Upbuilding: Spring 2021

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

Greetings, Habitat nation! It’s been just over a year now since our build sites and stores were temporarily shut down by the pandemic. And while our volunteer program isn’t fully open again yet, our ReStores are humming thanks to a rigorous safety program and the generosity of our donors, hammers are swinging at our construction and renovation sites, and new partnerships are generating some of the most interesting and exciting work we’ve ever done.

Right now we’re in the middle of our first ever solar energy installs, and just last week we broke ground on Habitat’s first home in the Southeast to use insulating concrete forms. Our emergency programs to put covid testing on wheels and to provide mortgage and utility relief to local families have wrapped up, but we’re hoping to see them live on in a new form. Keep reading to learn more …

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Building the Community

A worker installs aluminum rails on a metal roof to prepare for a solar panel installation

Athens Hab is partnering with a local solar system provider to add sun power to our Kinda Tiny Homes, which are nearing completion after a months-long hiatus caused by the covid pandemic.

Solar Sun World, headquartered near Lake Oconee just south of Madison, has been in business for about 30 years now, and serves a roughly even mix of industrial and residential clients, installing both photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Those solar arrays you see on the UGA campus by the practice fields are theirs. And they even install rotating arrays that track the sun across the sky!

Of course, we’re not getting quite that fancy. But with a southwest exposure and a small home to power, these rooftop arrays will be more than adequate. Once completed, these high-efficiency houses will boast some of the lowest utility costs in Athens!

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The Giving Spirit

Cartoon graphic of runner breaking the tape on a racetrack. Headline: Annual Fund Drive 2021-21. Inset: Goal $50,000; Current $54,632.

This past year, the need for cost-manageable housing was greater than we’ve ever seen it. So we set our sights high for our annual fund drive. And local Habitat supporters came through!

We raised a record $54,632 during our annual campaign, exceeding our goal. These donations will be combined with Foundation Donor contributions and other yearlong donations, federal and state and private foundation grants, return revenue from our no-interest mortgage holders and income-adjusted lease holders, and funds raised through our ReStores to make new work possible in the coming years.

A special thanks goes out to all our new and longstanding Foundation Donors who provide Athens Area Habitat with a predictable funding base for our General Fund by committing to a regular automatic donation at the amount and interval of their choosing. Your reliable support allows us to plan ahead for exciting and innovative projects to build our community. If you’re not yet a Foundation Donor, but you’d like to be, visit our donation page here: Become an Athens Area Habitat Foundation Donor

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Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Elle Forbes, realtor Jarrett Martin with donation check, and Athens Habitat VP Charles Smith on the front porch of the Habitat office in Athens, GAHaving to suspend our volunteer programs has been one of the most difficult changes brought about by the covid pandemic. We know that many individuals and groups in our service area are ready to rejoin us to help build and renovate homes and raise funds at our ReStores. But under guidance from local health authorities and Habitat for Humanity International, we’re not quite ready to open up fully just yet.

Still, throughout the past year, we’ve enjoyed the unflagging support of a few regular volunteers who have stayed on to help us through. We’d like to salute one such volunteer, Elle Forbes, who surprised us this past month with a donation from the purchase of her home here in Athens in cooperation with Jarrett Martin of Keller Williams Greater Athens.

We’d also like to thank our UGA interns who worked with us to keep the wheels turning by working remotely throughout this past academic year. Chris, Christina, and Liz, you were all a tremendous help during trying and difficult times.

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Local Partners

Clock tower and dome of Athens, GA, city hall

Tucked away inside the Athens Area Habitat facilities is a small bottling facility which produced more than 5000 spray bottles of sanitizer that were distributed free to lower-income residents of our service area in 2020. It’s just one of the projects we were able to initiate with the help of our local government.

When the covid pandemic hit, we knew we were going to have to think way outside the box in order to help see our community through the troubles. And the Athens-Clarke County government was our best and most consistent partner in that endeavor.

Working from a model established by Dr. Suzanne Lester of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, and using funds made available through Athens-Clarke County, Athens Hab helped form the Athens GA Wellness Coalition with local health care providers to make coronavirus testing available to everyone through a mobile testing clinic. And of course we were proud to help ACC provide mortgage and utility relief to local homeowners whose incomes had been cut short by the pandemic through no fault of their own.

Earlier this year, Governor Kemp announced his support for mobile vaccination clinics in our state. The emergency measures taken here in Athens are currently being leveraged to help develop plans through the Georgia Department of Public Health to make similar services available statewide. That is the power of partnership, to not only solve immediate problems, but to craft ongoing solutions that benefit everyone. We thank Athens-Clarke County for their critical role in making all of this happen.

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What We’re Up To

Jimmy Cotty of GRMCA, Gregg Lewis of NRMCA, Spencer Frye of Athens Area Habitat, and David Lyle of the ACC DA's Office discuss the use of insulating concrete forms at the Build With Strength house groundbreakingAthens Area Habitat is one of only 16 Habitat for Humanity affiliates chosen to participate in the nationwide Build With Strength project to use insulating concrete forms (ICFs) to construct high-strength, high-efficiency homes with innovative technologies. Our new home on Marlborough Downs in Athens will be the first Habitat house in the Southeast to use ICFs.

Most folks have likely only seen ICF-built houses through the stunning photographs of structures such as the Sand Palace home in Florida which have survived hurricanes intact amid otherwise flattened neighborhoods. With the price of lumber at record highs, the labor efficiency of ICFs allows Athens Hab to keep construction costs low while also building a safer, quieter, more energy-efficient home for our homeowner partners.

Stay tuned for more on this exciting project as we get underway this summer. We’re really looking forward to bringing these and other innovations to our community.

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Homeowner Tips

Gloved hand clearing leaf debris from a home's foundation ventIt’s springtime, which means time to make sure your home is ready for the warmer weather.

About that ice cube hack: Warmer temperatures can evoke pungent smells (and bugs) from a neglected kitchen sink disposal. One common online “hack” says to pack the drain with ice, run the disposal, and flush with hot water. But ice alone won’t do much good, and too much can temporarily clog the drain. Instead, put a few cubes of ice into the drain along with a sprinkling of coarse salt and the pulp from one lemon. Then turn on the disposal and quickly follow by opening the cold water tap. You’ll keep the blades sharp while giving the unit a gentle scrubbing and disinfecting. Pro Tip: Regular flushes with boiling water will help keep drains clean and insect-free.

Now’s the time to check your foundation vents: Leaves and other debris can accumulate around your home’s foundation in winter, blocking the foundation vents. These vents deter the growth of mold and mildew, and keep out critters when they start looking for nesting spots. So be sure to give your vents a look-see in the spring and make sure they’re clear for a well-ventilated crawl space. And immediately repair any damage that might give small animals an entry point to your home.

Watch out for “blistered” wood: If you see blistered wood on any part of your home, don’t assume it’s a superficial maintenance issue that can wait. It might signal a termite infestation! If so, putting the repair off till later could spell disaster. Termites swarm in the spring, so be sure to check any blistered wood on your home for these damaging (and expensive) pests!

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