Habitat for Humanity Choptank honors its volunteers

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Special to The Dorchester Banner/Habitat Choptank Chuck Weber (left), a construction volunteer on the Wednesday Crew in Cambridge and member of Habitat Choptank’s Faith Relations Committee, was presented with the Golden Hammer for 2014 by construction supervisor Rhodana Fields.

TRAPPE — Local Habitat volunteers, supporters and future home buyers came together for an evening dinner at Trappe United Methodist Church to celebrate Habitat for Humanity Choptank’s progress. Over the last fiscal year, the nonprofit home builder screened 76 intakes for its home ownership program, qualified 4 partner families, finished 4 new homes for a total of 63 homes completed historically, had 5 other homes under construction, and maintained a less than 2 percent foreclosure rate with only one foreclosure since its founding in 1992.

These accomplishments were made possible by over 580 volunteers who contributed 22,979 hours of service working in construction, helping at the office and tackling special projects, serving on committees and the Board, and volunteering at the ReStore.  It would take 11 full-time employees to generate an equivalent number of hours.
Guests at the event were treated to BBQ by Darnell’s Grill and Catering and to ice cream from Scottish Highland Creamery. The meal was followed by a presentation of volunteer awards.

Tony Passarella, a longtime volunteer on the Thursday Crew, was awarded the Golden Hard Hat which honors a special construction volunteer. “Tony always has a smile and nothing is too demanding or difficult,” said construction supervisor Steve Thomas. “He’s happiest when his hands are busy.” Tony’s dedication is also evident in his care for what he does. “He has a keen eye for detail and is a craftsman at everything he undertakes.”

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Habitat Choptank presented its annual Golden Globe award to Bill Griffith of Hurlock. Mr. Griffith volunteers as a driver for the ReStore truck, having given every Saturday but two since he joined the store team in July 2012.

The Golden Hammer, an award to recognize a general affiliate volunteer, was presented to Chuck Weber. Mr. Weber is a regular construction volunteer and assists as a Crew Chief, serves on the Faith Relations Committee and has been a leader with the Dorchester County Ecumenical Build. The Dorchester County Ecumenical Build is a partnership with area churches which has raised over $90,000 and provided hundreds of volunteer hours for the construction of the Habitat home being built on 501 Edgewood Ave. in Cambridge.

“Chuck came on board as a construction volunteer shortly before he retired,” remarked construction supervisor Rhodana Fields. His career as an engineer has served the jobsite well. “And his faith, sense of humor, and work ethic are contagious.”
The Golden Globe award for outstanding ReStore volunteer was presented to Bill Griffith. If the ReStore truck has come to your home or site to pick up a donation on a Saturday, odds are, you’ve met Mr. Griffith.

“He joined our team in 2012 as a fill-in driver but he quickly became a go-to guy,” explained ReStore manager Chris Walls. In the last two years, Mr. Griffith has taken only two Saturdays off. “He has a full-time job and still every Saturday he stays with us until we close to make sure we have enough hands on our busiest days.”

ReStore volunteers Rory Callahan and Nathan Kish were also honored for each putting in over 1,000 hours there during the year. Mr. Callahan volunteered 1,767 hours and Mr. Kish invested 1,371. Last year the ReStore generated over $131,592 in net proceeds to support Habitat Choptank’s affordable home ownership program. “Rory and Nathan help make this success possible,” noted Mr. Walls.

The 2014 Founders’ Award was given to Jennifer Swann. This award goes to a volunteer who gives time and talent above and beyond expectations, demonstrates creativity or innovation, and inspires others to deepen their commitment to Habitat. Ms. Swann, a principal with Venture Title Company, is the chair of the mortgage servicing committee and has been volunteering with Habitat since 2000.

“Jennifer traverses the fine line of professionalism and compassion,” remarked program manager Pat Ingram. Ms. Swann’s company provides settlement services for all Habitat Choptank closings. She guides each new homebuyer through the settlement process. “Jennifer also works hard each month to see that our home owners stay on track with their mortgage payments even when life challenges get in the way of their best intentions.”

In closing out the evening’s program, Executive Director Nancy Andrew reminded volunteers how important they are in helping to educate the community about Habitat’s affordable housing program. Findings from a feasibility study completed during the year revealed that while an overwhelming majority of community members have a “positive” or “very positive” impression of Habitat Choptank, the operational details of the housing program – the need for it, how it works, and its impact – are not widely understood.

“Each of you see firsthand how hard our home buyers work for the opportunity to purchase a home. The hundreds of hours of sweat equity they invest plus saving thousands of dollars for settlement, paying off any outstanding debt to become debt-free, and completing education seminars,” said Ms. Andrew. Habitat home buyers purchase their homes with a 30-year mortgage and are responsible for repaying that loan. “We need you to talk to your friends and neighbors so they understand how we are empowering our working neighbors to build better futures for themselves through home ownership.”

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