Brad Byrd In-Depth: Habitat for Humanity of Evansville 500th home

Local News

Habitat for Humanity of Evansville will dedicate its 500th home later this year after breaking ground in August. To celebrate the 500th home dedication, Habitat for Humanity will be doing the halftime show of the University of Evansville vs. Ball State basketball game on December 10. 500 volunteers will be need to sing in the 500 Voices choir.

Brad Byrd talks with Habitat for Humanity of Evansville Executive Director Beth Folz and Habitat volunteer Tami Tenbarge about the 500th home milestone.

Transcript of interview:

Brad Byrd: “Welcome to In-Depth tonight. 500 and counting. Think about that in a region the size of the Evansville market. 500 American dreams built with strong hearts and clear minds. Habitat for Humanity of Evansville broke ground for the 500th home this past August. It has been a labor of love and Habitat is just getting started. Joining me tonight is Beth Folz, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Evansville and Tami Tenbarge, who is a Habitat volunteer and songwriter and who is employed at the Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union. Welcome to both of you tonight. And what a story this is to share and tell, Habitat, of course, of Evansville,  has really evolved over the years – from the ranch style homes on concrete slabs to the bungalows on crawl spaces now. But the real story here are the people. The people that it has touched. How sustainable is that as far as families and generations?

Beth Folz: “We know through our studies that we’ve done that the provision of an affordable, decent home just has long-lasting ramifications for a family. Not only for the homeowner that receives the home and buys that home from Habitat, but also for their children and their grandchildren. It’s just amazing to see children graduate at a higher rate when they grow up in a stable home like Habitat. We know our children of our homeowners graduate at a higher graduation rate than the public school system and we know that’s because they have a stable place to come home and lay their head every night.” 

Brad Byrd: “And, Tami, you’re a very good textbook example of a Habitat volunteer because it touches all generations, all walks of life. Why did you get involved with this and what does it take to be a Habitat volunteer?”

Tami Tenbarge: “Well, working at Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union, our president and CEO, Bill Shirmer, is actually the Board president for Habitat. So when he came to me last year and said, “Hey, I want you to lead an employee-funded campaign and see if the employees can give half of the $80,000 that it takes to build a Habitat home and then the credit union will do the other half.” We launched that campaign and had such an overwhelming response. We have about 550 employees and we found out cumulatively we were able to fund the entire thing, the entire build with employee giving. So, yeah, that’s what started me into Habitat and then I began to learn so much more from Beth and Sister Jane and was excited to come on board to do future events with them.”

Brad Byrd: “And, of course Beth, this is no handout.”

Beth Folz: “That’s right.”

Brad Byrd: “Sweat equity is involved and many of the, the new homeowners actually carry on and help with future homes.”

Beth Folz: “Oh yes. The misconsumption is we give homes away, and I would say nothing could be further from the truth. Our homeowners buy their homes over 25 years zero percent interest mortgage, they work 300 sweat equity hours to qualify for home ownership, and it just keeps giving and giving. We have many homeowners who come back and build others’ homes, and then they also serve on committees within our organization.” 

Brad Byrd: “And you’re touching people who live in those neighborhoods that are not Habitat homeowners, and you’re doing more concentration of some neighborhoods. You were mentioning to me in the newsroom the Ballard neighborhood for example.” 

Beth Folz: “We’ve changed the landscape of the Ballard neighborhood in Evansville which kinds of lies south of the Lloyd Expressway between 41 and say Garvin. And we have built maybe 13 homes, or 13 homes are under construction in a four-block area, and it is changing the face of that neighborhood. And we have a lot of neighborhood impact too.”

Brad Byrd: “And you don’t have to be a qualified carpenter. If you can pick up a hammer or a saw, you’re good to go. And you’re asking for other volunteers, Tami, for a very special event at Ford Center in December. And I guess the tool I guessed I’d need to be able to carry a tune in a bucket if I could do that. Tell me about that. It’s the 500 Voices.” 

Tami Tenbarge: “So, we are having a 500 home dedication celebration, and that’s going to take place December 9, at the Ford Center. And the highlight of that game for us is that Habitat will do the halftime show, and we are asking for 500 volunteers in the community whether you can sing beautifully well or not, we’ll take you. We need 500. And so, we’re asking you to join us to sing a couple of songs during the halftime show and we’ve got some opportunities for these volunteers to prepare for rehearsals with our mayor.” 

Brad Byrd: “And, Chris, if we could put up that website. It’s the Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union website. There’s your Habitat for Humanity website. If you have any questions about Habitat, we’ll get to the credit union website on how to register in just a moment, but there’s going to be a rehearsal. Now, I know Mayor Lloyd Winnecke is going to be leading that rehearsal. I can tell you from experience when the mayor was news director here at that time News 25, he loved to sing. So he will belt it out for all the volunteers and lead the chorus.” 

Beth Folz: “I think he was our first volunteer towards the choir, the 500 Voice choir, and he has been so supportive of the affordable housing initiatives in Evansville that are greatly needed. And he is leading a practice on November 3, and on November 22, I believe. And we can’t wait to hear him sing because we hear he has a great voice.” 

Brad Byrd: “Yes, he does. Okay, and right here in front of me is this beautiful house full of cash. This is the change-for-change. Explain that to me.” 

Beth Folz: “We’re not only thinking about our 500th home, but also our 501st home and our 502nd home. And it all starts with the money to build these homes. And so, this is one of the initiatives to help raise funds. These change-for-change banks are in many of our local banks, and restaurants, and out in the community. We’re just collecting funds to build those future homes.” 

Brad Byrd: “And one of the songs that will be performed you wrote, your own composition. That must mean a lot to you.” 

Tami Tenbarge: “Yeah, it does. I had no idea when I wrote that about a year ago it would be used in such a beautiful way. It’s called ‘Build Your Dreams’. And that’s exactly what our 500 homeowners have done. They’ve built their home and in essence built their dreams.” 

Brad Byrd: “And that’s the University of Evansville game with Ball State on December 9. And Ford Center should be a fairly packed house that day.” 

Beth Folz: “Yeah, it will be a great game.”

Brad Byrd: “Well, thank you so much for joining us tonight and continued success for Habitat for Humanity. Making a huge difference for so many people here in the Evansville are literally thousands at this point in time. Thank you so much, Beth Folz and Tami Tenbarge.”

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(This story was originally published on October 23, 2017)

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