Habitat for Humanity a community staple

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary for The Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

While its gone through many changes over the past 30 years, originating as the Williamsport Habitat for Humanity and becoming the Lycoming County Habitat for Humanity before reaching its current incarnation.

The Greater Lycoming Habitat now serves part of Clinton county and manages mortgages in Columbia and Montour counties. In mid-June, Habitat moved to its new location at 335 Rose St.

“Our mission and primary belief is that everyone deserves a safe and affordable home,” executive director Tina McDowell said.

The organization encourages those who may be going through financial troubles to perservere and teaches money management skills, all while giving the option to homeowner applicants to purchase homes with no interest mortgage rates. Habitat homeowners have to have stable employment to be considered for housing.

“A lot of people think we build houses and give them away, and we don’t do that,” McDowell said.

Selling homes to people who would not have been able to afford them because of high interest rates on bank loans allows those people to be able to help support the community and their families.

McDowell said that she believes and studies show kids who spend their childhood moving around and in unstable environments are less likely to succeed in school than those who have a stable home.

By providing that opportunity for lower income families, Habitat is giving those children the opportunity to succeed and school, which sets them up for success later in life.

Since its inception, the Greater Lycoming Habitat has built 50 homes.

Two more are slated to begin construction as part of the Brodart Neighborhood Improvement Project in conjunction with STEP, the county and the city. The first is a single-family home on Memorial Ave. with the project scheduled to being in September.

In addition to helping Habitat families in understanding their finances, McDowell said Habitat is also looking to open up more of its supportive programs to the public, that will include helping people to understand credit, budgeting, debt to income ratios and other necessary information.

Habitat is working to have one of its employees become a Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Association certified housing counselor to teach these skills, McDowell said.

Besides construction, the biggest program Greater Lycoming Habitat manages is its ReStore, where new and used home improvement products are sold, with the revenue supporting Habitat projects.

“It’s like a thrift store of the Lowe’s and Home Depot world,” McDowell said.

All products are donations from community members and local businesses.

A relatively small group, Habitat employs seven workers and relies heavily on volunteers for its projects. McDowell said the non-profit is always accepting new volunteers.

“You don’t have to have (construction) skills. We will teach you,” McDowell said.

In addition to revenue from the ReStore, Habitat is funded by community donations. Those wishing to donate to local Habitat for Humanity projects should send their donations to the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity. Donations to Habitat for Humanity International, the program of which Greater Lycoming is an affiliate, fund projects in other countries rather than local endeavors.

Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity can be reached at 570-322-2515 or online at lycominghabitat.org