Monday, February 11, 2013

Women lead the charge at Macomb County Habitat for Humanity

Macomb County Habitat for Humanity deputy director, Karan Bates-Gasior

The Women Build is a department for some branches, but every day is a “women build” for Macomb County Habitat for Humanity.

“All of our directors are women,” said Karan Bates-Gasior, recently named Macomb County Habitat for Humanity’s deputy director. Among those directing the team of men and women devoted to the Habitat mission are Helen Hicks as executive director, Tammy Fleming as HR and family services director, Emily Pelyk is the ReStore director and Ruselda Villanueva Johnson as fund development director.

The announcement that Bates-Gasior would be promoted to deputy director in charge of several departments including construction, ReStore, financial resources and affiliate operations was no big surprise. Having served as Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Mount Clemens prior to joining the Habitat team in Macomb County, it was Bates-Gasior who created the many partnerships Habitat has in the community including Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights. As part of its support, Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights recently posted new signs informing shoppers that Macomb County Habitat is the benefitting charity from coins tossed into the mall’s decorative fountains.

Among the successful housing programs spearheaded by Bates-Gasior at the start of her work with Habitat is the charity’s comprehensive neighborhood revitalization program (Vision 20/20) in Clinton Township/Mount Clemens.

Seven years later, the vision is almost complete, at least in one neighborhood.
“It was a dumping ground,” Bates-Gasior said of the land developed by Macomb Habitat. “We probably hauled out at least a dozen Dumpsters. There were old cars and discarded tires. You would be shocked at the junk we found. Now it’s a neighborhood for 20 families living in neat houses with yards where kids play.”

Bates-Gasior was also instrumental in the growth of the local Habitat. The year she started Macomb had a staff of five and built two homes. Last year they built 27 homes and the staff is now at 32. She also had a hand in the success of Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness program that works with low-income, elderly, disabled, veterans and military family homeowners to maintain and repair their homes.

“Karan has been a critical figure in the Macomb County community for many years,” said executive director Hicks. “We are so grateful to have her on our leadership team, helping us to make the connections that create the resources necessary to build and rehab homes for those families and veterans willing to partner with Macomb Habitat.”

As for the future, Bates-Gasior said she hopes to increase public awareness of the organization, including dispelling the impression that Habitat for Humanity hands out homes to people in need. That is not the case. Families work for their homes, filing the necessary paperwork and putting in at least 250 sweat equity hours during construction. And to ensure that homeowners are able to maintain their home and mortgage, they also take classes on financing and home repairs.

More people also need to know about Habitat’s ReStore in Mount Clemens, a 54,000 square-foot facility where homeowners can shop for home improvement products. Some of the items (donated by area businesses and individuals) are used but others, such as flooring supplies, can be new. Sectional sofas, ceramic tile, desks and headboards, windows, bathtubs and window frames – you just never know what you’ll find when you stop by. Plus, every purchase goes toward supporting Habitat programs.

Another goal for the deputy director is to help more people who call for A Brush With Kindness. Donations and grants from communities and businesses including the City of Roseville, American House Senior Living, Thrive It For Lutherans and the Utica-Shelby Kiwanis have enabled Macomb Habitat to help veterans and elderly homeowners with everything from roof repairs to wheelchair ramps. But Bates-Gasior said there are always more projects to be done.

“I have had the opportunity to hold multiple positions and titles throughout my time at Macomb Habitat,” said Bates-Gasior. “I’m very excited for this new opportunity and the chance to take our affiliate to the next level. I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that this new role will bring in the future.”

Helping Habitat
Macomb County Habitat for Humanity will present its “Raise the Roof and Lift Some Spirits” bowling event at Continental Lanes Bowling in Roseville at 7 p.m. April 26.
The annual fundraiser for Macomb Habitat offers fun for the entire family. Minimum suggested pledges are $50 for adults; $20 for kids. The event will feature bowling (five bowlers per lane), pizza and pop, raffles and door prizes.
Continental Lanes is located at 31055 Gratiot. For more information about sponsorship, lane signage and event details, email: tbenson@macombhabitat.org or call 586-263-1540 ext. 120.
For more information or to make a donation to Macomb County Habitat to Humanity, contact Michael Terenzi Jr., marketing and public relations coordinator, at 586-263-1540 ext. 114; email mterenzi@macombhabitat.org; or Ruselda Villanueva Johnson, director of financial resources at ext. 102, email rjohnson@macombhabitat.org.

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