Habitat for Humanity Choptank honors its volunteers

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Special to Dorchester Banner/Jill Jasuta
Habitat Choptank’s recent annual volunteer celebration included recognition for volunteers who had served an exceptional number of hours. Byron Belcher and Chuck Weber, both construction volunteers on the build sites in Cambridge, were honored for each providing between 500-749 hours during the last year.

TRAPPE — Local Habitat volunteers, supporters and future homebuyers 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 202 intakes for its home ownership program, qualified seven new homebuyer candidates, finished three new homes for a total of 66 homes completed historically, had three 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 524 volunteers who contributed 25,757 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 12 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.

Dick Codrington, a longtime volunteer on the Tuesday Crew, was awarded the Golden Hard Hat which honors a special construction volunteer. Over the last fiscal year alone, Mr. Codrington logged 293 hours of service which equals a nearly perfect attendance rate on the build site. “Dick is a quiet man with few things to say but when he does speak up, we listen,” said Construction Supervisor Jim Thomas. “He is willing to share his skills and knowledge by teaching the other volunteers whether they are old or new.”

The Golden Hammer, an award to recognize a general affiliate volunteer, was presented to Bob Wenneson who has served on the Partnership Committee coaching future homebuyers for six years. “After working with Bob on the committee, it became apparent that his attention to detail was a major skill we needed to tap into,” remarked Program Manager Pat Ingram. Last year, the Habitat Choptank officially adopted a new dual financing policy for mortgages in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture. This policy is the result of extended inquiry: talking with other rural Habitat affiliates who partner with USDA, reading the guidance from Habitat International, and running the numbers to be sure this change would be affordable for Habitat home buyers in Dorchester and Talbot counties. “When we first began to explore the USDA 502 loan program, we naturally turned to Bob.” Almost two years later, he has coached the first Habitat homebuyers through the USDA loan process. “Our gratitude to Bob is immeasurable.”

The Golden Globe award for outstanding ReStore volunteer was presented to Lynn Leibid who joined the store’s volunteer crew in 2014.

“Since then she has continued to raise the bar for volunteers and staff,” explained ReStore Manager Chris Smith. “Every Wednesday, she comes in the doors at the store and hits the ground running.”

MD-habitat honors 2x delucas and fox-092715

Special to Dorchester Banner/Jill Jasuta
Retiring Board members were also among the volunteers honored at Habitat Choptank’s annual volunteer dinner. Here, board treasurer George Fox (right) thanks outgoing director David DeLuca for his six years of service. While on the Board, DeLuca was active on several key committees and lead the organization as president for two years.

ReStore volunteers Rory Callahan, Lew Frizte and Nathan Kish were also honored for each putting in over 1,000 hours during the year. “Team ReStore is fortunate to have dedicated volunteers like these men,” noted Mr. Smith. This was an especially busy year for the store which this past May moved to a new location at 8610 Commerce Drive in Easton. “While we just moved down the street, it was a big undertaking and we couldn’t have done it without our hardworking volunteers.”

The 2015 Founders’ Award was given to Steve Clineburg. 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. Mr. Clineburg got involved with Habitat Choptank after retiring as Senior Vice President and Regional General Counsel for Boston Properties and moving to St. Michaels full-time.

“Steve is a tireless ambassador for our mission,” shared Executive Director Nancy Andrew. Mr. Clineburg recently concluded his second term on the Board of Directors. “Over the last six years, he completed two very productive years as president. During that time, he has also helped to lead the resource development committee as well as serve on site selection, executive, finance and nominating committees. “Steve was a huge supporter of the St. Michaels Faith Build, he has sought to bring new ideas to into our organization by networking with other affiliates, and he has reviewed and edited more legal documents than we have time to list. His service has made a difference.”

In closing out the evening’s program, Ms. Andrew reminded volunteers how important they are in helping to educate the community about Habitat’s affordable housing program. “People volunteer with Habitat Choptank for many reasons. What unites is the life changing impact of affordable housing.” Following a report on the successful conclusion of the nonprofit’s 25 in 5 initiative, which resulted in 31 housing solutions over a five-year period, a new plan for growth was shared. Through “We are Habitat: Building Neighborhoods across Dorchester and Talbot counties,” Habitat Choptank will be working to increase its annual house production to eight homes per year across four communities, and establishing a Neighborhood Revitalization program in order to offer an expanded array of services in partnership with residents in target neighborhoods.

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