As the year comes to a close, you may be reflecting on the cards you have been dealt. The past 20 months left many people needing a hand to count on. If you received a good hand, pay it forward. These are Rosie on the House’s favorite charities. Please consider them when making your donations of time or money.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity’s Vision is “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
That vision has been a challenge over the past 20 months.
“The root cause of homelessness in our community is lack of affordable housing,” said Laura Sanchez, Director of Marketing and Communications, Habitat for Humanity Tucson. “It’s not just someone living on the street. It's someone living in unsafe, poor living conditions. Rents have increased $100 to $200 a month. People cannot find an affordable, clean, safe place to live.”
Pre-COVID, the Southern Arizona chapter typically saw 50 people at their quarterly homeownership information sessions. Since the pandemic, that number has jumped to 100.
Dusty Parsons, the director of marketing and media for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, noted there was a surge of applications for homeownership over the past year. "Because we had a lot of people, we moved many services online, including the home application process, so they could get their paperwork to us easier."
Because of the increase of needs, the Central Arizona Chapter launched two new programs — renovations and repairs. According to Parsons, most of the people who need those services tend to be over 65 years old. Their Aging in Place program allows seniors to safely stay in their homes. They do bathtub to shower conversions, install grab bars, repair trip hazards, and repair aging HVAC units, among other things related to living in a safe home.
To combat homelessness and the growing need for a skilled workforce, the Tucson chapter launched The Connie Hillman Urban Construction Knowledge Center (CHUCK). Serving as Habitat Tucson's construction hub, warehouse, and training center, it will provide job training and intern opportunities with real-world experience in building affordable housing. The facility, located on property owned by Habitat Tucson in the Flowing Wells neighborhood, will feature over 15,000 square feet of storage, classroom and office space.
One of the misnomers about Habitat for Humanity is free housing. “That is not true, “ said Parsons.
For families aspiring to receive a home, they must work for their Habitat for Humanity Home by investing at least 400 hours of labor (sweat equity) into building their home or homes for others. The Southern Arizona chapter requires 250 hours. Qualified families buy the homes, which are built with donated money and materials and sold at no profit, with no-interest loans. These homes are reserved for families that demonstrate a need for adequate and affordable housing. The money the family pays to Habitat for their mortgage goes towards the construction to build the next house.
“We had a generous donor step up and ask how they could help veterans stay in their homes,” said Parsons. “We are building two new five-bedroom homes that will serve homeless female vets who are transitioning. We are excited about the work we can do with veterans.”
It wasn’t all about a surge in need over the past year. Parsons noted that their online fundraising events in June 2020 and again this past spring did really well. “The community turned out in a big way,” he gushes.
Speaking of fundraisers, mark your calendar for April 22, 2022. Central Arizona’s Blueprints in Blue Jeans event will be at the Bentley in downtown Phoenix. Details will be available in January.
The immediate needs for Southern Arizona are replenishing the volunteers lost over the past year and promoting their holiday match that ends Dec. 31, 2021. The Hillman Family Foundation is matching donations up to 1 million dollars. Donate online at www.habitattucson.org/x2.
“So many people in the community have stepped up and donated time. We are so grateful for the immense community support for people trying to obtain safe housing,” said Sanchez.
Military Assistance Mission
Military Assistance Mission (MAM) provides financial assistance and morale aid to struggling Arizona military members and their families. Fifty-six percent of enlisted families report financial difficulty with basic needs.
MAM strives to provide financial assistance each year to 120 Arizona active duty, guard and reserve military service members.
Each year approximately 4,500 military members and families benefit from MAM’s morale/event programs such as Operation Holiday Open House, Seats for Soldiers, Back 2 School and Baby Bundle Bash.
“The last year has been pretty up and down,” said Margy Bons, MAM Founder and Executive Director. “Even with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, there are still service members serving all over the world. We just don’t hear about those places as often. MAM serves everyone regardless of where they are serving. The service member may not be home, but their families still need assistance.”
Bons notes that many more rent and food assistance requests were received over the last year. “We had a lot of need from COVID cases, particularly where the spouse may have supplied the second income.”
Families are normally able to receive one assistance request. However, because of the extraordinary need this year, families were able to receive a second request for assistance. "They can see they don’t have food, but not realize until later that they don’t have the money for rent or a car payment,” said Bons. “So, we opened it up for that.”
MAM searched for gaps in their services and found that as kids went back to school and wanted to participate in extracurricular activities, their families could not cover the expenses. MAM's new program, Extra-Curricular Assistance, helps cover those costs including uniforms for sports, music and choir, costumes for dance, drama, and cheer, instruments for choir, music, and band, and tutoring fees. “Team sports are a big part of learning,” says Bons. “That helps with their education.”
There have been victories. “We just had an eviction. This person had faced it once before. He couldn’t find a job because businesses were closing down. By the time he finally got a job, he was in such distress. It breaks my heart when they call up crying,” lamented Bons. “We were able to help him from being evicted by working with his landlord. He has a regular check and is okay now.”
MAM’s Operation Christmas Giving is coming up on Dec. 18 at Sanderson Ford. Gifts for preteens and teens are in particular need. Suggestions include perfume and cologne, earbuds, chargers and portable speakers. “It may cost a bit more than children’s gifts, but they (teens) still need Christmas.”
Bons reminds us that the families of the Guard and Reserve need help too. “I don’t think people realize they perform humanitarian efforts and tend to civil unrest. They are still serving, too.”
For these organizations, and many others, donations are a significant part of their budgets. The fastest way to invest in your community is to donate online. Many nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity, Military Assistance Mission, and St. Vincent de Paul, offer the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit.
According to Give Local Keep Local, The Arizona Charitable Tax Credit is a nonrefundable income tax credit. The maximum allowable limit for the dollar-for-dollar tax credit match for a Qualifying Charitable Organization is $400 for an individual and $800 for married filing jointly. Check with your accounting professional to see how you qualify.
Whether donating your time, money or other resources, it is important to support the work you care about. Together we can build the kind of communities we want to be a part of while helping others stay in their homes and meet their basic needs.
Clancy says it succinctly. “Any of us can be in need at any time. We need to remind ourselves about how much people care and how connected we all are.”
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix; KGVY 1080AM 100.7FM; 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.