Photo credit, Christina McGory Photography: From left to right: George Wagner, board member; Pat McKenna, executive director; Cady Corman, marketing; Logan Ronhovde, build project manager; and John Newman, board chair.
In May 2019, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (Habitat VIN) received the Epic Engagement Award at the Habitat Canada National Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This is one of five awards presented at the Conference Awards Gala, and it goes to a Habitat experiencing success in building their brand and engaging their community. Over 50 local Habitats across Canada are eligible to apply for the awards.
2018 was the first year in their history that Habitat VIN built in two communities at the same time. With major projects in Campbell River and Courtenay that will provide a combined total of 21 homes for local families by the end of 2020, the organization had to engage members of both cities and their surrounding areas to support them through volunteering and donating.
In order to do this, they partnered with organizations in the community, such as the Comox Valley Women’s Business Network, sponsors of Women Build 2018, and St. George’s United Church. A partnership with CFB Comox, where members of the military called the “Air Force Top Cover Team Build” donated their time to Habitat’s 1330 Lake Trail Road project in Courtenay, was particularly vital in ensuring they had adequate volunteer resources. They also hosted six Global Village teams who travelled from Canada and the United States to contribute to local Habitat build projects while touring the North Island.
Another criteria of the award is delivering the message to more Canadians that Habitat partners with families to help build strength, stability and self-reliance. This meant adjusting messaging and empowering staff and volunteers to act as advocates for the organization.
“A major challenge for us, and for local Habitats across Canada, is clearing up myths about our program. Some people think that we give homes away for free to homeless people, but we actually partner with low-income working families who help build their home and then pay an affordable mortgage. Many also don’t realize that the ReStore supports the building of these homes, or even that it’s connected to Habitat,” explained Cady Corman, Habitat VIN’s marketing and communications manager. “We have been making an extra effort to empower our staff, volunteers, and board members to tell the Habitat story and clear up these misconceptions.”
Despite their success in engaging the community to take action, Habitat VIN is still in need of additional volunteers as they tackle their most ambitious year of building yet.
“We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this recognition without the immense support we received from our community. Thanks to that support, we are building eight homes in 2019–double what we built last year–and we need more volunteers than ever,” said Corman. “We encourage anyone in our community to spend just one day on our build site or in our ReStore. Even if you have no experience, one day of your time would make a significant difference for Habitat and the local families we partner with.”
If you want to spend a day volunteering with Habitat, visit habitatnorthisland.com/volunteer. You can also contact Alli Epp, Habitat’s Community Engagement Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-604-617-7489.