a desk job in our store location in Topeka or as an administrator,” said Mrs. Macmillan. “We also accept a lot of group work activity. We frequently get help from groups from high schools, youth groups, and even Washburn students on occasion.”

Mike Self, a Topeka local, spoke about how his mother benefitted from the program.

“Habitat for Humanity really came through to help my mom by refurbishing her house through the Senior Home Repair program. Her house was really starting to fall apart and she couldn’t make any repairs herself and the organization stepped in to repair her house before it got any worse.”

Those who put in the time and effort to help Habitat for Humanity improve our community will be rewarded not just with the satisfaction of knowing that they helped families in need, but also with important lessons in team work and construction experience. Volunteers will get to do hands-on work most of the time, if they sign up for one of the build projects in Topeka, and get to work under the experienced construction crews used by Habitat for Humanity. Many students will get to operate power tools for the first time and learn the skills to improve their own future houses, or even build them from scratch!

Habitat for Humanity also has a constant need for volunteers to help with housing construction that many families in the community rely on for help when constructing their homes. Volunteers work under the experienced construction team that the organization maintains and alongside the family who are working towards creating their dream home.

Whether you are looking for an opportunity to work with members of the community or donate some unneeded household items that have been taking up space in the basement the Habitat for Humanity is the place for you.