Milledgeville Habitat shines at conference

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Habitat honored
There were 165 attendees at the conference, including men and women from Habitat International.

Habitat for Humanity Milledgeville-Baldwin County was chosen by Habitat for Humanity International to host one of only three affiliate conferences Jan. 12-14. The other locations for the conferences included Portland, Ore. and St. Louis, Mo.

“The work that Milledgeville Habitat has done in the last 20 years and accelerated in the last two and a half years was recognized by Habitat International,” said Murali Thirumal, executive director.

Milledgeville was selected as the east coast location for the conference due to its success as a rural affiliate, specifically with the neighborhood revitalization in the Harrisburg community.

“This is a major win for the community,” said Tommy French, county commissioner for the district.

“The summit was a wonderful event, and Tuesday was great because we had a whole day devoted to Harrisburg to see and meet people in the neighborhood” said Janet Cavin, a board member of Habitat for Humanity Milledgeville-Baldwin and coordinator for Baldwin County Family Connection.

Conference events focused on showcasing Milledgeville and the Harrisburg community to attendees.

French and long-time resident Barbara Marrie Vann and various constituents from Milledgeville came together to answer questions during a panel. The goal of the conversation was to discuss the perspective of how the neighborhood revitalization can work within a community.

The neighborhood revitalization bus tour gave attendees the chance to “hear the history [of Harrisburg] and its hopes and dreams,” said Cavin.

The conference also allowed Harrisburg residents to have “an important role in showcasing the neighborhood to attendees from cites and states nationwide and gave them a sense of pride, responsibility and opportunity to show others how to do this work.”

“To say that the Habitat conference participants and staff were deeply impacted by their experience in Harrisburg is an understatement,” said Stephanie Caldwell, a board member for Habitat for Humanity. “It formed the basis of much discussion throughout the rest of the conference and brought a very positive, human face to the efforts of Habitat in Baldwin County.”

There were 165 attendees at the conference, including men and women from Habitat for Humanity International. CEO Jonathan Reckford, Neighborhood Revitalization Director Rebecca Nix and Senior Vice President for the United States and Canada Larry Gluth were all in attendance. Volunteers from different affiliates, board members from Habitat Milledgeville-Baldwin and those that signed up were also in attendance.

The conference was important for attendees to see “the elements of what is necessary to do it [neighborhood revitalization] including leadership, influential leadership” and to “see and hear it first hand,” said Cavin.

A lot has changed for Habitat Milledgeville-Baldwin over the last three years. Within that time, under the direction of Thirumal, the location has gone from a failing to a thriving affiliate. This was only possible through the hard work and dedication of many volunteers wanting to build not just homes, but communities.

“We’re not just growing a garden,” said French.

Harrisburg already had a strong coalition in place, due to the Milledgeville Community Garden Association, which is why the community was chosen as the ideal location for the Neighborhood Revitalization.

Through the process of asset mapping, the creation of the Building Coalition Members, and the construction of the master plan, Harrisburg was chosen as the location for the Neighborhood Revitalization. This happened within two years and put Habitat Milledgeville-Baldwin on the map with Habitat for Humanity International that oversees 1,400 affiliates in Canada and the United States.

Through the Neighborhood Revitalization in Harrisburg there have been improvements in the Collins P. Lee Center, homes in the neighborhood, a pavilion and the list goes on.

“I am extremely committed to implementing a significant portion of the plan that we are working on in a relatively short period of time,” said Thirumal. “I want to get this plan implemented yesterday.”

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Find out how Baldwin County was selected as the regional site for the Habitat for Humanity 2016 affiliate summit.

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.