Athens Area Habitat Celebrates Another Year of Affordable Housing

A little bit of snow didn’t stop Athens Area Habitat for Humanity from throwing a great party for the Committee of 1,000 in downtown Athens, GA, this past Thursday, an event co-sponsored by Georgian Hall and Thrivent Financial.

Georgian Hall prepares for guests

The Georgian Hall’s historic grand ballroom in downtown Athens, GA, provided an elegant backdrop for this year’s Committee of 1000 Gala. The Magictones Duo, Dave and Michael, played their own guitar arrangements of classic tunes for the crowd who enjoyed a buffet served up from the South Kitchen + Bar caterers.

Magictones Duo performs at the Gala

The mission of the Committee of 1000 is for a thousand people in Clarke, Oconee, and Oglethorpe counties to donate $70 each toward affordable housing. While $70 may not seem like much, it costs Habitat $70,000 to build a house from scratch in the Athens community with the help of volunteers, local partners, and non-profit discounts on materials. The money raised from this year’s gala, however, is going toward the Renew Athens program, which serves the community by providing affordable rents for low-income residents who can’t yet meet the financial requirements for home ownership.

Magnolia Terrace resident and gala speaker Debra Lockwood at the event

Debra Lockwood, a formerly homeless U.S. veteran who had been “couch surfing” for the past several years, spoke first-hand about the importance of the Renew Athens program. Debra is now living in one of the completed apartments in Athens Hab’s current renovation project on Magnolia Terrace in Athens-Clarke County, comprising 20 housing units — a mix of 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments — which is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Don & Kelly Goldsmith of Thrivent Financial

Luckily, the Magnolia Terrace Project will receive funding not only from the Committee of 1,000 donations, but also from event sponsor Thrivent Financial, which is generously funding two Magnolia Terrace housing properties by providing grants and additional volunteer labor. Thrivent’s Don Goldsmith, a long-time Habitat partner, spoke at the gala about the company’s involvement in the Magnolia Terrace project, as well as the flourishing relationship between Habitat and Thrivent, currently the largest corporate donor for Habitat for Humanity International.  The local Thrivent Financial affiliate and Athens Area Habitat are hoping to grow the partnership to provide even more affordable housing in the local Athens community in coming years.

Dr. Michael Jacobs of Athens Eye Associates

Unit sponsor Dr. Michael Jacobs, a local doctor for Athens Eye Associates and the Surgery Center of Athens, also spoke at the event. The 2017 AEA/SCA donation fully funded the renovation of a Magnolia Terrace duplex. First introduced to Habitat for Humanity by his father, a regular volunteer, Dr. Jacobs struck up a relationship with his local Habitat affiliate. By bringing his own son to builds and encouraging colleagues to donate their time and labor to the Magnolia Terrace project, Dr. Jacobs was able to see a unit built from the ground up. The commitment paid off when Dr. Jacobs and his volunteer team were able to meet the tenant whose unit they had built. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long relationship between Dr. Jacobs and Athens Habitat.

Athens Habitat executive director Spencer Frye

Athens Habitat executive director Spencer Frye also addressed the group, describing Athens Habitat’s pioneering model of renovating and financing multi-family housing units, and explaining the importance of affordable housing and the Renew Athens program. The Magnolia Terrace project has already helped reduce crime in the neighborhood, even though not every unit has yet been completed, and will provide stability for property values for years to come.

Athens Habitat is already looking forward to next year’s Committee of 1000 Gala when there will be more Renew Athens success stories to tell.  Their thanks go out, as always, to the partners, donors, and volunteers who make their work possible, and to Thrivent Financial and Georgian Hall for sponsoring this year’s event so that all funds donated by the Committee of 1000 may be put toward construction and renovation.

Habitat construction crew Florian Hartl, field operations director Doug Carver, Gary Mierzwak, Caleb Blanton, Elliott Daimler, and Ben von Puttkamer

To learn more about the Magnolia Terrace project, view this short video by UGA student Ian Allen documenting his class’s service project as part of the 2017 UGA Freshman College Summer Experience.