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Celebrating Habitat History of Hand-Up Model in Honor of MLK Day of Service

Koinonia Farm Koinonia is the Greek word usually translated as “community” or “fellowship.” The farm community emphasizes equality, shared resources, and wise stewardship of land and natural resources.

The story of Habitat for Humanity began at Koinonia Farm, an interracial community farm outside Americus, Georgia, founded in 1942 by farmer and biblical scholar, Clarence Jordan. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Clarence and his fellow Koinonia residents were fiercely committed to the equality of all people and utterly devoted to creating opportunity for all. 

A Rich History 

Built on the idea of partnership housing and born from that vision, we have grown into a global organization driven by a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. As part of this effort, in 1990, a small group of dedicated volunteers with a desire to eliminate substandard housing in our community founded San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity (SGV Habitat). The overwhelming need for housing in our communities has provided SGV Habitat for Humanity with a unique opportunity to change lives in our neighborhoods. In 2021, we made the commitment to serving the housing needs of 100 families over the next three years through the Expanding the American Dream campaign.  

Known for our “hand-up, not a handout” model, Habitat for Humanity homeowners work side-by-side with volunteers and skilled staff to build safe, decent and affordable housing. In addition to new homeownership programs, the organization offers critical home repair services to address safety, accessibility, and deferred maintenance issues to assist low-income homeowners to ensure they can continue to live in a safe and decent home for years to come. 

Homeowner Continues to Impact Her Community 

Billie Shaw, Home Repair recipient

Duarte homeowner, Billie Shaw, was a recent recipient of this program. For 5 years Shaw has been distributing food from a local food bank to homeless encampments in the San Gabriel Valley. While seeking resources to assist the individuals she was feeding she came across Habitat for Humanity, not knowing the blessing we would provide would be for her.   

A few years ago, Shaw’s roof was blown off during a strong windstorm. Without the funds to replace it she suffered from years of water damage, eventually causing portions of the plaster ceilings to collapse. She applied to the critical home repair program and not only was Habitat able to help her put on a new roof, we also painted the house. As part of the repair program Shaw provided a payment she could afford and completed several hours of “sweat-equity” giving back to the organization in the form of volunteer hours. Even though she’s completed her sweat equity she continues to serve the SGV Habitat by spreading the word about our programs and nearby resale store, the ReStore.  

“I just can’t believe this blessing I have received,” said Shaw. “They finished my roof and the next day a huge rainstorm came in. I finally saw the rain outside, but not inside my house. Now I plan to pass it on by telling everyone I can about Habitat for Humanity.” 

Shaw, who served as a nurse at Santa Teresita until the hospital closed and then pursued a career in law enforcement, eventually retiring from the Baldwin Park force, has always been called to serve others. It’s partners like her who embody the essence of Habitat for Humanity’s mission.

How You Can Help 

This coming Monday the US will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which under the King Holiday and Service Act, was transformed into a day dedicated to volunteer service in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. It is the only federal holiday observed as a National Day of Service – a “day on, not a day off.” It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. Problems like affordable housing. On this day we celebrate people like Billie Shaw who gives unto others, even when she needs assistance. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. 

  • Advocate for affordable housing for everyone and read how we continue to build a “Beloved Community” 
  • Educate yourself on the benefits of affordable housing  
  • Help sustain and expand the Healthy Homes initiatives at the federal, state and local levels, including public-private collaborative programs 
  • Strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws, including the Fair Housing Act and other state and local regulations prohibiting racial discrimination in housing markets 
  • Donate now to show your support to fix the housing crisis in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond 

 

Photo credits: Stephen F. Somerstein—Getty Images

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