Bibb Goggin, executive director of Houston County Habitat for Humanity, talks about his organization’s new digs and their continuing mission
Occupation: Executive director, Houston County Habitat for Humanity
Q: How is Houston County Habitat enjoying its new facility on Watson Boulevard?
A: It’s been a good step forward. Habitat started here by working out of churches, then an attorney’s office, then I guess in 2008 moved to the small building on Myrtle Street and opened ReStore. I think a lot of people never knew where we were. Over time we were fortunate to build up some cash and reserves and got a 10-year lease on this space — the old Fabricare building at 955 Watson Blvd. near Robins Financial Credit Union. We went from 500 square feet of office-training-meeting space to 2,000 square feet and from 3,500 for ReStore to 10,000.
Q: What are some practical differences it’s made?
A: It’s a practical, useable facility that’s easy to find. We have a lot better visibility, including to the 35,000 cars they say travel Watson every day. We have a better community presence to work from and easier access for volunteers and donors and customers at ReStore. It’s meant growth in about every way plus we like being part of downtown redevelopment.
Q: How has it impacted ReStore? And what is ReStore?
A: ReStore is our new and used building materials store where local businesses, contractors and others donate items we then sell at a discount to support our mission. We’ve more than doubled sales, probably two-and-a-half times more, and have gotten donations to back it up.
Q: You used to manage ReStore, right?
A: I did that for two years and have been executive director for two years.
Q: How many volunteers are there here?
A: We’re totally dependent on our volunteers for home builds, support and what we do here. In the last quarter we had 200 volunteers, so about 800 a year. Or at least 800 volunteer visits. Some of that 800 represents the same volunteer doing different things. But we see people giving about 5,000 volunteer man hours to serve others.
Q: How many homes have been built?
A: We began in 1991 and are working on our 54th house. Our repair program is going again, too, and we’ve been doing one a month — but we’ve done nine this year so we’re ahead. Repairs can be as meaningful as a new home, like somebody getting a wheelchair ramp can be life changing. We do painting, yard cleanup, all kinds of general projects and are helped by the fact we have people like a volunteer who’s a licensed electrician who can take care of a lot of troubleshooting and problems. Repairs have to be in our scope of work and match our mission for people with low incomes. All part of our purpose to help ease human suffering.
Q: Talk about Habitat’s new activity coming in November.
A: Nov. 11, Veterans Day, we’re having our inaugural Veterans Day Gala at the Museum of Aviation. It coincides with a new Veterans Build initiative for home construction and repairs for vets. I mean, if Middle Georgia can’t get behind vets and vet housing — who can? There are vets who came out of service doing great and didn’t need help but others didn’t adjust so well, guys and women with PTSD, health needs and circumstances where they need a hand form their community. It’s a unique event for Veterans Day that will both honor vets and provide for practical help for those who need it. We really hope it catches on and becomes a signature event everybody knows about. I think it’s warranted and will benefit the community in many ways for many years to come.
Q: What will it be like?
A: This year we’ll specifically honor older vets who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. If people know someone who served then or has an interest in participating we’d love to know. Call us. The gala will start with cocktails and a social hour then dinner, ceremony and entertainment, then music and dancing. Georgia Military College is a good partner of Habitat and is helping sponsor it. And they’ll be supplying our honor guard. Reservations can be made now. It’s formal attire and reservations need to be made by Oct. 6.
Q: And it’s a fundraiser?
A: It’s unique to us and money raised here through attendance and sponsorships will be spent for veterans here and not some far off place. Of course, we’ve done home builds and repairs for veterans in the past and have vets in our application pool now, but we’re actively soliciting vets for new homes and repairs. Despite many services for veterans, including VA loans, there are 1.4 million veterans living in poverty and there’s a need for the kind of simple, decent and affordable housing we build. We’re really excited about the gala and what it can mean. I hope people join in, provide sponsorships and of course even become volunteers on the ground for repairs and future home builds.
Q: As far as your core Habitat purpose for everybody, what’s going right now?
A: Right now we have two repair projects going plus house 54 is getting its roof. We’re there every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s a Saturday Build and they take about 16 Saturdays to complete. People who want to volunteer for builds or repairs can call and make sure what we’re doing and where. We have training and work toward what we call our Women’s Builds about every week and, of course, coming up we have Veterans Builds with veterans for veterans. A whole lot of our volunteers are veterans anyway so it’s a really good fit for us.
Q: How much does a house cost you? On average?
A: It depends. If we get HVAC donated or the roof donated that makes a difference. But straight out, we figure we can build a nice, simple three bedroom two bath home for $60,000. That’s today. Costs go up. We are in a good place but we’re always in need of growing donations and our volunteer pool.
Q: To contact you about the gala, honoring veterans, finding out about volunteering, becoming a sponsor, donating to or to get information on ReStore or something else, how do people best contact you?
A: Calls us at 478-328-3288. Our website is hocohabitat.org and there’s a lot of information there. If people are suggesting World War II, Korea or Vietnam vets to be recognized at the gala, we’d love to have a bio and pictures as well.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.