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Local Habitat for Humanity holds annual meeting

Tom Hintgen/FOCUS Jan Plimpton, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota, was the keynote speaker at the annual dinner for the Habitat affiliate that serves Otter Tail County. She spoke Tuesday evening, Nov. 13, at M State in Fergus Falls.

Since 1991, the local affiliate of Minnesota Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in placing people in homes throughout Otter Tail County and the surrounding region.

The Fergus Falls Area affiliate includes the counties of Otter Tail, Grant, Wilkin and Richland. Fifty-three Habitat homes have been built in the area over the past 21 years.

"Sweat equity, kindness and cooperation through Habitat for Humanity helps break the cycle of poverty," said Jan Plimpton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity who spoke Tuesday evening, Nov. 13, during the local affiliate's annual dinner in Fergus Falls.

Plimpton told attendees about a Homeowner Impact Pilot Study to collect data on how partner families' lives changed after becoming Habitat homeowners. The pilot study looked specifically at changes in health and safety, education, community, family, personal well-being and financial security.

Here are a few of the findings:

-88 percent of respondents said they feel better about their children's future.

-73 percent said they felt more connected to the community.

-People moving into Habitat homes experienced, almost immediately, a 40 percent reduction in reliance on government assistance programs.

-92 percent of homeowners said their lives were better.

-More than 80 percent said they felt safer and felt that their children were safer.

"We have 35 affiliates here in Minnesota, and the one based here, in Otter Tail County, is an example of what can be done through the contributions of volunteers," said Plimpton. "Whether it's spending time on the job (home building) site, contributing home building materials, or contributing in other ways, you each use a brush with kindness."

The state headquarters provides loans and grants to affiliates, and Habitat also receives assistance through VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Homes are sold with a mortgage; they are not given away. Prospective owners also work on the homes as they are being built.

The Fergus Falls Area affiliate was formed in January 1991. The first Habitat house was dedicated in June 1992.

With help from dedicated volunteers and generous donors, the affiliate has a goal of building at least two or three houses each year and has continued to meet this goal every year.

The affiliate completed its 50th home in December of 2007.

Opportunities for local involvement include building on homes, serving on the Board of Directors and serving on working committees of the affiliate.