Celebrating Habitat History of Hand-Up Model in Honor of MLK Day of Service
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
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
Building the Beloved Community
Habitat for Humanity has a vision of a world where we share one humanity, and that’s a world that we believe in and fight for every day.
We are a faith-based organization, but we realize that faith must be coupled with works and action. As we share in the sadness, anger and uncertainty that have rocked communities across the United States — these protests of the systemic and racial injustice that have infused and informed the life of our nation — we recognize that we must do more.
We must create what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the Beloved Community” — a community that includes diversity and allows for tension undergirded by love and leading to transformation. To do so, we must truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We must change. And we must commit to tangible action.
We will do the work in our practices, our programs and our networks that brings equity to our efforts and helps bring justice to the communities in which we work. We will, throughout our ministry, connect issues of racial and social injustice with historic barriers to affordable housing and work to eradicate those barriers.
Historic discrimination in U.S. housing policy — particularly discrimination against Black Americans — is one of the chief drivers of racial inequities that persist today. Organizations like ours that work on housing must understand that history and have it inform our work.
In the tradition of the radical inclusivity that infused our birthplace Koinonia Farm from its earliest days, the leaders of our ministry commit to creating an environment where humility, open communication, dialogue and listening become our standard. In addition to being a space where people of all races, all faiths and all backgrounds come together in common cause, we commit to being actively anti-racist and to affirming, through word and action, that black lives matter and that our communities and systems must further this fundamental truth. We will ensure that our work is infused with courage and accountability so that we make our strong commitment to equity and true community a reality.