Habitat for Humanity in Evansville continues to change the landscape of our city. Neighborhoods are seeing more habitat homes and lives are changed. Families are growing.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd goes in-depth with Beth Folz, the Executive Director of Evansville’s Habitat for Humanity, and talks to her about her recent appointment as Board President for Habitat for Humanity of Indiana.
Brad Byrd: Habitat for Humanity in Evansville continues to change the landscape of our city. Neighborhoods are seeing more habitat homes and lives are changed. Families are growing. The Executive Director of the local chapter Beth Folz has recently been appointed Board President for Habitat for Humanity of Indiana. And Beth thank you very much for joining us tonight. You’re overseeing 52 chapters. Tell me about this new position.
Beth Folz: The State has a State Board of Directors that is made up of several different affiliate leaders, but then we also have representatives from the builder’s association and realtor’s association and bankers as well. So, of the 52 affiliates we have, we serve 75 counties in the state so, more than 80% of the state has a habitat affiliate.
Brad Byrd: And you’re keeping your current position at the local chapter.
Beth Folz: Absolutely! I would never lose that.
Brad Byrd: With that being said, you’ve been with Habitat for just 5.5 years so, you’ve covered so much ground. It has changed a lot in the past 5.5 years, you’re on home number what?
Beth Folz: Well, we just broke ground this last month on house #523. We’re only the 26th affiliate in the country to reach 500 so, the fact that we’re up 523 just a year later is pretty amazing.
Brad Byrd: And definitely, there have been some changes made throughout the last 5.5 years. There’s a new habitat home right now.
Beth Folz: Well, we try to build so our homes fit into the neighborhoods that we’re building in. So, right now we’re doing more of a craftsman style design house and in the past, we’ve done bungalows. We really try to change our style so that they fit within the neighborhoods we’re building in.
Brad Byrd: There are huge challenges now, there are 1,500 homes needed right now in Evansville. So, how do you meet that challenge and what is your vision for Evansville?
Beth Folz: Well, our community of Evansville – and the Tri-State – is a generous community. So, there’s support for this housing really impacts the work we can do. We have to raise money for every single house that we build. So, the cost to build a three-bedroom home is about $114,000. So, the generosity of this community allows us to continue to build.
Brad Byrd: Of course, sweat equity, these are not handouts by any means. It’s the American Dream that so many over the last few decades have worked hard for
Beth Folz: So, our homeowners help build the homes they’re going to buy. It’s through a requirement, that each family we serve, performs 300 sweat equity hours. First helping others build their home and then building their own home, but also taking classes in financial literacy and maintenance so they know how to manage that home once they’re in that home.
Brad Byrd: And generation to generation; You told me one story about a doctor.
Beth Folz: Well, we know the stability that a home provides really affects the future of the children growing up in that home, so one of our homeowners, their daughter is actually a physician in the Deaconess System, and she’s actually teaching classes to other physicians at the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences. She was recently voted the 20 under 40 up and coming leaders so, we’re quite proud of her, but really proud of all of our families that come through our program.
Brad Byrd: You’re learning about these other chapters throughout the state of Indiana, up in South Bend, I’d like to show some pics if we could, you had some unusual company up there. There’s David Letterman, who was participating in the build, there’s former Pres. Jimmy Carter, well, we’ve got Garth Brooks I believe also, who was there with your crew. You’re constantly learning how this could work, and you learned something up there, tell me about that.
Beth Folz: I learned a lot up there. One of the things I learned although we have bad in our world, we have really good things going on in our world too because people travel from all over the country and all over the world to participate in that Jimmy Carter build every year. And there’s something about volunteering with all these people from all over that just gives you a positive spirit about life – things really are not as bad as they seem sometimes.
Brad Byrd: This will be a two-way street then; you are giving your expertise to other areas of the state and then you’re picking up some pointers
Beth Folz: Absolutely, we are one big habitat family. One of the issues we’re working on in the state is the housing affordability crisis. 1 in 6 people pay more than 50% of their income for housing. That’s unacceptable. People cannot live like that. We’re advocating for more resources to be allocated through a tax credit project, but we’re also working to simply increase the number. When you look in Indiana, we’ve built over 6,000 homes and our homeowners have paid over $25 million in property taxes.
Brad Byrd: Well, Beth Folz, president for Habitat for Humanity of Indiana and Executive Director Habit for Humanity of Evansville, thank you for being with us tonight.
Beth Folz: Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.
Brad Byrd: Same to you.
(This story was originally published on November 25, 2019)