No place like home

Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity hangs its hat in Williston

Nov. 23, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff

Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity Executive Director David Mullin (left) and Sara Munro (right), director of advancement, no longer have to work out of their homes. The organization moved to a larger office location in Williston in September. In addition to housing all three of its employees, the space can also host training sessions and workshops. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity has been providing new homes to families in need for more than 25 years.

Now the non-profit organization has a new home in Williston.

In September, it moved from a close-quarters locale in Essex Junction to a spot in the Cornerstone Drive plaza (across the street from the former Williston Driving Range).

The new space includes staff offices, workstations for interns and a conference room for volunteer committees. There is also a large training space for future programs in home maintenance and homeownership workshops.

GMHfH’s paid staff includes an executive director, director of advancement and a bookkeeper. The bulk of the organization consists of approximately 40 volunteers.

“Our office (in Essex Junction) was big enough for (the) bookkeeper, so he worked there and I worked out of my home in Williston,” GMHfH Executive Director David Mullin said. “Then we decided to hire a director of advancement, so that person worked from home as well. … We decided we needed to come together to be more efficient and effective as an organization.”

According to Mullin and Sara Munro, director of advancement, the office’s furniture and technology infrastructure were almost entirely donated by local individuals and businesses.

“We’d be sitting on crates if it wasn’t for them,” Mullin said.

Formed in 1984 and an affiliate of the worldwide Habitat for Humanity organization, GMHfH partners with low-income families living in substandard and/or unsafe housing conditions throughout northwestern Vermont. Through donations and volunteer efforts, it builds new homes and sells them to these families via interest-free loans.

GMHfH has built 55 homes to date, including one in Williston where the land was donated (the organization typically purchases the land). Another land donation was a recent three-building lot in Charlotte, where volunteers are finishing up the final house. There is also a GMHfH chapter in Lamoille County that will construct its first home in Morrisville next spring.

With the economy putting more families — particularly working ones — in need, Mullin hopes increased efficiency in the new Williston headquarters will lead to an increase in housing projects.

“We really want to ramp it up and (the move) is a big part of that,” Mullin said. “This space allows us to do more with our partner families and our volunteers, and that will allows us to increase our number of homes.”

A group of female volunteers work on a new home in Charlotte that was part of a three-building lot donated to Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity. (Courtesy photo)

Williston residents Charlie Magill and his wife, Ruth, have volunteered with GMHfH since 1988. Ruth Magill serves in the organization’s congregation relations committee, which promotes involvement from churches in terms of donated materials and/or manpower. One of Charlie Magill’s recent duties was helping construct the houses in Charlotte.

Charlie Magill said he is happy that GMHfH is in a larger space in Williston because it’s a short drive from his home and makes it possible for him and his wife to do more for the organization. But his greatest pleasure is seeing the impact it makes on families’ lives.

“It’s been wonderful, we’ve been able to see many families get into a home of their own that they would have never been able to get into otherwise,” Charlie Magill said. “It’s really affected us.”

Mullin, who has been the executive director for 11 years, still gets the same gratification.

“It all goes back to the families,” Mullin said. “You hear what it means to them and you see the difference that it makes, I enjoy that. You work with such a variety of people, from all walks of life. It’s a diverse group putting forth a common effort.”