Kitty Green was working as a marketing director for Westinghouse Communities (now known as WCI) some 25 years ago when she was asked to spearhead a team-building volunteer experience for the company. She researched possibilities and decided on partnering with Habitat for Humanity, a choice that would have life-altering implications for her. Green worked on the Habitat home that her company sponsored in Harlem Heights, became a regular volunteer, accepted a seat on the board and then, eight years ago, took over as president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties Inc., where she has served for eight years.
What does the day-to-day routine of your job typically entail?
I work with the board of directors and our staff to create a strategic plan, set annual goals and make sure we achieve the plan. Habitat is really many distinct businesses: We are a social services organization counseling 200 families per year; a mortgage company originating 60 mortgages per year; a land developer for multiple small subdivisions; a builder of 40 new homes and 20 rehabilitated homes annually; a homeowner-occupied repair company; a rental operator of some 100 affordable units; a retail operator with three stores; and a philanthropic organization with 6,000 volunteers, engaged donors and a $14 million budget.
What are the challenges and rewards of your position?
The biggest challenge is that even as our resources grow, the need always outstrips our funding. And as our local real estate market has recovered, the cost of land, materials and homes have increased.
The rewards are many. On a daily basis, we interact with amazing people who volunteer their time and donate their money with no motive other than to be of service to others. We also witness how empowering Habitat’s program is for the homeowners.
What is the impact of Habitat for Humanity’s work on Lee and Hendry counties?
In the coming year, we will close 64 homes with families making less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income. They will pay 30 percent or less of their income in mortgage payments and eventually be able to retire in a paid-off home, which will dramatically transform their lives. We know that children of families who own their own home are 116 percent more likely to graduate college, thus helping to thwart generational poverty.
Since our affiliate began in 1982, we have worked alongside more than 1,500 families to help them earn their own affordable home.
What are your goals for the future of the organization?
Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live, so, ultimately, we’d love to put ourselves out of business. Until we get there, we intend to do everything we can to serve more families.