Friday April 18, 2014

Habitat Kamloops back in spotlight

Charity plans to build two homes for families
Catherine Litt

Jan Lingford stands in the building supply section of Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. Lingford is the Kamloops charity's new executive director and says the charity is building at least one house in 2014, possibly two.

One month into her new job and Jan Lingford couldn't be happier — or busier.

The newly hired executive director of Habitat Kamloops is guiding the charity and its ReStore through the final weeks of 2013 — a large enough undertaking in itself — but she's also laying the groundwork for what could be Habitat's biggest year in Kamloops.

"It's time, it's time for us to build another house," said Lingford.

"It's been almost four years."

Habitat Kamloops is part of a vast global network of locally-run Habitat for Humanity charities that build houses and secure interest-free mortgages for low-income families.

Since opening in Kamloops 13 years ago, the charity has built six houses and is setting its sights high for 2014, with plans to build a new house in April and possibly a second one before the year is over.

It's a lofty goal, but Lingford is up to the challenge, and so is her board of directors, who are all new to the job — elected only a few weeks prior to Lingford's hiring. (Among them is City Coun. Tina Lange and Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan co-ordinator Tangie Genshorek.)

One of the group's first goals is to reintroduce Habitat Kamloops to the community. The charity has been out of the public spotlight since building a duplex for two families in 2010.

"We did pull back a bit and concentrated on getting the ReStore renovated and up to snuff," said Lingford, speaking about the previous administration.

ReStore is a major economic driver for Habitat Kamloops. The outlet at 1425 Cariboo Pl. sells new and used building material, furniture and smaller household items, and is expected to generate $600,000 in revenue by the end of this year — money that pays for Habitat's executive director, a store manager and six other ReStore staff, plus other operational costs.

"Basically the ReStore pays all of the administrative costs of the charity," said Lingford. "So that when people donate (to a housing project), 100 per cent of their donation goes to the cause."

In January, Habitat Kamloops launches a new website and begins searching for land, construction materials and volunteers (skilled tradesmen and laypeople) for the April project.

The charity is hoping a landowner will donate a construction-ready parcel — basically a flat lot, preferably on a city bus route. One donor has provided a sloped property in Westsyde, but the land needs levelling, which means costly heavy machines must be brought in before a foundation can be started.

Also in the new year, Habitat begins its search for families, a process that has attracted an average of 30 applicants in the past. Successful candidates must meet specific criteria to advance through the selection process — for example, having children under 18, one parent employed, and proof that the family's living conditions are unsafe or unhealthy.

"We find that if we help a family with young children, the outcomes, statistically, are absolutely incredible," said Lingford.

"The children are healthy, socially adjusted and able to move on. Over 80 per cent of them go to university, often for the first time in their family's history."

Lingford said potential donors and volunteers can expect to hear more about Habitat Kamloops once the new website is launched and the plans for 2014 are finalized.

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