Kearney Area Habitat for Humanity
About Us, Our HistoryIn 1991, a handful of men, in a weekly bible study, felt moved to help folks who were faced with deficient living conditions in their homes because of medical issues. One homeowner needed a sink fastened back to the wall. After the sink was installed, the owner did little more than grunt a thanks and then pointed out other issues that needed to be repaired. Discouraged by this response, but still feeling the need to respond to persons in need, Jim McKenzie went home that day and just by coincidence saw a TV program about Jimmy Carter and an organization called Habitat for Humanity. After some research, he invited three other men, Joe Methe, Bill Ballou and Jerry Marlatt to spend a day in Omaha with him to look at what Omaha was doing. They spent the day touring and learning about the Omaha Habitat Affiliate from Dale Oatman, the Omaha Building Superintendent.
Back in Kearney, these enthusiastic men did some advertising and held an informational meeting at the Salvation Army. Not knowing what to expect, they set up chairs for fifty, thinking they might be overly optimistic. That night, more than 75 people showed up. With a response like that, Habitat for Humanity was launched in Kearney.
In January 1992, an initial meeting of the Kearney Habitat for Humanity Steering Committee was held. With much diligent work by many people, the Kearney Area Habitat for Humanity was formed. It was officially recognized as an Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in the summer of 1992. The first habitat house in Kearney was started in September and dedicated on November 22 , 1992 for Anna Rodriguez and her two daughters.
Since the second year after organizing, KAHFH has built three to four houses per year. Partnership is paramount in the culture of Kearney Area HFH. There are significant partnerships with a number of church congregations, ongoing relationships which bear fruit year after year. Some years the churches sponsor a house together; some years, volunteer crews and funding and lunches are shared on all the houses. The first “Church House” was built in 1997. Partnerships with construction trades people have been nurtured for many years; electrical labor has been donated through the years on nearly every house. Plumbing labor also has been repeatedly donated. In 1996 the first Blitz Home was built. Each day of the one week build was sponsored by a different community business or organization. The dedication featured Habitat’s founder Millard and Linda Fuller. The second Blitz Build was in 1998 with two homes blitzed.
In 1999 the Nebraska National guard provided most of the labor on a house. Students from the University of Nebraska Kearney Construction Management classes have built the major portion of several houses. In 2006, the West Central Nebraska Home Builders Association led the building of two homes in a seven day period….the third blitz build.
A diverse variety of volunteers ranging from scout troops to senior citizen Sunday School classes sign up to help on Saturday build days. Every week during the build season, local merchants donate goods and services to help nourish the volunteers. There is also a dedicated group of skilled workers who show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week during the build season. Several homes have been built in a unique partnership with Thrivent Financial that includes labor and financial backing from area Lutheran churches. Financial partnerships have also been established with other organizations including US Bank, Wells Fargo and many others.
KAHFH also has a generous group of Carpenters Club members. Each member signs up to donate a set amount of money for each home built in a season, one of ways a person can help out even if they can’t swing a hammer. Sizeable bequests have been made to KAHFH including one from the estate of the late Jim Fudge that supports some of the expenses of Habitat including the purchase of much needed construction equipment, a challenge grant program to get new HFH chapters started and the cherished Fudge Box, a tool kit given to every new homeowner. Other major bequests are being used to start a number of programs to assist the new homeowners and to help with the maintenance of the Warehouse/Office that was built in 2000-02. This build was possible through another sizeable bequest.
Kearney Area Habitat celebrated a huge success in 2004 by building four houses instead of three to meet the needs of an additional family and to include an all-concrete design in cooperation with a local vendor. This caught the eye of Habitat International. For the eight state Midwest region the Kearney Area Habitat Affiliate was awarded “Affiliate of the Year” for their many accomplishments including an outstanding record of tithing to Habitat for Humanity International and the sponsorship of Jimmy Carter Work Projects in the US and around the world. That same year, KAHFH was awarded” National Affiliate of the Year” for those located in areas with less than 50,000 population.
KAHFH reached a major milestone with the completion of the 50th home at 1912 7 Avenue was dedicated on November 21, 2008 for April Engel and son Ethan. This momentous event was preceeded with a celebration reception for the Carpenters Club, dedicated volunteers and major donors. Every year the KAHFH board hosts an Appreciation Supper or Banquet for the homeowners and volunteers. This event also serves as an annual meeting and a recap of the accomplishments of the last year.
In recognition of its many unique partnerships, KAHFH was presented with the Diversity Business Award for 2010 by the Kearney Area Chamber at their Annual Banquet on January 25, 2011.
Even though UNK does not have a fully chartered student affiliate, it has a very active chapter that is involved in building houses during the build season and has completed other projects during the winter months. They have built lawn houses for the new homeowners, built new picnic tables for use at the worksite and they conduct numerous fund raising and awareness projects throughout the year.
By the end of 2012, another three homes were built and dedicated to bring the total to 64 homes in just under 20 years, quite an accomplishment for an all-volunteer organization. KAHFH celebrated 20 years of building with an Anniversary Banquet on February 18, 2012 with Ken Klein from Habitat for Humanity International.