August 18, 2019

Habitat for Humanity increasing outreach to county residents

Weeks-long fundraiser first step in doing so


OSCODA COUNTY — The goal during Habitat for Humanity of Oscoda County’s annual retail scan fundraiser is twofold this year: ask residents to donate to its cause in any way possible, and get the word out about how the organization can help local residents.

Beginning Feb. 6, customers at the Family Fare in Mio will be asked if they’d like to make a donation to Habitat at the register. In addition, they’ll be offered some brief information about the services the group offers to local residents. All proceeds from the donations will go to the state office for the charitable organization and then be disbursed to local branches.

Oscoda County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Ed Landefeld said the campaign is not just a financial benefit.

“This is getting our brand out there to the citizens of the county,” he said. “We can educate them on what we do, and what we can do for the county. … The stronger we can make the brand known to the county, the more people we can help.”

Landefeld said within 14 years the organization has built 13 houses in Oscoda County, which he says is impressive for a branch of its size. While building houses is a significant part of what Habitat does, Landefeld said that is far from the only thing it does. He mentioned a large portion of the assistance Habitat offers is far easier to apply for and receive than outright building an entire house. He called those projects neighborhood revitalization.

“In anything we do, we offer these service for residents of Oscoda County who are dealing with low income,” Landefeld said. “It’s easier to fund repairs than a full home building. … Maybe it’s building a handicap ramp because grandpa recently was confined to a wheelchair, or a toilet that needs replaced, or a furnace that needs fixing.”

While Habitat for Humanity is a charitable organization, the assistance it offers is not free. Landefeld said Habitat’s goal is to assist residents in the most cost-effective way possible.

“We don’t give this stuff away,” he said. “We do it as inexpensively as possible.”

There is an application process involved with asking for assistance from the organization that can include a credit or employment check, as well as proof of anticipated income. He said in addition to their project cost, receivers may also be asked to volunteer time with the organization or attend financial management courses.

Landefeld said one of the goals the group has during this fundraiser is to dispel untrue beliefs residents may have about who can apply for assistance from the organization. He said in the past residents have assumed that one had to be on welfare or other types of government assistance in order to qualify. He’d also heard some residents were under the impression that a family has to be a certain religion to apply. Both of those assumptions are false.

Landefeld said last year his branch only received five applications for assistance, and none of them were able to pass the credit check. He said the hope this year is to put more work into outreach in order to drive in more applications.

“First, we want to do more outreach, and encourage people to be involved in that outreach,” he said. “The second thing is to get more applications from local residents. The third thing is that we want to make people more aware of what we can offer.”

Last year the fundraiser, run in partnership with SpartanNash, brought in more than $85,000 statewide for local Michigan branches of Habitat for Humanity. That accounts for almost half of the total funds raised through the campaign nationwide. The total amount of funding raised last year would have allowed Habitat for Humanity to pay for a combination of the following: 350 yard landscaping projects, 175 financial stability classes, 115 accessibility ramps or 35 kitchen renovation projects.

The fundraiser runs from Feb. 6-17. Oscoda County Habitat for Humanity members will be at the Mio Family Fare Jan. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. prepared to answer questions about what they can do for residents. They’ll also have application materials for those who wish to apply for assistance. For more information on how to volunteer for, or apply for assistance from, the Oscoda County Habitat for Humanity, contact 989-848-2200.


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