St. Luke’s United Methodist Church member Sherman England (from left) and Pastor Susan Hannah present Kimberly Baldridge, Danville Pittsylvania County Habitat for Humanity executive director, with a check for $20,696.86. Contributed photo. St. Luke's Lends a Hand in Danville
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church member Sherman England (from left) and Pastor Susan Hannah present Kimberly Baldridge, Danville Pittsylvania County Habitat for Humanity executive director, with a check for $20,696.86. Contributed photo.

A decade-long project in Danville ends by building 30 homes for economically challenged families.

DANVILLE – In Danville, a life-changing donation impacted 30 future families looking for better living conditions. That happened 10 years ago.

A decade ago, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Danville donated six acres of land to the Danville Pittsylvania County Habitat for Humanity for a safe housing community.

Rather than undertaking such a large, costly, major project without the proper funds, supplies and volunteer base at hand, the nonprofit organization and church waited until the timing lined up with the resources. That happened recently, when the church presented the organization with a check in excess of $20,000.

The money didn’t fall from the sky like manna, but rather grew like a seed. When the church first presented the nonprofit with the acreage, a group of anonymous church members pooled some money together and went to the bank. They created several certificate of deposit accounts, also called CDs.

Over time, a CD collects interest. Depending on the length of time the investor chose, a CD could mature in a short amount of time, like six months. The money could also remain in the account for longer, like five years. As long as the investor doesn’t withdraw the funds before the maturity date, he or she stands a chance at collecting what they put into the account – plus interest – when they reclaim the money. Most banks also allow renewal of the CD once it reaches maturity, which usually results in a larger interest payout the following maturity cycle.

A decade in the making, the St. Luke’s members cashed in on one of the CDs, leaving the others in the bank. They presented the local Habitat for Humanity with a check for $20,696.86, allocated for the safe housing community.

A New Direction in Danville

Over the decade, the groups steadily worked toward their ultimate goal, Habitat Village North. Most recently, they zoned the property for 30 homes.

“Right now, we’re in the excavation phase, which is Phase One of this project,” said Kimberly Baldridge, the local Habitat for Humanity executive director.

If all goes according to plan, construction will begin on the first house at the beginning of next year.

Celebrating 30 years as a Habitat for Humanity affiliate, this is the largest project the local chapter has ever undertaken. Usually, they focus on building one home at a time.

After recently adopting a new strategic plan, the organization hopes to soon build three or four homes a year.

“And that, obviously, will be all in that village,” Baldridge said. “And so we will be able to build more at one time.”

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A Leg Up

While the nonprofit’s goals expanded, their helpful nature remained central to their original values.

Like other homes throughout the community, people looking for real estate in the Habitat Village North will not receive a free house. Baldridge noted that’s a big misconception about the nonprofit organization.

“It is for low to moderate-income families that are in need of decent, safe and affordable housing. They have three qualifications,” Baldridge said. “So we do not give homes away, and that’s a misconception with Habitat. We do not give homes away. What they do is they partner with us. So once a family is selected, there’s three qualifications to the selection process. The first being that they have the ability to pay. So they actually come in and they will pay a 30-year mortgage and it’s at no interest. So that’s where it makes it affordable for them.”

Secondly, the organization looks into each applicant’s needs. The third qualification stems around a family’s ability to partner.

“What that means is they put in sweat equity hours. So depending on the size of the family, so like if it’s a single parent with children, it’s usually around anywhere from 250 sweat equity hours, to a family that may have a two-parent home is up to 500 hours of sweat equity,” Baldridge said. “What they do is they actually come on the job site and actually help build their home.”

Sweat Equity

From building walls to painting to landscaping, the prospective homeowners get an up close and personal look into the process of building their home.

“It gives them a way to understand what this house really means,” Baldridge said. “But I think more of what it gives them is that self-reliance and that ability to know, ‘Hey, I did this for myself. I did this for my family.’”

Children under 18 cannot use power tools, but they still help their parents earn sweat equity by maintaining good grades at school.  

“It gives them an opportunity to help build that up for the family, too,” Baldridge said.

A Positive Impact in Danville

The executive director, who formerly worked as a housing inspector in the Danville area, said the Habitat Village North could have a “huge” impact on the city.

“I think that’s a key fit, to give these families a better quality of life, give them a decent and a safe home to live in, an affordable home, too,” Baldridge said.

Making the dream a reality, Habitat for Humanity will split the project into phases. Phase Two beings upon the completion of the eighth or ninth house.

“Phase Two, in actuality, we’ll have to build a road and it’ll be a little more to the project,” Baldridge said. “So it all kind of depends on the community involvement, by the donations, our partners, the people that are corporate partners with us, our big businesses and churches – because obviously everything happens for nonprofits by donations and good funding from grant funders. We’re very blessed in Danville to have a lot of foundations and trusts that do support Habitat for Humanity.”

For those interested in helping, Baldridge asked for supporters’ time, talents and gifts.

“We’re looking for the community to really get involved and help us because Habitat is a volunteer-driven organization, as most folks know,” Baldridge said.

Those interested in learning more about the project or making a donation may do so through the nonprofit organization’s website. Donors may also send checks made out to the Danville Pittsylvania County Habitat for Humanity to P.O. Box 718, Danville, VA 24543.

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com