habitat for humanity
As a teacher in Dawson, Ga., in the 1970s, Clive Rainey was having trouble reaching students who didn’t seem to want to learn.
When he went to visit the children’s parents, he saw the run-down conditions where the students lived. Rainey then realized that he needed to address the kids’ needs on a more basic level if he wanted to be effective as a teacher. In an effort to do that, on April 1, 1977 he became the first volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, which Millard and Linda Fuller had just founded about 25 miles away in Americus, Ga. “I jokingly tell audiences that I was just the first fool to come along,” Rainey says, playing on the fact that his start date was on April Fool’s Day. “Look at all of us now.”
Rainey has since helped build houses throughout the United States, Africa and Latin America. He doesn’t know the exact number of houses he has worked on, but says he tries to get every Habitat volunteer “to own” the entire number of 300,000 houses the organization has built and to know that every house is part of the much larger figure. “You put your little part in and it multiplies so many times over,” he says. “Even as you’re making a difference with that one child and one family, if you look at our work globally, literally you’ve changed the world.”
It’s that ability to reach out to families and help change the world that prompted Tom and Sue Strauss and Tom and Ginny Knoll to become involved in the organization. Together, the couples are co-chairs of Habitat for Humanity’s current campaign to raise funds for the acquisition and renovation of its new headquarters, which will be located at 2301 Romig Road.
Sue, who has been a Habitat volunteer for five years and has been on the board since 2005, says the organization was a perfect fit for her because she enjoys working with her hands and had been looking for meaningful work with a Christ-focused mission. It was only a matter of time until she encouraged her husband, Tom Strauss, to become involved as well. As CEO of Summa Health System, Strauss was familiar with Habitat as an organization that Summa has long supported. In fact, Strauss and other staff members have even worked on Habitat homes for fellow Summa employees. “It breaks down the hierarchy and shows that we’re all in this together,” he says.
Tom Knoll began volunteering with Habitat two years ago, and encouraged his wife, Ginny, who has association with Stan Hywet, Mobile Meals and other organizations, to do the same. As a partner at Stark & Knoll law firm, Knoll has arranged team-building exercises where employees spend the day working on a Habitat home. “I think any time you can touch the things you’re working for it makes a difference, gives you a sense of accomplishment and a better realization that you are doing some good work,” Knoll says of the hands-on aspect of volunteering with Habitat.
The Strausses and the Knolls hope that during this capital campaign community members will not only donate funds to help Habitat become more effective, but also contribute their time and efforts to help build a future for local families. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as the saying goes,” Sue explains. “Volunteers with Habitat work with families to help them achieve their dream of owning their own home. ...On that day they are consistently overwhelmed with gratitude and hope, expressing how blessed they feel to have accomplished what they once thought was an impossible goal. The hope that they have extends to their children who witness the outcome of hard work, dedication and determination to make a better life for themselves.”
To really understand the impact that Habitat has, look no further than to the individuals being helped. “If you could see the faces of families that move into their new home, who have made a physical and financial commitment, knowing that now they have a place of their own,” Knoll explains, “there’s not much more you need to know about Habitat and about this campaign.”
For more information on how you can volunteer with Habitat for Humanity or donate to the capital campaign, visit www.hfhsummitcounty.org. You can also call 330-785-2704 for details and to find out about the Wines of the World wine tasting and silent auction fundraiser, which will be held Nov. 6 at Portage Country Club.