Habitat chapter looks to build volunteer base

All the pieces are falling into place for Habitat for Humanity to build their next project in Penticton, but the group still needs funding and volunteer workers, two major pieces of the puzzle.

All the pieces are falling into place for Habitat for Humanity to build their next project in Penticton, but the group still needs funding and volunteer workers, two major pieces of the puzzle.

“The good news is we have the land, we have the family and we’re just about to the point of applying for the building permit,” said Lynn Popoff, president of the South Okanagan chapter of Habitat. “Hopefully, in a month’s time, we’ll be able to hit the road running.”

Monday evening the South Okanagan chapter of the organization held an information session to help generate interest in their latest project, which will see them build a home on Huth Avenue.

“It went very well, we had some 21 people,” Popoff said. “A number of people suggested that they would be volunteers, also some prospective board members.”

Habitat relies on both help from the construction sector and volunteer labour in order to keep costs down on their houses, which are sold to a selected low-income family with a low-interest, no down payment mortgage.

“We’ve had really good response from the construction community, but we need volunteers as well,” said Popoff, explaining that for their last project, they had students from the Okanagan College residential construction class building the house.

“They did a fine job and it was an excellent experience for them as well but because we used them, we weren’t using our volunteers. And if you don’t use people once they have volunteered, then they get busy with other things,” she said.

“We are rebuilding our volunteer list and the Monday meeting was a good step,” said Popoff, adding that they have already held two safety training sessions, which also had a good turnout.

Popoff only recently took over as president of the local Habitat chapter and said it is a challenge to replace Florence Barton, who stepped down to devote more time to her writing career.

“She was such a dynamo and did so many things, my guess is that it will take five or six people to replace her,” said Popoff. “For Florence, Habitat was a full-time job … we need to divide that and make it possible for people to do Habitat and other things.”

While Popoff has the title of president, she has agreed with the new vice-president Merle Kindred that they would act as co-chairs.

“Merle has tremendous depth, she was with Habitat in the U.S. for a good 20 years. She really understands and I am a newcomer,” said Popoff, who plans to also continue devoting her time to the Grandmothers for Africa organization.

“That is very important to me, I need to work on both fronts. I feel very strongly about the need to help in Africa. But I think the balance needs to be there, because there are certainly families in Canada that need help as well,” she said. “Working on the two fronts gives me the balance that I think is necessary … there is need in both areas and it shouldn’t be an either or.”

For now, though, Popoff is focusing on short-term goals for Habitat.

“Keeping in touch with the volunteers is going to be really important. We’ve got a volunteer committee now and also a fundraising committee, which is absolutely critical,” she said. “We’re on the cusp and hoping that all will go well. We really have to get some fundraising going … we are applying for grants and talking about fundraising activities.”

Many of the grants Habitat is applying for are dependent on having a building permit, which Popoff said they hope to apply for this week.

“It’s a matter of first things first. Our short-term goal is to get the building permit through and then building the funding and the volunteer base,” she said.