Bright and early this morning, Mark Steenback of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County and I joined Nathaniel and Katy to record an episode of the Simple Civics: Greenville County podcast. We talked about mutually beneficial partnerships between local governments and non-profits. We’re better together! Through collaboration, we create positive change that supports the social and economic well-being of our community. This is exactly the kind of partnership I was talking about when I campaigned for #OneSimpsonville back in 2015. Now that vision is reality as evidenced by our partnership with Habitat. And we really are better together. Stay tuned for details on when our episode goes live!
It was an honor to speak at the Habitat for Humanity CEO Build, where we celebrated ten years of Greenville County leaders coming together to support families seeking strength and stability through homeownership. Leaders from every sector were present: higher education, non-profits, community organizations, foundations, and big businesses. It was an amazing collection of leaders. So what did I talk about in front of this group of CEOs? Leadership, of course. Here, in part, is what I said: You can read books on leadership, do webinars, take classes…even get a doctorate in leadership. But none of that makes someone a good leader. You see good leaders through their actions. And we saw a lot of good leaders this week—people committed to improving our community. I talked about what I think are some of the most important traits of good leaders: 1) They have vision. They see what is and see how it could be better; 2) they are willing to take [calculated] risks, to go out on a limb, try something different or scary or a little crazy; 3) they know that to make the vision a reality they need to rally the troops, to put together a team of the right people to make it happen. I suggested everyone there had, at some point, displayed these qualities—after all, this was a group of Greenville’s best leaders. But then I also told them that I think the two strongest leaders there were Aziz Abdelmalak and Demetria Sherman, the future homeowners. Both have a vision for their futures. Aziz’s vision is “new life,” And Demetria’s is “peace.” They took risks to make that vision reality: Demetria went back to college, and Aziz and his family left their home in Egypt in search of asylum in America. And they both recognized that they couldn’t achieve their vision alone—they needed the right team to make it reality. They turned to their churches, friends, and eventually Habitat. And with the right team in place, they’re almost there. Almost—which brings me to a fourth trait of good leaders: they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. And that’s what this group of CEOs and Aziz and Demetria are about to do as they have now raised the walls on their future homes and begin the build process. Soon, we will have two new amazing leaders in our Ward 3 community. How lucky we are to have these families call our city “Simply Home.”
It was an honor to speak at the dedication of this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County Women Build home right here in Simpsonville! This is the house that women built! 156 women came together to complete over 800 hours of work to build this home for Lorraine, Nathan, and Alex. Proud to be one of them. Women build. They build houses and homes and families…they build the world. They build the future. But women don’t just build. We know you have to nurture and support what you’ve built if you want it to not just survive but thrive. Women nurture and support. Women don’t just build. Women sustain. Women sustain in the face of adversity and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They do it with hard work, strength, and bravery. And so shall Lorraine, who has already demonstrated she’s hard-working, strong, and brave. See the video for my full remarks: https://youtu.be/1ZP0VbMiaxc
What a great morning with some great women. Thanks to these ladies who joined my #WomenBuild team as we worked to put some finishing touches on the inside of Lorraine’s home (Lorraine is in the blue sweatshirt). The Women Build house is the third home in the new Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County Woodside Park neighborhood. We’ll dedicate the first completed home on December 19. Eventually there will be 13 homes. 13 families like Lorraine’s. I’m proud of the work we did on Council to bring this project to fruition. And I’m proud of the work we did today! This kind of work creates stronger, more stable families and communities. And when our families thrive, our city thrives.
