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Habitat leadership changes hands

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Karen Nevin and Ron Stair [Photo courtesy of Linda Schelin]
The Monett-Purdy affiliate of Habitat for Humanity changed presidents at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. Ron Stair, pastor at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), succeeded Karen Nevin in the organization's top job.

Stair, while relatively new to the Monett community, has been involved with Habitat for 20 years. Before joining the ministry, Stair worked for Yellow Freight, which played a major role with Habitat in the Kansas City area.

"There's no better way to take back a neighborhood from drug dealers than through Habitat," Stair said. "In Kansas City, Habitat was given properties in a run-down neighborhood. Habitat built there. The owners of the Habitat houses took responsibility for their community, organized a Neighborhood Watch and pushed the drug dealers out."

In Olathe, Kan., Stair's last home, Stair's church helped remodel an old fire station for Habitat to use as housing for its crews coming into town. Stair also picked Habitat as a research project while in seminary, which familiarized him with the organization's origins and structure.

The Habitat organization in Monett faces a number of issues at the present time. Stair said the latest house, the sixth built in Monett, is 90 percent complete but without a family to own it. The family selected for the project withdrew from their contract, having difficulty getting in their 350 hours of "sweat equity."

The present house is too near to completion for another family to invest the full number of needed hours in it. Stair said alternative arrangements will have to be worked out, like putting in volunteer time at Crosslines. Habitat's family selection committee has started looking for another owner for the new home, a decision subject to financial guidelines and full board approval.

Weaknesses identified

Stair sees three major challenges facing the local Habitat affiliate at the present time.

First, Stair believes there should be many more applications from families for consideration. He said the affiliate needs to get the word out to families about what Habitat can do for them. Having low enough personal debt to qualify to pay off a home loan may also limit participation, he said.

Secondly, many of Habitat's core volunteers have worked many weekends. Stair feared the dedicated workers risked burning out.

"Habitat needs to expand its volunteer base," Stair said. "I want to ask local businesses to sponsor work days. Habitat will provide the key people to supervise. The work would be the kind of labor anyone can do."

Thirdly, Stair said Habitat is low on funds and does not have enough money to finish the current house on its own. It costs approximately $60,000 to build each house.

Ideally, Habitat could have enough houses finished that payments from the new owners would cover the cost of building one new house each year, which has been the local affiliate's goal. Stair said it would take finishing 18 to 20 houses to generate enough money to cover such costs.

Habitat has held a number of fundraising projects in recent years, such as the holiday home tours last Christmas, a dinner at the Hill Creek Lodge and a sale during the Hundred-Mile Garage Sale in August. Stair said each project was successful and may be held again.

Leadership challenge

Under Habitat bylaws, a person can only serve on the board for four two-year terms. A significant number of people on the 12-person board are due to step down in the coming year. Stair said these people represent a significant amount of expertise. Many will stay involved with Habitat in other capacities.

"We need more directors," Stair said.

Directors are asked to make a financial commitment to the organization, making their investment greater than simply time served on a board, although the bylaws do not stipulate the amount of the investment.

Habitat is planning a luncheon for local business and industry leaders to help explain the local mission and describe how they can help. Stair hopes this event will open doors of communication for the future.

Stair praised the work Niven has done as board president.

A strategic study has been started to identify strengths and weaknesses within the organization. The process is expected to take at least six months.

"We hope to come up with a plan of action to address our weaknesses and leverage our successes," Stair said.

The Habitat board usually meets on the third Tuesday of the month at the First Presbyterian Church. Interested persons are welcome to attend.

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This new president lists as "challenges" the fact that he wants "many more applications" to come in. It seems to me like it would be wonderful if there were no applications at all-that it wasn't even needed. Of course, I know there is need, but it seems odd to say you wish there were many more applications. It seems like he is saying habitat is a business that he wants much business for, instead of wishing it could fill a need and then be no longer necessary.

-- Posted by common-tater on Thu, Dec 16, 2010, at 11:43 PM

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