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Keeping House
Barton County Habitat for Humanity to introduce A Brush With Kindness
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In 2010, Heartland Habitat for Humanity, located in the Kansas City area, provided A Brush with Kindness for the owner of this existing home. The program helps provide safe, decent and affordable housing--by providing a way for homeowners to repair or replace exterior elements of their homes, preserving a communitys inventory of affordable homes. Rachel Mawhirter, director of Barton County Habitat for Humanity, looks forward to offering A Brush With Kindness to homeowners in Barton County, in addition to the every-other-year builds the group already takes part in. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Saturday, Barton County Habitat for Humanity will host the fourth annual Barton County’s Got Talent show at 7 p.m. at Grace Community Church, 210 McKinley.   Director Rachel Mawhirter said this is the all volunteer organization’s main fundraiser for the year, and the outcome will help determine how soon the next build will happen.  It will also help kick off a new service for Habitat applicants who are struggling to maintain their homes.  

“In a small town, we can’t do a build project every three months as in more highly populated areas,”  Mawhirter said. “It’s our goal to get more involved with A Brush With Kindness projects so we can meet our quotas for Habitat For Humanity and also keep our volunteer base active.”

A Brush With Kindness recognizes for some homeowners, painting, landscaping, weather stripping and minor repair services may be all it takes to keep their already affordable home safe and decent.  Others may already live in a decent home, but may need to make renovations for handicapped accessibility, which would also qualify for the program, she said.

It’s another loan program that works the same way a Habitat build loan works.  Applicants are chosen based on their income, ability to repay, and willingness to participate with the project.  The zero interest loans can be extended for up to three years, Mawhirter said.

“It’s not free,” Mawhirter said.  “Applicants have to help with project, supply volunteers, and put in sweat equity.  They pay for materials only.”

Barton County Habitat for Humanity began eight years ago, she said.  Since then, the group has averaged one build every other year.  This spring, Mawhirter hopes to involve volunteers with a BWK project.  She hopes that by working on smaller projects where volunteers work a few Saturdays in between the bigger builds, it will keep them engaged, and more people will be helped.  

“We work to get our volunteer base up and going, and then we stop, and the next year we’re doing all the same work all over again,” she said.  

Also, by putting donations to work right away, Mawhirter says it may allow Barton County Habitat for Humanity to reach its goal of becoming self sufficient that much sooner.  While the program does not earn any interest on loans, when building supplies and cash are donated for a build, the new homeowner’s loan reflects the value of these donations, and that is where the group receives money for future builds.  It is estimated that once the group has completed the equivalent of 20 builds, it will be able to sustain itself, she said.  

Once the group has raised the money, Mawhirter said they need to find someone to help.  

“Habitat’s goals are to provide safe, decent and affordable housing,” she said. “If a family is lacking any one of those criteria, we can help.”

While one of the goals of Habitat for Humanity is to increase the housing supply, A Brush With Kindness helps by providing a way for families to help themselves, revitalize their neighborhoods, make connections with others in their communities, and preserve the already existing affordable housing inventory.