Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is a testament to what faith and hard work can accomplish. In 1992, the affiliate was little more than an idea.
“We began the organization with high hopes and not much money,” says cofounder Jerry Zinn. The fundraising process was a challenge in a community mostly unfamiliar with Habitat’s principles and practices. Board members made countless presentations to community organizations to spread the word about Habitat and how the process would work. Despite an initial lack of funds, they pressed on undaunted. That tenacity and faith paid off as they handed over the keys to their first completed home just two years later.
In the beginning, even cofounder Steve Ballard had doubts. “My all-time favorite Habitat story involves the announcement of our very first Habitat family, the O’Learys,” he says. “I was about 27 and new to the community, sitting on the board with a bunch of folks who knew more about the community and more about life than I did. But I could not stop myself from raising my hand and saying something to the effect of ‘It’s nice that we’ve done all of this work and selected a family to partner with and build our first house, but if you look at the treasurer’s report, we have no money.’
“Rich Hoefer, a man of significant religious commitment, said very firmly, but politely, ‘Steve, you just have to have faith.’
“Of course, Rich was right, we raised the money, found the supplies, partnered with the O’Leary family, and the rest is history.”
Earlier this year, Iowa Valley Habitat celebrated its 20th anniversary and the construction of its 75th house. The affiliate has expanded to include repair and winterization of existing houses and operates a ReStore in Iowa City.
Hundreds of lives have been improved because a group of people once committed to doing the work, even if they weren’t too sure they could.