In southeastern Ohio, Habitat For Humanity involves families and volunteers, and extends its reach past construction. Providing families with ownership opportunities and volunteers with skills that last a lifetime, Habitat For Humanity makes a truly unique impact in the Appalachian region we call home.

The Southeast Ohio chapter of Habitat for Humanity builds homes for and with low-income families. They have completed 59 homes in seven counties in this region.

Kenneth Oehlers, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio, explained, "Families must be willing to put in 'sweat equity' to help construct their home. They then pay a zero interest mortgage back for the cost of the home."

Having the involvement of the families themselves adds a sense of ownership to the building process, and educates the families on an entirely different level.

Those who receive assistance from Habitat are also given the opportunity to improve their financial skills. Through budget counseling, homeowner maintenance and even predatory-lending awareness courses, those who have a Habitat home built for them, and help in the process, gain the knowledge to succeed financially. These programs are run in conjunction with home construction in order to guide new homeowners to a financially stable future.

The volunteers see the impact of these practices and learn new skills themselves, adding to the positive environment Habitat provides.

"The volunteers that work on the site with us learn a lot of building skills," Oehlers said. "Even if someone doesn't have any experience, they will walk away having learned something."

These learning experiences don't stop with building homes. Student volunteers in particular receive valuable life experience from Habitat and learn about community dynamic in the process.

"Habitat offers a wonderful way to get involved with the community, and not just in the Ohio University area," Oehlers said. "It also gives students valuable home-maintenance skills that will come in handy when they start to build their own homes."

Student volunteers and others have changed the landscape of southeast Ohio.

Oehlers credits the consolidation of many chapters in this area into an overarching chapter as a source of success. "The consolidation of Habitat affiliates in southeast Ohio to one is something we are particularly proud of. By combining forces, we were able to double the amount of homes built in southeast Ohio."

The future looks bright for the Southeast Ohio chapter and its members have high aspirations. "We are hoping to partner with 40 families per year by the end of 2018," Oehlers said. "We work hard, and are proud of the homes we've built, communities we've partnered, with and the volunteers and donors that made it happen."

Oehlers maintains that southeast Ohio is a better place because of Habitat for Humanity. No amount of fliers or TV commercials could ever capture the pride volunteers feel when they complete a home for a needy family. Giving to those in need always makes an impact, but for those who volunteer for the Southeast Ohio chapter of Habitat, the good will lasts a lifetime.

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