LAURINBURG — Chris Carpenter settled into the director’s office at Habitat for Humanity of Scotland County earlier this year with the intent of making a good thing better.
Now three months into the position and approaching the organization’s single largest annual fundraiser, Bike to Build on May 7, he has a few ideas how.
Carpenter replaced former Habitat director Susan Covington, who served in the position for a decade and who he credits with building a solid base of community support for the Habitat chapter, as evidenced by the success of Bike to Build and the number of businesses and individuals who support Habitat at all levels.
“This community, compared to the other counties that I’ve worked in, is very supportive,” Carpenter said. “I see the list of everybody who gives, from $100 to $250 to $500 and I think to myself, that’s amazing that all these businesses give.”
Also the Habitat ReStore, an indispensable fundraising mechanism for the chapter, vastly outperforms its counterparts in similarly-sized counties.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I haven’t figured out how we do that yet, but we do. We have some really good stuff out there and we have a really good staff and great volunteers.”
A resident of Hamlet, Carpenter comes to Scotland County from four years as director of the Habitat chapter in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, which he was responsible for starting from scratch. As director, Carpenter plans to keep the Scotland County organization at its current pace of building two homes each year — plus a dozen or so repair projects for elderly and disabled homeowners.
“We were built on building houses with zero percent interest rates and we’re going to continue that,” he said. “But we can take time to fit in two- to three-day repair projects.”
Those projects, at a scope of around $5,000 each, could be introduced later this year to broaden Habitat’s impact in the community and create the greatest value from its operating dollars.
“I took $5,000 last year and we put two new roofs on two different homes and we painted one of the homes and we did all that with $5,000 because we got the shingles donated for both of the houses,” said Carpenter.
The chapter is in the final stages of finishing a home on Sugar Road, the first to be funded entirely by a State Employees’ Credit Union grant to construct a Habitat home in each North Carolina county.
Carpenter also hopes to clarify the role of Habitat for Humanity, which contrary to popular belief does not give away homes free of charge. Rather, in what Carpenter described as a “hand up” rather than a “handout,” families are selected in part based on their ability to afford a modest house payment.
“The same family who might be able to go to the bank and get a loan with a five- or six-percent interest rate because they don’t have a lot of income, they can come to us and get a zero-percent interest rate and it brings that house payment down so much they can afford it,” he said.
Those who qualify financially proceed to a selection committee of Habitat homeowners and public members who interview them about their current living conditions.
“What we’re looking for is someone who needs safe, decent, affordable housing but can’t afford to go get a large house payment with interest,” Carpenter said, adding that recipients also must contribute volunteer hours on building projects and in the ReStore.
For each home constructed, local Habitat chapters contribute $4,500 to Habitat International to fund a home in Haiti or Tajikistan.
“For $4,500 you can build a house for a family in Haiti and it’s the most wonderful thing they’ve ever had,” said Carpenter. “When people give to us, it’s helping here and it’s also helping there.”
For information about Habitat for Humanity of Scotland County, visit habitatscotlandcounty.org or call 910-276-3337. For information about Bike to Build, visit biketobuild.org.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.