South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity is about to embark on a milestone when it completes its 50th home since the organization came to Thurston County in 1989.
And the 50th property happens to be at Wood’s Glen in Lacey, the nonprofit’s largest project to date, which will bring 33 homes to 37th Avenue Southeast, not far from Komachin Middle School.
That’s how far the organization has come in the past 26 years. It also employs 20, operates two stores that sell recycled building materials, and recently expanded into a former Dollar Tree store in west Olympia. That site is both a store and the administrative offices for Habitat for Humanity. Another store is in Yelm.
“A store is the engine that fuels the machine,” longtime Executive Director Curt Andino said, still passionate about the transformative power of owning a home and excited about where the stores are taking the nonprofit.
The Olympia and Yelm stores generated gross revenue of more than $1 million in the organization’s most recent fiscal year, Andino said, enough to fund the construction of two homes at Wood’s Glen.
That’s welcome relief because grants, another key source of funding for the nonprofit, sometimes trickle in slowly, he said. Local businesses and individuals also contribute to the nonprofit, Andino said.
But the success of the two stores now has Andino considering a third store, possibly near Lacey between Carpenter Road and Marvin Road on Martin Way, he said.
His model for success is Goodwill, which unleashed the power of its stores to fund its job-training programs, Andino said. That’s also why South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity moved to west Olympia, so it could be near Goodwill’s west-side store, effectively offering one-stop shopping and donating for prospective customers.
Still, the organization’s central mission is unchanged: building homes for low-income families, the disabled and seniors. And getting that low-income family, for example, into a home with a 25-year mortgage at no interest. That translates into a principal-only monthly mortgage payment of about $750, giving that family the elbow room to build equity in their lives as well as the house, he said.
That’s not necessarily the case for a low-income family in a renting situation as rents continue to rise. Higher rents benefit landlords, but not a family struggling to make ends meet, Andino said.
“They have played a wonderful and necessary role throughout Thurston County in support of affordable housing,” said Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake.
Blake’s work as chairman of the housing action team, which operates under the public-private umbrella known as Thurston Thrives, has intersected with Habitat for Humanity.
He’s also been impressed with Shepherd’s Grove in Tumwater, a former five-unit Habitat for Humanity project near Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard. Blake lives near the site and praised the development, calling it “culturally and socially profitable.”
“I look forward to doing more with them,” said Blake about Habitat for Humanity.