Local Build May 22, 2020

Ten local Habitats recognized for their work as national award winners announced

On May 22, Habitat for Humanity Canada held its virtual annual general meeting, which included celebrating the achievements of local Habitats during its national award announcements. Ten local Habitats were recognized for their 2019 efforts and accomplishments. Congratulations to all the winners! Read more to find out who won.

The Kenneth J. Meinert Leadership Award was developed to honour individuals who, through exceptional leadership, have significantly advanced the mission of Habitat for Humanity in Canada. This award has been developed to pay tribute to the contributions of Ken Meinert and to articulate and reward those leadership traits that personify the very best of Habitat’s values and culture. The winner of this award may also designate a $10,000 grant to their chosen area of Habitat’s work. The grant is donated by BAILEY Metal Products in honour of Ken’s retirement from that company.

Gail Lefebvre: volunteer, Habitat Regina board member and Kenneth J. Meinert award winner.

This year’s winner is Gail Lefebvre. A strong, committed, humble and gracious leader, Gail first began volunteering on a local build site with Habitat for Humanity Regina. From there, she volunteered on a Habitat Global Village build in Portugal. Since then, she has become a Global Village team leader, leading 10 teams on Habitat builds around the world. In 2018, she became a member of Habitat Regina’s board and in 2019 became vice chair of the board. She continues to volunteer on builds locally, picking up a hammer in addition to helping recruit new volunteers, donors and supporters to Habitat for Humanity. She brings great strength and contributes to the overall Habitat mission locally, nationally and globally. One of her nominators, Habitat Regina’s CEO Kelly Holmes-Binn summed it up best when she shared that “Gail’s heart truly beats Habitat and, through her actions and words, strives to create a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.” Congratulations to Gail on her well-deserved win.

The One Habitat award is the integration of all we do – communications, operations, governance – with the goal of serving more families in our country and around the world. The winner of the One Habitat award lives and breathes this spirit by embodying the idea of ‘one world, one Habitat’.

This year’s winner is notable for receiving two nominations, one submitted by themselves and one submitted by another local Habitat. They believe in sharing what they have learned, both successes and failures, with other local Habitats and helping others achieve our collective mission. It’s an important part of who they are. Congratulations to Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario for winning the One Habitat award! Habitat Heartland Ontario continuously seeks out and partners with community organizations and is at the table in community discussions aligned with Habitat’s mission. They helped craft a Housing Stability Action Plan for London, Ontario. To encourage change globally this local Habitat highlights a global build monthly in their newsletters, supports their local university’s Global Village builds and supports local community members in their international fundraising events.

The Housing Innovation award recognizes two local Habitats serving more families by employing new, improved and innovative cost-effective construction technologies, adapting mortgage models and creating fundraising avenues.

Habitat for Humanity Quebec won for collaborating on designing and building an energy-efficient ecological home. Working with mechanical engineering students from a local university and other key partners, the result was a 1000-square foot home that significantly reduces the demand for heating, uses more eco-friendly materials and will reduce the monthly energy bills for the future homeowner. Monthly heating costs for this home will be 90% less than a traditional house.

Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North saw a 400% growth in homes built over the previous year. They completed eight homes in 2019 by leveraging contractors to do skilled trades on the builds, which freed up qualified staff to increase volunteer capacity through training and mentoring. A focus on energy efficiency has resulted in this local Habitat achieving STEP Code 5 performance consistent with Net-Zero Ready requirements. They are ahead of the curve, as their provincial government has mandated that developers and builders build to STEP 3 Code by the year 2023.

The Optimizing Performance award recognizes two local Habitats who are finding new ways to move our mission forward in order to serve more families in ways that can be replicated in other communities.

Habitat Waterloo Region scaled up its corporate procurement program which resulted in several new, large-scale supply chain product donations to their ReStores and others across Canada. That is just another example of how they are focused on optimizing their performance in all areas of their operations. This affiliate also has plans to open a third ReStore which will transition away from their traditional warehouse model to a retail storefront in an upscale neighbourhood of their community. They have also recently started a new ReStore Professional Development series, focused on developing mental health awareness and customer service skills in their front-line team.

Habitat Ontario Gateway North made 2019 the Year of the ReStore with a focus on improving operational effectiveness by significantly increasing organizational capability and elevating the caliber of their team by focusing on providing tools, technology and information. Technology streamlined operations with a new point of sale system being implemented that improved sales tracking and reporting capabilities while a new website and donor management system improved the donor experience. Throughout the year, they updated their in-store image and branding and ReStore managers sought out advertising opportunities in local markets and focused on increasing social media followers. Their employee engagement survey showed that 100% of their employees are proud to work for them with 97% feeling that their day-to-day work contributes to the overall success of the mission.

