Since opening in 1993, Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna has made it its business to build and repair homes for low-income families throughout Harford and Cecil counties. In 2016 the group will build its 100th house. But in the mission of supporting others, it’s necessary for the nonprofit to seek assistance from the very community it works for, along with agencies like the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Habitat Susquehanna is no stranger to working with the department. Executive Director Karen Blandford noted that the group has enjoyed a “long-standing relationship” with the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust, which assists Habitat’s homeownership program by providing materials for housebuilding. Over the last three years, Community Legacy grants have been awarded for some revitalization efforts in Harford and Cecil counties. Community Investment Tax Credits that it receives are almost always given away entirely, and Blandford said the credits do a lot to encourage donations from the community.
The CITCs proved most useful for a project undertaken in 2015. Last year, Blandford said, Habitat Susquehanna was poised to open its first ReStore in Aberdeen, a short drive from its Bel Air office. An international feature of many of Habitat for Humanity’s regional branches, ReStores sell donated home furnishings, appliances and building materials, among other things. As the organization worked toward opening the store, it became necessary to buy a truck to pick up donations. The donations were critical, as they would comprise the store’s merchandise. All the proceeds from the store go back to Habitat Susquehanna, which will also donate 10 percent to other Habitats.
With $25,000 in tax credits for $50,000 worth of donations, Blandford and the other employees and volunteers set out to get the resources needed to open the store.
“We wanted to be able to accept donations before the store was ever open,” Blandford said. “We couldn’t pick these up from people’s homes without a truck with a lift gate.” The funds, Blandford explained, went to acquiring the truck itself, as well as its gas, registration and pay for the people driving the truck. Once it had the truck, Habitat Susquehanna was off to procure the donated items it would sell in the store.
“Our goal is to make this store a million-dollar business by 2020, and it all started here, with $25,000 in CITCs,” Blandford said. “Isn’t that a great story? The program is incredible. It’s the best program.”