Upbuilding: February 2022

Building the Community | The Giving Spirit | Volunteer Spotlight | Local Partners | What We’re Up To | Homeowner Tips

Greetings, Habitat nation! So much is going on these days, sometimes we can barely keep up. But hey, that’s why we’re here! Some of our new projects are pending grant approval — keep your fingers crossed — but here’s what’s cooking at Athens Area Habitat right now …

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Building the Community

A crew member adds braces to the insulating forms into which concrete will be poured.

Regular readers will know that Athens was chosen in 2021 to be one of just 16 Habitat cities in the US to participate in the Build With Strength project. Well, the framing is up and we’re ready to pour concrete on Friday, February 18th!

Members of the public are welcome to come see the “pour down” as the insulating forms (ICFs) are filled with liquid concrete. The resulting structure will be exceptionally quiet, extraordinarily strong, and much more energy efficient than a frame-built home. But inside and out, it will look like any other house on the block. The only difference will be the thickness of the window casings and door jambs.

Building with concrete is already the norm in Europe, where houses are expected to last much longer than their typical lifespan in the US. And with the cost of lumber at record highs, we expect to see an increasing number of homes using concrete construction in our area over the coming years.

Houses built with ICFs have been known to withstand hurricanes as the surrounding neighborhoods are flattened. Two US states already have laws requiring insurance companies to pass on the benefits of lower risk profiles to homeowners in the form of premium reductions. Athens Area Habitat is advocating for a similar law in Georgia, so stay tuned!

The pour down for the Build With Strength home will take place at 195 Marlborough Downs Road in Athens on Friday, February 18th, with coffee and snacks and introductions, including remarks by Mayor Girtz and Governor Kemp, at 8:30, followed by tours and Q&A. Concrete will get flowing by 11:00. Industry representatives will be on hand to answer questions for builders who want to learn how to use ICFs in their future projects, and for residents who might want to build their own home with concrete. If you’d like to attend, we ask that you contact Charles Smith, Athens Area Habitat VP of Operations, at 706-715-6725 or charles@athenshabitat.com so we know how many people to expect.

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The Giving Spirit

Gus Vega of All Star Painting preps the Lydia’s Homeplace building for a new coat of paint.

Charitable donations were down nationwide in 2021, but you couldn’t tell it by looking at Athens! Our annual fund drive closed at the end of last month with a record $62,808.15 in contributions. We cannot begin to express our gratitude to each and every donor who contributed to our mission during this drive, and to those who have made the commitment to become Foundation Donors with regular monthly, quarterly, or annual gifts.

Not only do your contributions provide up-front funding for our building, renovation, and repair projects, they also provide matching funds which allow us to attract public and private grants to our community. It’s because of your local support that we’re able to earn national support for our mission.

We have also been blessed with generous “gifts in kind” from the local community. At Lydia’s Homeplace (our project in partnership with Lydia’s Place to provide subsidized housing for college students coming from a background of homelessness) the building’s exterior has been given a complete makeover with landscaping contributed by the Rose & Dahlia Garden Club, exterior painting donated by All Star Painting, and unit lettering, welcome mats, porch lights, and holiday wreaths contributed by the UGA House Director Association. On behalf of ourselves, the Lydia’s Homeplace residents, and the neighborhood, we offer you all a well-earned and deeply heartfelt “Thank you!”

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Volunteer Spotlight

When people think of volunteering with Habitat, most folks think of swinging a hammer on a build site. What they may not know is that there are other opportunities for those who have different sets of skills.

Our ReStores serve as an ongoing source of funding for our mission to provide strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. And regular volunteers are a critical component of making those stores run smoothly. We’d like you to meet Robin, who counts Habitat as one of three organizations she donates her time to, keeping our east side store’s media section in order so our shoppers can find what they’re looking for ….


