Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard addresses the issues of a living wage gap and lack of affordable housing that have developed in this popular summer resort. Stop & Shop has supported this nonprofit through the Community Bag Program.
Tell us about Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard.
Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard was founded in 1996. We provide decent, affordable housing for people who make between 60% and 80% of Dukes County’s median income. It is an under-served and under-delivered group. Because this is a popular summer resort town, the average price for a single-family home is approaching $2,000,000. There is a living wage gap. People in good jobs, such as in the service industry, police officers and nurses, need help buying affordable homes or finding rentals.
Since the start, Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard has been building our homes using donated land, donated building materials and repurposed/reused materials whenever possible for sustainability.
I took over as executive director three years ago and am a team of one. This organization provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a long-term investment for the future. Of course, I have many dedicated volunteers to help collect materials and build each home.
What services do you provide to the community?
There are two primary services provided. We are building sustainably sourced and affordable homes for people living in our community. And we are also working with the town to help source some of our materials.
The resort area that Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard is in is going through a building boom. People are purchasing real estate and knocking it down to build much more expensive houses. In some cases, these are houses that had been year-round rentals or houses that were in middle-income neighborhoods that are now summer homes or seasonal rentals. Our organization has been offered all the materials from three $20 million homes in the last year and a half. These are homes that were bought to be demolished and completely rebuilt.
We are building sustainably sourced and affordable homes for people living in our community. And we are also working with the town to help source some of our materials.
The team of volunteers I have harvests what we can. When I get a call from a town building department or contractor, we will go in and harvest as much material as possible. I’ve got a bunch of volunteers that will go in with me and pop windows and doors, dig up stone driveways, move washers and dryers, take out kitchens–you name it. We can repurpose so many materials, such as flooring, stoves, furniture, hardscape plantings and much more. When we can collect a surplus like this, I will either use the materials in a new build or sell some of it to help fund other portions of our projects.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
As an organization, we are well established and have been around the longest here on the island. Also, our name is recognizable and well known because we are an affiliated branch of Habitat for Humanity.
We’re also dealing with one of the biggest societal problems we have in our community, which is affordable housing. There are 136 homeless people on Martha’s Vineyard, which is a lot for a little community. We have doctors, police officers and teachers who must leave their jobs on the island because they can’t find a place to live. One of the essential elements of life is shelter. Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard is dealing with this problem head-on.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
Recently, the manager of Martha’s Vineyard Airport, a local woman, was faced with the possibility of having to move out of her home because of affordability issues.
We have people sleeping in the state forest who have very responsible jobs, but there is no affordable housing. It’s tough for most people.
This is a woman who was looking at losing her job and moving away from the community that she knew and loved. We worked with her and were able to get her into a Habitat house. She put over 200 hours of sweat equity and labor into building the house we recently finished in October. Now, she is happy to be a homeowner. This is a home that is hers, and she can keep it as long as she wants.
My team of volunteers does this over and over. We have people sleeping in the state forest who have very responsible jobs, but there is no affordable housing. It’s tough for most people.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Finding land is one of the more complex elements we’ve got to deal with. We’re on an island, and they’re not making any more land. What we must do is find people to donate land to us. We have been able to work with the individual communities on the island to receive land donations.
Creating trusting relationships is hard but necessary if you’re a nonprofit. The town has enough faith in our mission that they’re willing to give us an asset that they own for nothing so that we can help others in the community. As an organization, we are proud of our ability to build that relationship and trust.
What do you want people to know about your organization?
As an all-volunteer team, we always seek support, whether it is a monetary donation or a donation of your time. People who have skills in contracting, electrical, plumbing or if you are just great with a paintbrush, we need your help.
I ask, whether it’s for Habitat for Humanity or another organization, that people should consider volunteerism. We live in a part of the country where volunteerism is lower than in other regions. None of these organizations can work without volunteers, without people willing to give a couple of hours a month. Giving your time allows us to be successful and make a difference.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program?
Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard used these funds to help build a specific home. My team constructed a house on Eastville Avenue in Oak Bluffs with the assistance we received last year from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program. The amount of money received paid for the flooring in this home, which is a pretty essential part of the house. Floors are usually a lot more expensive, but we have vendors willing to sell to us at cost. All of our local partnerships are fantastic and are essential in being able to do the work that we do.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I want to thank Stop & Shop for allowing us to be a part of this program and for all the other assistance they provide on the local level.
Stop & Shop donates to our cause yearly, and I want people to know they are great partners in our community. When you get a bunch of volunteers in a house in July, it’s hot, sticky and dirty, and the local Stop & Shop always donate things like water and snacks. They help with obstacles we face when needing to provide for our volunteers.
Published February 6, 2023.