Habitat Forsyth Announces BB&T Challenge Grant of $750,000

Funds will provide seed money for 30 Habitat homes over 3 Years

Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County announced today, July 20, 2016, the BB&T Challenge Initiative, a commitment from BB&T that will provide $750,000 – or $25,000 per Habitat house, for a total of 30 houses – over the next three years. This the largest gift ever received in the 31-year history of Habitat Forsyth.

All of the BB&T Challenge houses will be in the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood, right off of University Parkway, near downtown, which has been the focus of Habitat Forsyth’s intensive Neighborhood Revitalization program since 2008. As the name implies, BB&T’s contribution is a challenge to other individuals and organizations in Forsyth County. Each Habitat house costs $65,000 to build. BB&T will provide the first $25,000 per house – for up to 10 houses each year for three years – and they and Habitat Forsyth are looking to other individuals and organizations in the community to raise the additional $40,000 per house. The Challenge is part of BB&T’s commitment to improving education, health and housing in Boston-Thurmond.

“The BB&T Challenge is part of our commitment to the communities we work and live in,” said BB&T Triad Regional President Cantey Alexander. “We believe this neighborhood has so much potential and we know the community will step up to make this a huge success. We absolutely believe the investment in safe, affordable housing that Habitat provides has lifelong positive impacts for the families they serve by creating stability, fostering educational success, and promoting good health. We challenge businesses, organizations, and individuals to join us today in partnering with Habitat Forsyth.”

The announcement took place at the site of one of the first houses to receive the $25,000 from the BB&T Challenge Initiative. The Unity Build House, located at 1815 Willow Oak Way, is an interracial, multi-faith collaboration of individuals, groups and congregations to work together with a common goal of providing a family with a home ownership opportunity. This collaboration is raising the remaining $40,000 needed for this house and providing the volunteers to construct the house.

Faith organizations who are a part of this collaboration are Knollwood Baptist Church, Highland Presbyterian Church, Trinity Presbyterian Church, United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, St. John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Great Commission Community Church, Temple Emanuel, First Baptist Church on Fifth, the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem, Masjid Al-mu-minun, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“BB&T’s gift is a transformational one for Habitat Forsyth,” said Lou Baldwin, president of Habitat Forsyth’s board of directors. “In addition to being the largest gift the affiliate has ever received, it comes at a critical time for Boston-Thurmond, helping ensure the neighborhood more fully benefits from the high profile growth and redevelopment occurring all around it at Whitaker Park, Wake Forest University, Innovation Quarter and downtown. This investment helps Habitat serve as the catalyst for lasting, positive impact for the community.”

“Habitat and other community partners are working to ensure Boston-Thurmond becomes part of the socioeconomic progress happening around it,” said Michael Campbell, executive director and CEO of Habitat Forsyth. “We greatly appreciate BB&T’s support in jumpstarting our fundraising for 30 more houses in this neighborhood. Of course, Habitat must still raise $400,000 per year for the next three years, or a total of $1.2 million, in order to make these 30 houses become reality. We look forward to talking to individuals, organizations and companies throughout Forsyth County about making this happen.”

The seeds of what became the BB&T Challenge were sown several years ago, when Dr. Tom Koontz, a local retired surgeon, visited the East Lake community in Atlanta. Years before, East Lake had been the most crime-ridden neighborhood, with the worst performing schools, in the Atlanta area. Through a community redevelopment effort, aging public housing was torn down and replaced by new, mixed-income apartments.

Back home in Winston-Salem, Koontz met with Scott Wierman, director of the Winston-Salem Foundation, to discuss how similar efforts might benefit the local community. Wierman introduced him to Sylvia Oberle, then-executive director of Habitat Forsyth, because of Habitat’s long-standing work in Boston-Thurmond.

A series of conversations eventually led Koontz and Oberle to top officials at BB&T. The challenge partnership was first proposed earlier this year in a series of meetings with Bob Johnson, BB&T’s general counsel, secretary and chief corporate governance officer.

“All of us who have been involved in these efforts are grateful to BB&T for stepping up with this challenge grant, making it possible for 30 new families to join the existing Habitat homeowners in Boston-Thurmond,” Koontz said.

Oberle, who retired as Habitat Forsyth’s executive director on April 30, said that a foundation for each Habitat house costs about $20,000. “BB&T’s $25,000 contribution will literally build a foundation for a family’s future,” she said. “The positive impact of Habitat homeownership lasts for generations, with children being more likely to succeed in school, go on to college and become homeowners themselves. We are thankful to BB&T for supporting Habitat’s revitalization efforts, providing a bedrock of strength that will benefit the entire Boston-Thurmond community and the city as a whole.”