Habitat finds home here
The Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity officially opened its doors on Monday with a ribbon cutting at their new location, New Street United Methodist Church, 202 W. New Street, Shepherdstown.
Dr. G, Edward Grove, executive director Habitat for Humanity cut the ribbon.
“I would like to take a moment to say ‘thank you’ to New Street United Methodist Church for their hospitality and for opening their facilities for us and giving Habitat for Humanity an opportunity to have a presence here in Jefferson County in a way that we just haven’t had in our history,” said Grove.
The New Street venue will serve as the second Habitat for Humanity office in the Eastern Panhandle.
Jason Baker, Habitat for Humanity Eastern Panhandle board president said, “It’s always been a goal of Eastern Panhandle Habitat to have a presence here in Jefferson County. It makes a world of difference to have an office here, in terms of people wanting to stay in the county and to be able to do more services.”
Habitat for Humanity is best known for building houses, but they also have other programs like Brush with Kindness, which helps low income residents who struggle to maintain the exterior of their homes and the Critical Repair programs, which provide needed repairs for heating, electric, structural issues and more.
Another Habitat for Humanity benefit is the ReStore, which is a non-profit store that sells household furniture, appliances and building materials that have been donated. Most are gently used, but some items are brand new, and they are at a greatly reduced cost to the public.
Baker said he would love to see a ReStore in Jefferson County, but for now they are working on stabilizing and possibly expanding the Martinsburg store.
“We’re still in the infant stages of our ReStore,” said Baker. “Our store wasn’t always open all year long. In the last couple of years we’ve put heat in the building and staffed it better. We also bought a truck to pick up donations. Those kinds of things have made a big difference because now we can have set times (Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to be open. Our donations to the store are up and we’re building a lot of relationships. We’ve learned a lot but we need to work through all our bumps and bruises-learning what works and what doesn’t–before we could open a store here in the future.”
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley is the Habitat director of development and will be the main staff member until volunteers can be put in place.
“The primary focus is to develop initiatives in Jefferson County,” said Unger. “I started a program called the ‘Covenant Churches Initiative’ where there are various chruches coming together in the Eastern Panhandle to become a covenant congregation with Habitat. What that entails is that they commit to praying for the work of Habitat. They commit volunteers to help with initiatives, and they commit to at least raising $100 for Habitat. We have about five (churches) that have joined and we’ve raised over $6,000 for the tiny homes initiative. That’s where Habitat has partnered with James Rumsey Technical Institute to build these tiny homes for the flood areas in southern West Virginia. We’re also looking at doing that here in the Eastern Panhandle for the homeless. These tiny homes are efficiency homes, so they’re easy to heat and maintain. So we’re looking at all those aspects as well.”
He continued, “The purpose of this is to really reach out to Jefferson, not only in the sense of building homes, but also to do repairs and weatherization. We have folks here that have homes, but maybe it’s not adequate in the colder weather. We have a high percentage of senior citizens here-in both Berkeley and Jefferson, and sometimes they struggle financially to get the work done that they need.”
Habitat partners with Jefferson County Community Ministries and the Council on Aging to get the word out about available services to seniors.
Sen. Unger said that he’s not yet sure about the hours of operation in the Shepherdstown office-those details are still being ironed out-but there will be a definite presence here in Jefferson County.
More information about eligibility requirements or volunteer opportunities can be found at the Habitat for Humanity Eastern Panhandle website, www.habitatep.org.