Wells Fargo Grant to Help Complete Kinda Tiny Homes

The covid pandemic put Habitat homeowners on hold, but Wells Fargo has stepped in to get things moving again.

The spring of 2020 seemed like any other as Collegiate Challenge students visiting Athens, GA, for an “alternative spring break” worked on homes with Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. Little did they know that their group photo in front of one of Athens Hab’s “Kinda Tiny Homes” would be the last picture taken to date of anyone at an Athens Habitat build site who isn’t wearing a facemask.

Events spiraled quickly as the covid-19 pandemic descended on Georgia. Volunteers were told to stay home. The two Habitat thrift stores in Athens were closed, cutting off a vital revenue stream for the local non-profit. Chain reactions in the market sent the cost of building supplies soaring. And affiliate leadership were scrambling to keep their staff safe and continue making payroll.

“It’s been the most challenging period of my professional life,” said executive director Spencer Frye. “When it hit, nobody knew what would happen from day to day, and there were no roadmaps. We’re dealing with a potentially fatal disease, there’s no vaccine, we have to protect our staff and our clients, but we also have partner families waiting to get into homes. It was a nightmare.”

Habitat operations were suspended for three months as local and state mandates shifted and evolved, and office staff worked to remodel ReStore operations to get the stores open safely. “We couldn’t go in or out of the office without being stopped by people driving by, asking when we were going to open,” said Frye. And although the stores have since opened back up, the hiatus combined with increased supply costs and personal distancing requirements put heavy stress on the building schedule.

Sponsor banner outside Kinda Tiny HomeBut with autumn came a ray of light, in the form of a potential grant from Wells Fargo Builds, a charitable program of the Wells Fargo Foundation focusing on housing affordability across America. “Wells Fargo has long been a supporter of Habitat for Humanity, and of the Athens affiliate in particular,” says Charles Smith, Athens Hab’s VP for Operations. “And they really came through for us, our partner families, and the community when we were in a pinch. This $15,000 grant, together with a second expected grant from Jackson EMC Foundation, will allow us to complete the two houses in phase 1 of the Kinda Tiny Homes project so that we can get the homeowners moved in. We all expected them to be in by now, but the pandemic turned the world upside down. Wells Fargo has helped turn a part of it, at least, rightside up again. And we couldn’t be more grateful to them for that.”