story by Greg Alexander
A startling 86% of our community cannot afford the basic necessities to live in Walton County. There is currently a crisis for affordable housing for the local workforce, which requires many folks to commute from other counties where they reside. As one of the fastest growing counties in the state and with no slowdown in sight, Walton County is fortunate to have such an impassioned charitable community of people. There are over 90 registered nonprofits in Walton County that assist in making the county more livable for everyone and helping to keep many of the workers local. Of these nonprofits, Habitat for Humanity of Walton County is known for doing more directly to provide homes in the area.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps families build and improve places to call home. They build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. A common misbelief is that Habitat provides handouts or free housing. On the contrary, their beneficiaries lend a helping hand in the building process and they actually pay for their homes. Future Habitat homeowners are qualified based on their level of need, willingness to partner with Habitat, and their ability to pay back a no profit loan. Habitat’s model of having those in need of housing work side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent homes substantially lowers the cost as well as facilitates pride in homeownership. Each home is built and sold to clients using zero interest loans tied to their financial circumstances. The homeowners also pay property taxes and hazard insurance just as any traditional home loan would require. The mortgage payments go directly to help build more homes for deserving families in our community. Habitat stimulates growth by revitalizing neighborhoods; one house at a time, as well as creating jobs and a property tax base for individuals that would have not otherwise been able to do it on their own.
Habitat for Humanity of Walton County very proudly completed their 50th Habitat home last June, with four currently under construction. Habitat of Walton has also recently broken ground at Hope Village, the very first Habitat neighborhood locally that will consist of thirteen homes. Teresa Imdieke, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Walton County noted that this had been a dream of hers for eight years. Teresa’s excitement and passion for her job are apparent, as she has become ‘family’ with the many homeowners that she has had the pleasure of assisting over the years. The great challenge that she is leading is allowing many families to establish roots and change the lives for their subsequent generation.
Interview with Teresa Imdieke
Tell us about your involvement with Habitat for Humanity of Walton County.
Ten years ago I was asked to join the Habitat for Humanity Board. I served on the board for two years and had the position of treasurer before accepting the job as the Executive Director in January 2011.
What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with the organization?
Everyone always teases me about how emotional I get when we finish a home and celebrate our new homeowners. However, it’s hard not to get emotional when you see families in our community work so hard to achieve a dream and then see it come to fruition. You spend a lot of time with the families while they are putting in “sweat equity” on their home that you can’t help but become invested. I truly mean it when I say that my heart and family gets bigger with every house that we build.
Since our homeowners are local families that live and work right here in our area, I see many of them out in my everyday life. My child plays soccer against their children. I run into them grocery shopping, at the playground, or at local events. You wouldn’t believe how many current Habitat families continue to attend our Habitat events and volunteer with us. It fills me with a sense of pride as we watch homeowners get promoted, kids make sports teams, be the first ones to attend college in their families, and many other milestones.
What are some ways that the organization fundraises? What is ReStore?
Many people think that we receive funding from Habitat for Humanity International, but the truth is all of our money is raised locally. We wouldn’t be successful in building affordable housing without our community partners and volunteers. Many businesses sponsor our Habitat homes by providing materials or labor, which avoids having to fundraise to pay for those services. We have also been blessed to be a part of many local events like the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Rosemary Beach Bocce Ball Tournament, Rosemary Uncorked, and the Market Shops Bloody Mary Festival.
Many people may be surprised to learn but our largest donor is our Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Our ReStore is a building supply resale store located in Santa Rosa Beach. It accepts donations of new and gently used building materials and household furnishings. In turn we are able to provide these items back to the community at a reduced cost. This process helps keep useable material and furnishings out of the landfill, along with funding our daily operations and build program. Since our ReStore pays for all of our operational costs, every dollar donated to our affiliate goes directly to building houses and not to overhead. Not a lot of nonprofit organizations can say that.
In 2018 our Habitat ReStore, located in Santa Rosa Beach, served more families than ever before.
Are there any upcoming events?
We have two Women Build Days scheduled for March 6 and April 6, along with celebrating International Women’s Day by having our Annual Hard Hats and High Heels Luncheon on March 8. There are also weekly volunteer opportunities at our Habitat homes, the ReStore and in our administrative office.
What is one thing you want readers to know about Habitat for Humanity – Walton County?
Our homeowners typically pay 46% less per month for their mortgage than they were previously paying in rent. That is with monthly escrow payments built in for annual property tax payments and homeowners insurance premiums.
How can a person or business become involved or help with Habitat for Humanity Walton County?
There are several ways that you can support us. You can donate directly to our organization or ReStore, volunteer your time, or sponsor upcoming events. To become involved or donate, please phone 850-660-1681 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.