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National Council of Churches General Assembly Delegates
Tour Habitat for Humanity Homes in Oakland, California
Katrina Killian (striped blouse) proudly shows NCC visitors the living room (left) and kitchen (above) of her new Habitat for Humanity home. Delegates toured Habitat sites on Monday (11/12). Also pictured left: the Rev. Rolf Bell, Habitat for Humanity West Regional Office staff, and Roger Goodnow, member of the East Bay Habitat board of directors. Also pictured above (left to right): Carrie Washington, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Newark, N.J.; Mrs. Killian; Brenda Halliburton, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Valley Forge, Pa., and Audrey Miller, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio. NCC Photos.
Home ownership seemed out of reach for Katrina and Charles Killian, squeezed into a one-bedroom dwelling with their three small children. "Our living conditions were bad," Mrs. Killian said. "It was all we could afford." Then they crossed paths with Habitat for Humanity. The Killians passed a rigorous application and training process and put in 250 "sweat equity" hours helping build their own and two neighbors' houses. On Nov. 10, they got the keys for their new home, a modest four bedroom in East Oakland.
"It was hard work, worth doing, working on your new house and your neighbor's, and at the end you have a home," Mrs. Killian effusively told a visiting group -- delegates to the National Council of Churches annual General Assembly, being held in Oakland Nov. 13-15. "You are just happy and overwhelmed. You are there from the dirt to the house to the paint to the landscaping. You know where the pipe is and how to fix it."
Mrs. Killian is assistant coordinator for a non-profit in Berkeley; her husband works in construction. Their children are aged 2, 4 and 6.
The Rev. Rolf Bell of Habitat for Humanity's West Regional Office and Krysta Morgenthaler of the East Bay Habitat affiliate led the NCC group on a tour of two Habitat sites in East Oakland, comprising 43 homes. "We don't give houses away," the Rev. Bell said. "We are a partner builder with families."
A typical Habitat family earns 25 to 50 percent of the median income for their county, he said. Habitat for Humanity's vision is to eliminate poverty housing worldwide, "to empower families permanently out of poverty," he said. "We give a zero percent mortgage. Our default rate is just over one percent. Banks marvel at our success. The key is relationship with the families in the partner family network."
The NCC and Habitat for Humanity signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year. "We are excited that the NCC is taking partnership to a whole new level," the Rev. Bell said. "We offer churches an exciting opportunity to be involved in the community. We offer you a way to be leaders of empowerment among people suffering from social disenfranchisement, poverty, neglect."
In its first 25 years, celebrated this year, 100,000 Habitat homes have been built worldwide, and half a million people now live in Habitat homes. Habitat for Humanity's goal is to build another 100,000 homes by 2005.
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