“Helping others transcends all the politics”
Every January, supporters of Athens Area Habitat for Humanity host a gala for the Committee of 1000, a group of donors dedicated to Habitat’s mission of providing housing to local families who otherwise would never be able to have a home of their own. This year’s keynote speaker was Michael Thurmond, author of A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History (re-released this month) and current CEO of DeKalb County.
“I grew up in less than quality housing,” said Mr. Thurmond, who was born in Athens to a sharecropping family in the 1950s. “Wallpaper wasn’t for decoration but for insulation. So it’s not theoretical for me. I know how important and critical it is.”
“You have fundamentally altered the arc of life for a family,” CEO Thurmond told the audience of donors and supporters. “You all have lived your keynote speech,” said Thurmond, adding that “the value of helping others transcends all politics. All people of good will are asked to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked. That’s what you are asked to do. That’s what you are doing. It’s a powerful statement.”
Last year’s Committee of 1000 helped fund the renovation of the Magnolia Terrace neighborhood where, coincidentally, Mr. Thurmond’s sister and brother in law once lived. This year’s Committee will be helping to fund the “Kinda Tiny Homes” project, which will construct the first LEED certified, high efficiency, low environmental impact homes to go on the market in Clarke County.
One of the future owners of those homes, Ms. Faye Hill, also addressed the assembled donors. “I’ve lived in public housing all my life. And now, I’ve just reached the 200 [volunteering] hour mark in my journey toward making my dream come true of owning my own home. It is worth every minute of effort, and I am so grateful to everyone who made it possible. My family will fill this new home with lots of love and care.”
Also in attendance at the event, hosted by The Foundry, were Athens-Clarke County commissioners, Mayor Kelly Girtz, Habitat homeowners and staff, local business partners, Habitat board members, and Al and Tami Means who will be hosting a fundraising event, the Ladies’ Charity Skeet Classic, at the South River Gun Club in April. This will be the first year that the national women’s skeet shooting event will be held in Georgia and will benefit Athens Area Habitat, also providing funding for the Kinda Tiny Homes project which seeks to construct four small-footprint homes in Athens.
Sharing a table with CEO Thurmond were members of the Clarke Middle School Owls boys’ basketball team and their coaches, Melvin Hayes and Omar Reid. It was a rare opportunity for the students to meet and talk one-on-one with Thurmond, a former state representative, commissioner of labor, superintendent of schools, and award-winning author.
Board member Charlie Barron, also in attendance, describes how the Committee of 1000 go its start: “My oldest brother worked with Habitat founder Millard Fuller in the ’70s and started the first Habitat affiliate in South Carolina in the 1980s. I started volunteering in the late 90’s and helped found the Committee of 1000 here in Athens. I join every year because it’s amazing to hear the stories of these hard working families, while also getting a fun night out for everyone. It reminds me how powerful the Habitat mission and business model really is. I’m a local business owner and I’m all about buying local, and it’s good to know that my donations to Athens Area Habitat will help families right here in our community.”
“I joined the Committee of 1000 because I have seen the phenomenal things that Athens Area Habitat for Humanity has been able to do for members of our community by making a home of their own possible,” said Evan Elder of Synovus Bank. “Partner families are so grateful to be in a home that makes them feel safe and secure, and the sheer emotion I have seen at numerous dedications is contagious!”
The event was made possible by The Foundry, the generosity of local sponsors, and the work of local Habitat staff as well as UGA students participating in the Athens Area Habitat intern program. “We had such a fun time,” said Outreach Director Bridget Sivewright, the event’s primary organizer. “This is our first year holding the event at the Foundry and everyone’s been telling us what a great time they had. And this year, we really do have so much to celebrate. But there’s a lot of need in this area, and much more work to do, so now that we’ve had time to reflect and be grateful, it’s time to roll up our sleeves again and get building!”