The Mobilized Leadership award recognizes two local Habitats who went above and beyond to foster a culture of leadership, inspiring leaders at every level of their organization with a goal of achieving our mission and vision.

Habitat for Humanity Fredericton made significant strides to develop a culture of leadership within their organization and the federation. They have provided support in the on-boarding of new leaders of local Habitats in Atlantic Canada including facilitating regional meetings and shared documentation and best practices. They have hosted seven Habitat Global Village builds and their ReStore was tied for largest percentage sales growth in 2019 among all Canadian stores.

This local Habitat has truly embraced our mission locally and globally. Doubling its build capacity in 2019, Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa was also able to double its tithing contribution to help achieve our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. They have supported others by sharing their Women Build materials, deferred homeownership agreements, policies and information on their Youth Indigenous Build Program. They also collaborated with Habitat Canada on last year’s Back to School direct mail campaign which featured a Habitat homeowner family partnered with them, and have directed several national referrals, resulting in new national partners whose support will help all of our efforts to build and serve more families. They have engaged Global Village alumni in local volunteer opportunities and fundraising efforts, resulting in over $650,000 in donations.

Epic Engagement winner Habitat Greater Ottawa revived their Women Build program.

The Epic Engagement award is given to two local Habitats who ignite action and inspire their community to support our mission – all while significantly raising awareness of Habitat for Humanity’s brand and profile.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa decided to bring back its popular Women Build Program in 2019. They were looking to raise funds, increase community engagement, grow their volunteer base and build brand awareness while celebrating a milestone in their history, their 25th anniversary.

They developed new branded collateral targeted to different audiences, including print and digital assets. The goal of the collateral was to give the image of a strong, diverse, well-rounded group of women from different backgrounds coming together to build safer, stronger and healthier communities. Through their efforts, they exceeded their fundraising goal, gained two major event sponsors, and surpassed their target of engaging 20 teams by almost half. This 2019 event was a huge success, and one they hope to repeat.

Habitat for Humanity Victoria created a premier local fundraising event that has been running for over a decade. It has become a major regional attraction for local visitors and tourists. This two-month long event showcases this affiliate’s work in the region and promotes affordable homeownership to a diverse audience. In 2019 it attracted 50,000 visitors and also helped raise much-needed funds -- over $102,000 during last year’s event. What is this fundraiser you ask? It’s the Gingerbread Showcase, a holiday-themed event where members of the public get to view and vote for their favourite creation on display while making a cash donation in support of Habitat for Humanity. Since this event began, it has raised over $420,000 and engaged 265,000 people with Habitat’s mission and work as they experience this enchanting seasonal display!

Habitat Victoria's Gingerbread Showcase: 2019 People's Choice Award Selena Oliviera (photo credit Habitat Victoria)

The Sustainable Funding award recognizes two local Habitats who successfully pursue new revenue streams and innovate to ensure growth in this vital area.

With Ontario Trillium Foundation seed funding Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex partnered with two local organizations to bring back to life a great community initiative to benefit two under-served populations – refugees and people experiencing homelessness. Habitat Windsor-Essex took on the operation and administration of a sustainable furniture bank, including pick-up and storage of furniture as well as waste costs. Partner organizations refer donations to the local Habitat, and Habitat issues gift cards to the partner organizations. Clients are given gift cards and shop at their local Habitat ReStore without having to self- identify as a client receiving services. Increased donations of furniture and valuable earned media have offset the costs of distributing free furniture to those in need. Since beginning this initiative, more partners have joined on to refer both furniture donations and clients who will benefit from this service.

Habitat for Humanity Newfoundland and Labrador used location, location, location as their mantra when they decided to relocate their ReStore to a newly refurbished retail centre leased on a busy, visible intersection at the entrance of a retail power centre. While the move happened in 2019, the process for this began in 2017. To serve more families, they knew they had to look at new ways of doing business and become more customer-focused. In addition to moving locations, they switched to a new POS system, upgraded technology in all areas of operations and overhauled their volunteer program, including converting to an online booking system. Sales in the first nine months increased by 58%, exceeding all budget projections. Sales from Habitat ReStore help fund operations and homebuilding efforts, and the success of this initiative led to a new 5-year plan that has a goal of serving more families.

Habitat Newfoundland and Labrador celebrates the opening of their new ReStore in 2019