Habitat gets back to work

While they were not able to get many work crews together during the coronavirus pandemic, staff and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of Mahoing Valley are back to work on homes on Hazelwood Avenue in Warren and Osborn Avenue on the West Side of Youngstown.

Kristina Nicholas, director of development for Habitat for Humanity, said the two projects are rehabilitations of current houses and not new construction.

She said prior to the pandemic in March, Habitat held a Women Build event where the organization strongly encouraged women to come out and get involved.

“It’s a terrific empowering opportunity to bring women to the build sites,” Nicholas said.

Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley serves Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Nicholas said the local affiliate began in 1989 serving Mahoning, then merged with Trumbull in 2015 and most recently took over Columbiana in 2017.

“We’re a homeownership program. … We do not give houses away; we like to say we give a hand up, not a hand out,” Nicholas said.


Nicholas said homeowners go through a pre-application and then a formal application process. Habitat has salary guidelines based on family size. Criteria that must be met are the homeowner’s ability to pay, willingness to partner (sweat equity hours) and the need for housing.

“We do new construction as well as rehab work. Most of our houses and / or property are donated to us or we utilize the local land banks. Most of the work on our houses is done with volunteers. We have a construction manager on staff and a few regular volunteers but for each project we use between 200 and 400 volunteers and subcontract out the big things like plumbing, electrical,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas said volunteers need no experience and “everyone is encouraged to come out and swing a hammer.” All safety equipment and needed tools are given to the volunteers.

Alyssa Osborne, volunteer coordinator, said, “I work with individuals and groups who work at the construction sites and the restores. I help with the special events and special projects.”

She said work at the two locations is progressing at the same pace and are expected to be completed about the same time.

“We had been working on both houses and then in March everything got shut down. We had big work groups back then. We started expecting a lot of volunteers again on July 1. They have not come back as heavily as before. Many of our core volunteers are older and nervous,” Osborne said.


Youngstown resident Danielle Yeaton, a single mom, is moving into the Osborn Avenue house and has been very active in its rehabilitation. Yeaton and her family come out to the construction site on a regular basis.

Yeaton said she helps at the Osborn site — which is a one-and-a-half story house — by doing outdoor maintenance to the property.

“I help cut the grass and maintain the yard. I work fulltime so I can’t always be there on some work days. The people who volunteer are so generous,” Yeaton said.

She said she looks forward to moving into her new home, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus.

“Whenever it is possible, I will move in. Being part of this and seeing the house get worked on has been amazing,” she said.

Yeaton said she is impressed that Habitat for Humanity is a global organization that does so much to give back and help others. Yeaton said she was informed of the program from a friend after having to deal with a mold issue where she was renting.


Nicholas said in addition to the volunteer work at the two houses, Habitat also has opportunities at ReStores in Struthers and Salem.

“We’re looking to open a Trumbull County ReStore very soon. Our stores are similar to thrift stores. All merchandise is donated and then we resell it at a low price and then proceeds go toward our mission of building houses, community and hope in the Mahoning Valley. Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” she said.

Rosemary Fuller has volunteered with Habitat via RSVP Senior Corps, working in the office and ReStores helping people with questions on services. For volunteer opportunities, people can reach Osborne at aosborne@hfhmv.org.

Habitat’s most well-known volunteer is former President Jimmy Carter who was close friends with Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity in 1976 in a small town outside of Atlanta.

Nicholas said Habitat’s largest fundraiser is the Building Hope event. This year’s event has turned virtual with the raffling off a he / she shed. Tickets are $10 a piece and will be raffled off live during the event on Oct. 8. It is a 12-foot x 16-foot structure and was built by Pinewood Structures in Columbiana. It is on display at the Struthers ReStore.

This year’s winner also will have the option to take $1,000 cash instead of the shed. Also being raffled off are 50 birdhouses that have been decorated by local businesses, artists and community members. The birdhouses will be on display at Westside Bowl two weeks prior to the Oct 8 event.

More details about the event are on the website or by contacting Nicholas at knicholas@hfhmv.org.



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