There's an old saying that it takes a village to support a family. In late October, it took 75 volunteers—including many GAF employees—working together with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, Alabama to meet one goal: making a family's dream of homeownership come true. The best part? It took just five days.
For the past 10 years, GAF has partnered with Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the United States. Over the years, our partnership has evolved from providing our certified contractors with opportunities to participate in local Habitat builds, to now also providing volunteer opportunities for GAF employees to give a hand up to deserving families. Ever since a catastrophic tornado destroyed a large percentage of Tuscaloosa's affordable homes in 2011, the city has been in desperate need of housing, says Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, Executive Director Ellen Potts. The organization has built 92 houses and repaired over 400 since the tornado. Meanwhile the team at GAF's Tuscaloosa manufacturing plant, made up of 160 employees, has helped the community by donating roofing materials to more than 100 homes since 2015.
A Team Effort Takes Shape
It usually takes Habitat two or three months to construct a home. However, once or twice a year, the organization hosts a Blitz Build. The team, which included GAF CEO Jim Schnepper and GAF Tuscaloosa Plant Manager Katrina Baker as well as dozens of GAF employees, worked day and night to go from concrete slab to fully built house for local resident Verna Smith and her young granddaughter.
"They're so excited to become homeowners," says Potts. "We've been so fortunate to enjoy a beautiful partnership with GAF, which not only provided shingles and roofing materials but also a full sponsorship of this home as well as funds for us to purchase 40 lots for future builds."
GAF is committed to building fortified homes to weather future storms and plans to supply materials for at least 35 more Habitat Tuscaloosa projects over the next few years. Potts notes that Build Blitz events raise awareness of Habitat's work in the community, and the speed of the event inspires volunteers to get involved.
GAF Employees Take Center Stage
GAF plant manager Katrina Baker says she was thrilled to celebrate this accomplishment on behalf of GAF and Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa. Contributing to rebuilding neighborhoods where they live and work is a huge morale booster and source of pride for GAF employees as they work alongside local residents to build a new home for a deserving family, she adds.
"It's GAF's purpose to give back in the communities in which we operate, and it's our great privilege to have been able to be by Verna Smith's side along with GAF team members, the many volunteers in Tuscaloosa, and the great Habitat for Humanity coaches like construction manager Brandon Kasteler," says Baker.
Left to right: Jim Schnepper, GAF CEO; Verna Smith, homeowner; Katrina Baker, Tuscaloosa Plant Manager; Ellen Potts, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa Executive Director
Brandon Harris, a GAF Tuscaloosa volunteer, went on to say that they are "Proud to be a part of GAF and happy to give back to the community."
Because affordable housing is difficult to find in Tuscaloosa, Smith has had to move often, and she says she is very grateful to GAF Tuscaloosa and all the employees and local volunteers who showed up and worked tirelessly to help build her new home. Potts says that "We will sell this house to [Smith] at the appraised value through a 0% interest, 30-year mortgage. The average rent in Tuscaloosa for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment is more than double what her mortgage will be." With Smith's new 0% interest mortgage, she can make major headway to a safe and secure future.
"For GAF to sponsor my home is a really big deal for me, and I'm so appreciative. It was very humbling to see the CEO from GAF come out and work on the roof alongside the team to make sure my kids and my grandkids have a place they can always call home." She looks forward to hosting her three grown children and six grandchildren—and to having a place to create new memories with them.