BY STEPHANIE CHAPA
At a time when the community is spending a lot more time at home — people are working from their home offices, students are attending classes from their rooms — the work of nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has never been more important.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of the way the organization operates, but Habitat for Humanity is not letting it stop them from fulfilling their mission: helping local disadvantaged families move into comfortable, affordable homes.
They had to get creative to raise funds, and came up with the Mighty Homes of Hope, an initiative that pushed the community to tap into their own imaginations.
From Oct. 5 to 19, locals had the opportunity to construct and decorate a miniature model home. The homes are now in the designing and selection process, and final entries will be put up for an online auction which will be open from Nov. 16 to 30 with all funds going towards the work of the organization.
“They’re tiny little decorative homes,” said Trisha Watts, the director of development and communications for the organization’s Rio Grande Valley chapter. “But the idea behind it was ‘you tell us what your ideal home would be — what home means to you.’”
This initiative is in replacement of Habitat for Humanity’s annual Golf-a-Palooza event, which was set for April.
The miniature home models will be on display from Nov. 2 to Dec. 1 at the Lexus dealership in San Juan. Businesses depending on the level of sponsorship they chose, were given between one to three little model homes to decorate.
The idea came to the organization as they tried to find ways to raise funds while still respecting health and safety practices amidst a pandemic.
“It actually started with something that we kept seeing (online) like a ‘do-it-yourself’ little craft home with popsicle sticks,” Watts elaborated. “And then that got us thinking ‘what if we did something that people could do virtually so that it’s still safe for this COVID environment that we’re living in.’”
Contest and auction winners will be announced on Dec. 1, Giving Tuesday, and the top three homes in each of the two categories (nonprofit/youth groups) will receive 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place with prizes of $200, $150, and $100, respectively. The proceeds from the auction will go into helping the organization’s efforts to continue to achieve its mission.
Since it was founded in 1988, Habitat for Humanity has continued to strive to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live. In doing so, they have helped many Valley residents move into homes that they otherwise would not be able to afford.
“Our vision is that everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to live — a place to call home,” Watts said.
She added that her own home growing up was built by the organization. For her, working for the organization “feels like coming full circle.”
Although fundraising in the middle of a pandemic has come with many struggles, Watts said she is grateful for the support they have received from the community.
“It has been challenging to do any kind of fundraising because everybody is so limited with what it is they have available, even those that already have charity foundations set up to give to nonprofits,” said Watts. “But we are extremely grateful for anything and everything that has still been coming our way. We just recently started constructing homes again. And, of course, that’s always our main goal.”
Stephanie Chapa is a student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.