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Philanthropy A to Z

H – Habitat for Humanity

Text by Brenna Collins

Since 1988, Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod has been building the foundation for new opportunities one home at a time. With endless success stories and over 150 homes built, Habitat’s work surely strengthens our local community, and their effort is the catalyst that lets people continue to call Cape Cod their home for years to come. 

“I personally am drawn to the mission of building affordable homes. I have lived on Cape Cod for 35 years and seen less and less available young families. I don’t want it to turn into a place only the wealthy can afford; the Cape is such a beautiful place to raise a family. This never feels like work, no matter how busy we are. There’s something so exciting about making a difference,” Executive Director Wendy Cullinan says. 

Habitat’s work is very much ongoing, with seven homes in the building process in Brewster and others underway in Wellfleet, Mashpee, and Orleans. Over the years, Habitat has built homes in all 15 towns on the Cape. “We currently have a 14-home site in Brewster. Seven homes are finished, and the rest will be completed in the next month or two. You drive up there and see the first finished homes, and it’s so inspiring because it’s so well-kept. There’s a sense of family; there’s so much pride in ownership. When we get up into the circle where we’re finishing the remaining homes, it’s pretty amazing. These are everyday people on Cape Cod that deserve to live here,” Cullinan shares.

Each home is built with care and the intention of affordability. Habitat builds to LEED standards and is a leader in building “green” on the Cape. “Our homes are equipped with solar panels, air to air non-combustion heat pumps to cool and heat the home, and we get HERS ratings of below net zero,” Cullinan describes. Building to last for these families is a top-priority, and the same effort is put into ensuring the homes are environmentally friendly for a greener future. 

Once property is secured from the town, numerous applications are submitted, and those who qualify are pooled and selected at random. Each build can take between 10 and 12 months, and the homeowners are required to put in 250 hours building alongside volunteers. 

ReStore, Habitat’s retail branch, takes household items and building supplies as donations and sells them to the public. Either of their two locations in Falmouth and South Yarmouth are worth visiting.

As the summer season picked back up, so did Habitat, slowly bringing staff back to their South Yarmouth office and opening both ReStore locations with extra precautions. Back on building sites, the volunteers are working with extra health precautions as well. “We found a way to make things work because our volunteers really want to keep building, and there is work to be done,” Cullinan notes. Though currently closed to volunteer sign ups, ReStore is still taking donations. Next year, their plans continue expanding, with six homes slotted to begin building in Harwich, and 10 in Falmouth. 

In order to keep young people here, there must be affordable, comfortable places for them to live. Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod sees this shortage firsthand and continues to provide the solution. As Cullinan believes, “there should be a way for everyone to stay here.”

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