Home Builders Still Supporting Communities, Despite Downturn
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - During the holidays, many Americans pause to
reflect on the year that is coming to an end. There was no relief in
2011 for the home building industry, which has been devastated by the
economic downturn. Thousands of builders went out of business and many
others continue to struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. Yet home
builders around the country are still putting aside their challenges to
help less fortunate members of their communities.
"Home builders are making extraordinary sacrifices as they try to
survive the ongoing economic downturn, and yet their generous spirit
continues to shine in selfless acts of charity every day across the
country," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home
Builders and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "NAHB's members are doing
everything in their power to help others and preserve the American Dream
of homeownership for those who are less fortunate."
Despite Florida being extremely hard-hit by the downturn -- it is among
the states with the highest foreclosure rates in the country -- home
builder members of the Lee Building Industry Association in Fort Myers
completed 33 charity projects in 2011. The projects included six major
home renovations, four wheelchair ramps, six handicap accessibility
bathroom renovations and other emergency construction services worth a
total of more than $600,000.
"Home builders' businesses have been suffering for years, but as long as
we are physically able to help others who can't help themselves, we will
be out there giving back to this community," said Bob Bassett, board
president of Lee BIA Builders Care.
Kelly Watson, owner of Bluestone Building in Birmingham, Ala., felt
compelled to help a family whose home was destroyed by a tornado in
April when he read in the local paper that the family was still trying
to find a way to rebuild in August.
"When I read that the mother, who has multiple sclerosis, was going to
have to be her own contractor, I thought it was another disaster just
waiting to happen," Watson said. He recruited volunteers and support
from local and national organizations and provided the Burchfield family
with a 1,600-square-foot three-bedroom accessible universal design home
with a tornado-resistant safe room a few days before Thanksgiving.
When Dan Steurer and Kelly Stephens asked fellow members of the Southern
Utah Home Builders Association to give what they could to help remodel
and build a 2,200-square-foot expansion of the Doctors' Volunteer Clinic
in St. George, Utah, nearly 200 companies responded. The clinic, which
was originally built by members of the SUHBA 10 years ago, provides
medical care to low income and uninsured people in the community, and
patients were being seen in storage closets and hallways due to
overwhelming demand for services.
"For those in our industry to have given so much to build something that
blesses so many at such a difficult time economically is an inspiration
to us all," said Steuer, a home builder and co-owner of Sunwest
Development in St. George, Utah.
Home builders aren't limiting their generosity to their own communities.
Rutland, Mass., home builder Len Gengel has spent 22 weeks in Haiti this
year building an orphanage that will house more than 60 children and
staff to care for them.
Gengel and his wife founded "Be like Brit," a 501(c)(3) charity
(BeLikeBrit.org), after his daughter Britney and five others from Lynn
University were killed during the January 2010 Haiti earthquake just one
day after they arrived on a humanitarian mission. Due to the severely
limited resources on the island, Gengel has to bring in even the
simplest construction materials by ship or make them on site.
"On my last trip I checked eight hockey bags full of electrical supplies
as luggage on the plane just so we could do the wiring," said Gengel.
"But two years after the earthquake there are still Haitians living in
tents, so if we have to do it one cement block at a time, we will give
these orphans an environment where they can grow, learn and thrive."
Each year, the home building industry contributes millions of dollars in
cash, building materials, supplies, and countless volunteer hours to
community charities through local community service projects.
To learn more about how NAHB members support their communities across
the country, go to www.nahb.org/homebuilderscare.
ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a
Washington-based trade association representing more than 160,000
members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction,
property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building
product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light
commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local
home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members
will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for
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