Habitat for Humanity-DeKalb has named Sharon Steele as its new executive director – and with her arrival comes plans to re-energize the organization.
Steele took over leadership in July, having been director of development for DeKalb senior services provider Senior Connections – most recently. However her resume also includes stints in construction, mortgage origination and interior design. These experiences will help Steele guide the 30-year-old organization and raise awareness about Habitat for Humanity-DeKalb.
“DeKalb has had Habitat for Humanity since 1988 yet I have found so many people are unaware of our existence,” Steele said. “My first priority as executive director is to re-establish our brand identity, to remind people that there is a very local presence for Habitat for Humanity that could use their time and resources to help the DeKalb community.”
Habitat for Humanity has a well-established national and international brand, Steele believes few people realize that there are over 1,500 affiliates in the United States and 550 international affiliates who actually coordinate the Habitat house-building projects. Habitat affiliates like DeKalb build the houses, while Habitat for Humanity International provides support services and resources. Steele’s goal for Habitat for Humanity-DeKalb is to promote awareness of its own projects and, more importantly, its need for volunteers, donations and sponsorships.
Her focus: to help meet incredible need for education among current and prospective Habitat homeowners as many have qualified for homes but still seem to lack the understanding of the responsibilities that come with ownership. Steele plans to develop workshops that help Habitat homeowners gain a deeper understanding of how mortgages work, how to put together and stick to a budget, and how to use your home to build and maintain a good credit rating.
“Many of our clients have no experience with home ownership and have not made the mental transition from renter to homeowner,” Steele explained. “They still may not understand that maintenance is their responsibility or as the home values increase their escrow may change affecting their monthly mortgage payments.”
The organization will also increase awareness about DeKalb’s ReStore, its home improvement store and donation center that sells new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Like all Habitat ReStores, proceeds are used to support the local affiliate’s building projects.
“Every challenge is also an opportunity,” Steele said. “Working with my dedicated staff and our enthusiastic board of directors, I have put together a plan with both short-term and long-term goals to raise the profile of Habitat for Humanity-DeKalb, but our ultimate goal is, simply, to build healthy, affordable houses.”