There are plenty of other opportunities for local volunteers to put their skills to use at our east side and west side stores. If you’d like to find out more about contributing to our ReStore team, see our volunteering page and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

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Local Partners

Volunteers from 1st Presbyterian Church of Athens locate a vent fan in the ceiling of a future Family Promise apartment.

Partnerships are at the heart of what we do here at Athens Area Habitat — partnerships with families and individuals in need of housing, with financial contributors and volunteers, and with other local non-profits looking to find new and innovative ways of providing shelter for our neighbors. Family Promise of Athens (formerly the Interfaith Hospitality Network) is one such organization with whom we’ve combined strengths to solve problems for folks who’ve fallen into homelessness.

Once completed, these fully renovated housing units will serve as transitional homes for families while Family Promise helps them to provide for themselves and develop a financial plan to get them back on their feet again.

“This partnership is something that’s been in the works for quite some time,” notes Marion Sanders, executive director of Family Promise of Athens. “Our organizations have informally partnered throughout the years to support families in finding and maintaining housing, and the new transitional units are the perfect next step. By capitalizing on the strengths of both of our organizations, we’re able to provide both the physical structure and the case management support needed to move a family from homelessness to stably housed. Families will be given the opportunity to take a breath, find stability, and save money, all while working with the case manager to find their next, more permanent solution. We hope that these two units are just the beginning for providing additional, and very needed, housing options for the community.”

Tom Rodgers, who serves with both organizations, adds that “we must remind ourselves of Habitat founder Millard Fuller’s belief that everyone deserves safe, decent affordable housing, and that there are enough resources to provide that housing.” We couldn’t agree more. We know the resources are there. And we know the will is there. But only by working together will be be able to harness both resources and intent to create real change in the world.

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What We’re Up To

“Is that my new bed?” Waffle the puppy examines a donation of towels and blankets to ACC Animal Services

Did you ever wonder what happens to donations of clothes and linens that the ReStores can’t sell? Most of them are sold off by the pound to a vendor who resells what’s usable and recycles the rest into all sorts of new products. But some towels and blankets are routed to Athens-Clarke County Animal Services to help them care for dogs and cats.

We first became aware of the shelter’s need for these items when they had a plumbing problem and were asking for help washing the enormous volume of towels they require for daily cleaning and blankets that are used for animal bedding. We simply had never thought about that aspect of their public mission.

Well, we’re all about solving problems, and it occurred to us that we could be part of a solution for Animal Services. Every month, we receive more donations of blankets and towels than can be sold in our stores. So we set up special bins in our sorting areas to divert these items for Animal Services, and when those bins fill up, we drive them over and drop them off.

It really warms our hearts to know that the shelter has a steady supply of new bedding and cleaning-cloths to help them in the vitally important work they do for these critters who can’t help themselves. Because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together, and helping each other is the only way to create the best possible life for everyone. So thanks to all of you who donate items to our ReStores. You never know how your gift is going to benefit someone else down the road.

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Homeowner Tips

DIY plumbers — Take this crucial step: Winter is prime time for plumbing leaks in Georgia. If you have a burst pipe or other plumbing problem and intend to fix it yourself, the first thing you need to do (after turning off the water, of course) is to take photographs of the plumbing before doing any disassembly. Then take photos of each step, so you know how all the parts fit together. These pix will help ensure you buy the correct replacement parts and that you know how to reassemble them properly.

Recover the value of heated water: If you plan to be in your home for at least the next 7 years, consider installing a drain-water heat exchanger. These nifty little devices capture heat from draining water and transfer it to hot water pipes. So, for example, a portion of the heat from water going down your shower drain is added to the clean water going in, taking some of the burden off your water heater. Pretty neat, huh? There is some up front cost, of course, so this technology is only advised if you’re going to stay put for a while.

Check the attic after snow: Whenever an accumulation of snow melts off, take a quick look at your attic. Check the decking underside and rafters for any staining that indicates new leaks. Catching these during the winter can save you a lot of trouble and cash when the spring rains come!

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