Women Build Team: Lisa Everidge, Special Events Coordinator for the City of Simpsonville; Janice Curtis, former mayor and small business owner; Rhonda Mauldin, Manager for the West Georgia Rd. Food Lion; Monica Culbreath, Housing Specialist for GCRA; Dana Garrett, US Army Veteran, mother, Simpsonville resident. We’re better together! 💪
It was an honor to speak at the wall-raising ceremony (<– click for video) for the Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County Women Build here in Simpsonville’s Ward 3! Women Build. What do they build? Women build houses and homes and families and communities and neighborhoods. They build businesses and corporations and financial institutions. Women build this city, this country, the world. Women build each other up. Women build the future. Together. Let’s do this. #SimplyHome
Today we raised the wall for the first home in the new Woodside Mills Habitat for Humanity neighborhood! It’s so wonderful to see this project come to fruition. Not long after I was elected, I met Monroe Free to talk about rebuilding the relationship between Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County and the City of Simpsonville. Along with Councilmen Gooch and Cummings and Mayor Curtis, I fought hard to reestablish that broken partnership and to set the groundwork for this project to bring affordable housing to Simpsonville. We successfully worked with Habitat on 4 homes in the Boyd-Morton neighborhood while we worked out the details for this new neighborhood in Woodside Mills. Today we raised the walls for one of thirteen homes to be completed by Spring of next year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to play a small part in bringing this project to Ward 3 in Simpsonville, so families like Ashley and her sons can have a safe and secure place to call #SimplyHome. That’s not just good for individual families like hers; it’s good for our city as a whole.
📸: Justin Lee Campbell, Discover Simpsonville
Read last posts on this topic here.
Also at Tuesday’s Business Meeting, we hosted a public hearing for the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority 2020 Program Year Annual Action Plan. Later, Council unanimously approved Resolution #2020-03, CDBG/HOME Funds for FY 2020. What I find most exciting about our plan for this year is that HOME and CDBG funds will both go to support housing for the first time I can remember. Previously, we’ve spent money on sidewalks in low to moderate income neighborhoods like Woodside and Boyd/Morton, and we’ve funded the Senior Center. All have been valuable efforts that improved our community. This year, though, the funds will also help support the building of the 13 homes planned for the Habitat for Humanity Woodside Project. This is important because we have an affordable housing problem in Greenville County and in our own city. In fact, Simpsonville was identified as one of seven municipalities statewide with an especially severe shortage of affordable housing.
Notably, we still have GCRA funds to apply to improvements for the Senior Center and for the facade program.
Additionally, please note that GCRA will conduct a Citizen Participation Needs Assessment on March 2, 2020 at 6 PM at the Simpsonville Public Library. Please plan to join!
It’s always a privilege to spend time with Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County, and it’s definitely an honor to join Isaiah Davis from Grainger in accepting the award on behalf of Women Build this year. Thanks to my amazing Women Build team and all the other Women Build supporters. I invited Mayor Shewmaker to join us for the Donor and Volunteer Appreciation event, and I am so pleased he did. He said he was inspired by the stories he heard about homeowners and volunteers. Habitat built 14 houses and completed 32 home preservation projects in 2019, and they’ve got bigger plans for this year. Mayor Shewmaker plans to support Simpsonville’s relationship with Habitat, and he’s even interested in volunteering! We’re hoping to break ground on the Woodside Habitat community here in Simpsonville this year, so it’s great to have our new mayor involved. Next Women Build will be in Simpsonville, so if you’re interested in helping women be #SimplyEmpowered through homeownership, let me know!
As I’ve said before, there are lots of ways to increase affordable housing opportunities in our City. This article talks about how Myrtle Beach recently worked on changes to their zoning ordinance to allow upper-story residential uses in the highway commercial zone in an effort to create more workforce housing. I’m not saying this would work for Simpsonville, but it does show that there are many ways to ensure those who work here can also live here. I look forward to discussion about whether or not our own zoning ordinances could be revised to support more #affordablehousing opportunities. Read more about this topic on the #Jenn4Ward3 blog here: http://ow.ly/W5lM30pUkqc
It’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. This graphic shows just a few facts from the recent Greenville County Affordable Housing study. Residents really shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Unfortunately, many do. And they’re living on the edge, forced to choose between basic necessities like purchasing food, paying rent, or going to the doctor. The median rent in SC has increased significantly, and wages for many jobs have not increased at comparable rates. Municipalities across the state are beginning to address this issue in a number of ways. Simpsonville must do the same. I look forward to working on that over my next term. You can read more about #affordablehousing on the #Jenn4Ward3 blog here: http://ow.ly/Jpc530pUa9D