By Tresa Halbrooks & Chelsea Lomartire
Habitat for Humanity of Williamson and Maury Counties (HFHWM) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and ecumenical Christian ministry that partners with donors and local families in need to build stable, safe homes and sell them with an affordable mortgage. HFHWM was fully incorporated as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International on December 5, 1992 and has more than 215 homes in Williamson and Maury Counties.
Jennee Galland, HFHWM’s Director of Communications & Events, is a native of Middle Tennessee who graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in communications and a minor in environmental sciences. She began her career teaching in the Chicago Public School System with the Chicago Academy of Sciences. After moving to Austin to escape the snow, she led educational programming for children and families at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and then later the communication department of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. She moved back to Tennessee to be closer to family and has been the director of communications at HFHWM for the past five years.
It’s important to know that HFHWM offers a “hand up, not a handout.” They build and then sell energy-efficient, craftsman-style homes to qualifying families and carry the mortgages at 0% interest. Habitat serves as both the general contractor and the mortgage lender on all of their homes. More than 70% of the work done on each house is done through volunteer labor, and HFHWM receives donations of money and materials from individuals, companies, and groups who are committed to the ministry of Habitat for Humanity.
Galland says one of the biggest misconceptions about the Williamson-Maury County chapter is that there is not a need for affordable housing in the area. In fact, over 4,000 families in the area currently qualify to buy a home through the Habitat for Humanity Homeownership Program.
We had a chance to visit with Jennee Galland and get to know her and the incredible work of Habitat for Humanity.
Q: What motivated you to work with Habitat for Humanity of Williamson and Maury Counties?
A: There are so many nonprofits doing exceptional work in Middle Tennessee, but what drew me to Habitat for Humanity was the strength and clarity of its mission. There truly is nothing like volunteering on the build site. At the end of the day, a volunteer walks away tired, sweaty and maybe with a scuff or scrape, but he/she can step back and really see the fruits of his/her labor. Volunteers are working side by side with the family who will buy the home, hearing how this “hand up” will change their life forever. It is a sustainable, powerful model that really lifts our neighbors out of poverty, and I feel lucky each day to be part of the Habitat experience. I think the quote below sums it up nicely:
“Habitat for Humanity is a perpetual motion miracle: everyone who receives, gives – and everyone who gives, receives. If you want to live complacent and uninspired, stay away from Habitat; come close to Habitat and it will change you, and make you part of something that changes the world.”
-Randall Wallace, screenwriter, Braveheart, Habitat volunteer
Q: Do you have any upcoming programs or events you’d like the public to know about?
This spring we will build eight homes, which is more than we have ever done in one build season. Therefore, we need all hands-on deck and community support to meet this goal!
One great way to help is to join our Women Build, which brings more than 300 volunteers, (70% of them women) together over seven weeks to build alongside a family in need of affordable housing. This year we will build alongside Vanesia Brown in Columbia, TN.
Vanesia, a single mother of two, works on the assembly line at Ryder Systems. Over the next few months, she will complete 280 hours of “sweat equity,” save $2,000 in closing costs and will then be eligible to purchase her house with a zero-interest mortgage.
To build her home, we must raise $70,000 for the cost of “bricks and sticks,” which covers everything from the foundation to the kitchen sink. We need sponsors, individual donors and support at the Hammers & High Heels Women Build fundraiser event, which takes place on June 2nd at The Factory at Franklin from 6:30-9:00 pm CDT, to make this happen.
Hammers & High Heels will feature an incredible LIVE and silent auction highlighting trips, unique memorabilia and Franklin’s finest retailers. There will be a cocktail reception and a VIP lounge with hand-crafted cocktails provided from Gray’s on Main and H Clark Distillery, a “Jewelry Pull” hosted by Kendra Scott, a gourmet buffet and an “Out of the Box” Dance Party with Rubiks Groove’s featuring hits from the 80’s & 90’s.
We ask that the community join us for a wonderful evening for a great cause; tickets, sponsorship information and volunteer opportunities can be found on our site at www.hfhwm.org.
Q: What’s the biggest difference that Habitat for Humanity has made in your life or others?
A: Our affiliate tithes to Habitat International to build a home in a developing country for every home we build here in our counties. This past November I was one of four HFHWM staff members who traveled to Cambodia to build one of those homes and see our tithing program in action. Over 250 volunteers from all over the world built 32 homes. It was a life-changing, humbling experience.
Q: What advice would you give to young professionals wanting to make a difference in their community, whether they decide to work for a non-profit or not.
A: Nonprofits need you! Habitat is successful because of the amazing expertise and generosity that our volunteers bring to the organization. Whether it is sharing your social media skills or giving a monthly donation, you can share your time, talent or treasure to serve the greater good, and you never know when a volunteer opportunity will turn into a job or the place you meet your new mate. Yes, we have volunteers meet on the build site and marry!
Q: How do you find work / life balance?
A: Like many professionals, I struggle with work/life balance. When you work for an organization and mission that you love, it can be hard to disconnect and recharge – you don’t want to miss any opportunity to make a difference! I am constantly trying to find ways to be more present in my life and of course, more opportunities to get to the beach.
For more information about getting involved with Habitat for Humanity of Williamson and Maury Counties, visit www.HFHWM.org.
Tresa Halbrooks is the Founder and President of LEGACY Consulting, PR & Events, a premier public relations and event production company based in Franklin, TN. Tresa has worked with and consulting a variety of non-profit organizations about their fundraising events, programs and philanthropy strategy. In addition, she has produced some of Nashville’s top celebrity and charity events as well as public relations and branding campaigns over the past 23 years.