A look at the ongoing partnership between Bon Secours St. Francis Health System and Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County
By Debbie Nelson
The longstanding relationship between Bon Secours St. Francis Health System and Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County is built upon a strong foundation of similar beliefs. While from the outside it might appear these organizations exist for different purposes, taking a deeper look reveals their missions are closely aligned. Both are putting God’s love into action by bringing people together to improve the health and well-being of the Greenville community
When Bon Secours gets involved in our community, it’s with full intentionality. “We first ask the question, “how will the work we do improve the health of the people we serve?” Our goal is to support efforts that positively impact the social determinants of health,” explains Alex Garvey, senior vice president of mission.
At Bon Secours, they truly walk the walk. They not only talk about the wholeness of healing (body, mind, spirit), they dedicate considerable financial and human resources to addressing the needs of the underserved. Housing is their number one priority.
“Throughout our health system, we see the impact of unstable housing and homelessness on a daily basis. There are so many painful realities,” Garvey says. “Just imagine if you were homeless and a diabetic; how would you refrigerate your insulin and regulate your disease?
“Or what about a patient whose life depends on a surgical procedure?“ Garvey adds. “Recently, we had a patient who required open-heart surgery, but had nowhere to go for recovery. Bon Secours paid for him to go to an extended stay hotel to recuperate.”
Recognizing that stable housing is such a critical component of fulfilling Bon Secours’ mission, the organization has made a 10-year commitment to Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County to build one house per year. Habitat is the perfect partner since its goal is to bring together families, community partners, and volunteers to construct affordable, energy-efficient homes that help families build stability, strength, and self-reliance.
Bon Secours is currently in the fifth year of its commitment to Habitat. So far, more than 400 volunteers from across the system have worked more than 2,100 hours building homes. Each year, the team looks forward to volunteering and building their sponsored home. Whether a person wants to swing a hammer, shingle the roof, or act as a “gofer,” there is something for everyone to do. No matter what their skillset, the Habitat model is welcoming. Garvey reflects, “Everyone feels they are a valued part of the building process.”
Another rewarding attribute of the Habitat model is that volunteers have the opportunity to build a relationship with future homeowners. Each prospective homeowner must be willing to volunteer a minimum of 200 hours of service, known as sweat equity. These hours may include working on his or her home, other Habitat homes, or even volunteering at another nonprofit. “This component lends to the integrity of the Habitat program,” Garvey says. “Having skin in the game demonstrates the homeowner’s commitment to homeownership.”
All potential homeowners are carefully vetted. In addition to demonstrating a definite need for housing, eligibility is based on residency, income, employment status, and participation in Habitat’s homeowner preparation program.
The preparation program is rigorous and one that anyone could benefit from. It includes a series of courses in personal finance, budgeting, mortgages, credit, home maintenance and repair, conflict resolution, and being a good neighbor.
To further support Bon Secours’ commitment to Habitat, each year, the Health System’s CEO, Craig McCoy, participates in the Habitat CEO Build. The seventh annual Build started in March, with more than 30 CEOs who have committed to build two houses.
According to Habitat Greenville President and CEO Monroe Free, “We all know there is an affordable housing crisis in our community. It really is a testament to our business community that so many local leaders have chosen to support these homes and families in their quest for strength, stability, and self-reliance through homeownership. Bon Secours understands that no organization can fulfill its mission in isolation. Healthcare and housing are tied together. Their commitment to affordable homeownership strengthens the people both organizations serve.”
The results of providing the stability of homeownership are inspiring. In fact, Habitat’s foreclosure rate is less than 0.4 percent. As Habitat families pay their mortgages, they develop equity in their homes, ultimately changing their financial trajectory and helping to break the cycle of poverty.
Habitat’s 2016 Homeownership Impact Survey further demonstrates the positive relationship between affordable homeownership and the changes experienced by low-income families. Some notable findings include:
- 96 percent feel their family is more stable.
- 86 percent spend more quality time with their family.
- 75 percent feel their family’s overall health has improved.
- 67 percent state their children’s grades have improved.
- 66 percent say their children’s school attendance has improved.
- 32 percent have received a promotion or raise.
There is no better affirmation for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System’s ongoing commitment to affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County than these outcomes. Through their partnership, these two organizations are fulfilling their missions. And they are offering Habitat homeowners a strong foundation for the health and well-being of their families.
For more information about sponsoring a house or volunteering, visit habitatgreenville.org or call 864-370-1477.
Debbie Nelson is the President of DNA Creative Communications, an inspirational marketing and public relations firm for nonprofits. She is the founder of Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums in the Upstate and at the state level coordinates Together SC’s Knowledge Network.
Attend Shine the Light on Tuesday, April 30, for As We Lead: Strategic Diversity Leadership facilitated by Juan Johnson of Diversity Leadership in Action at Kroc Greenville. Register at www.nonprofitforums.org.